ACLU: Bipartisan Civil Liberties Board Fix Bill Long Overdue, Measure Would Take Oversight Panel Out of the "Hip Pocket of the President"

March 15, 2005 12:00 am

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ACLU: Bipartisan Civil Liberties Board Fix Bill Long Overdue, Measure Would Take Oversight Panel Out of the “Hip Pocket of the President”


WASHINGTON – The American Civil Liberties Union today welcomed the introduction of a bipartisan measure to strengthen the Privacy and Civil Liberties Oversight Board created by last year’s intelligence reform legislation. The board currently lacks critical oversight powers.

“Currently, the Civil Liberties Board lacks any real, independent power to conduct meaningful oversight to protect privacy and freedom,” said Timothy H. Edgar, the ACLU policy counsel for national security. “The 9/11 Commission rightly recognized that with the government assuming more power as it wages the war on terror, now more than ever the American people need a guardian of their rights. The current board only gives the illusion of oversight without doing anything real.”

Edgar today joined with 9/11 families groups and former 9/11 Commissioner Richard Ben-Veniste as Reps. Carolyn Maloney (D-NY-14), Tom Udall (D-NM-3) and Christopher Shays (R-CT-4) introduced bipartisan legislation to strengthen the Civil Liberties Review Board by making it independent and giving it real oversight abilities.

The initial call for the board was part of the 9/11 Commission’s report; which found that: “At this time of increased and consolidated government authority, there should be a board within the executive branch to oversee adherence to the guidelines we recommend and the commitment the government makes to defend our civil liberties.”

The ACLU has been critical of the current board because its members are appointed by the incumbent President and serve at the President’s pleasure, and because its powers to obtain documents and testimony are subject to a veto by the Attorney General.

The Maloney-Shays bill would strengthen the board by making it independent, bipartisan – with no one party having more than three members – with its members serving for staggered terms and by giving it clear investigative and subpoena powers and by giving it a standard for reviewing government action that puts the burden on the government to show that its powers materially enhance security and do not infringe on basic freedoms.

“The Maloney-Shays bill would take the Civil Liberties Board out of the pocket of the President and back into the arms of the American people,” Edgar added. “It would actually deliver oversight. Given the ever growing expansion of the government’s law enforcement powers, effective oversight is absolutely essential.”

To read the ACLU’s letter in support of the Maloney-Shays bill, go to:

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