“At its core, the approach boils down to the proposition that essentially all telephone records are relevant to essentially all international terrorism investigations.”
— Privacy and Civil Liberties Oversight Board, in a report issued today that calls the NSA’s mass collection of phone records illegal and urges for it to stop. The New York Times and the Washington Post both say it’s probably the most extensive analysis of the surveillance program so far: It examines the government’s legal justification of the practice, and it explores whether the mass collection has done any good. The executive-level, Congress-backed independent board concludes that Section 215 of the Patriot Act, on which the program is based, “does not provide an adequate basis to support this program.” The five-member board also said the government can gather intelligence on certain terrorism suspects by using “existing legal authorities” to request phone records — without implications on U.S. citizens’ rights to free speech, association and privacy.
Photo of the National Security Agency building at Fort Meade, Md., from Associated Press archives