Rep. Tulsi Gabbard Leads Bipartisan Effort to Strengthen Privacy Oversight Board and Protect American’s Civil Liberties

May 14, 2015
Press Release

Reintroduces SPOT Act to Improve Watchdog Panel’s Ability to Oversee Intelligence Community

Washington, D.C.– In a continued effort to significantly improve the oversight and accountability of the nation’s intelligence community, Congresswoman Tulsi Gabbard (D-HI), Congressman Trey Gowdy (R-SC), Senator Ron Wyden (D-OR.), and Senator Tom Udall (D-NM) reintroduced a bipartisan, bicameral bill to strengthen the independent Privacy and Civil Liberties Oversight Board. 

The Strengthening Privacy, Oversight, and Transparency Act or SPOT Act, would expand the role of the Privacy and Civil Liberties Oversight Board, an independent government watchdog agency, and give the Board greater authorities to carry out its function of balancing the government’s national security and counterterrorism activities with the need to protect the privacy rights of law-abiding Americans.

“This bill moves us closer to enacting real reform of the PATRIOT Act, by empowering the Privacy and Civil Liberties Oversight Board through an expansion of their oversight and subpoena capabilities, so they can better advocate for and protect the freedoms and civil liberties of the American people,” said Congresswoman Tulsi Gabbard. “I thank Senators Ron Wyden and Tom Udall, and Rep. Trey Gowdy, for joining me on this bipartisan legislation that supports the Privacy and Civil Liberties Oversight Board in their work to strike the balance between national security and upholding the values that make our country great.”

 “The Privacy and Civil Liberties Oversight Board is an essential watchdog over counterterrorism surveillance activities – a role that is fundamental to protecting both American security and Americans’ constitutional right to privacy,” Senator Ron Wyden said. “But government agencies conduct surveillance for a wide variety of purposes, not just counterterrorism. By giving the board a broader mandate and more authority, Congress can better protect the privacy and civil rights of law-abiding Americans.”

"The privacy board’s independent evaluation of Section 215 demonstrates why it is so crucial — and the fact that 215 is still in effect shows why the American people need the board to have more resources to protect their privacy and constitutional liberties," said Senator Tom Udall, who advocated for the creation of the board and has fought for resources to ensure it can do its job. "We absolutely must prevent future attacks, but we can do that without weakening the constitutional rights that make our nation great. A vigorous watchdog with real authority over the intelligence agencies will help us protect our security and our constitution — that is what the SPOT Act would provide."

“Our country must strike the delicate balance between protecting our national security and our civil liberties.  Many Americans are rightly concerned the pendulum has swung too far away from our civil liberties. That is why I commend my friend Rep. Tulsi Gabbard for her work on this bill and am happy to support the effort to equip the PCLOB to actually do its job,” Congressman Trey Gowdy said. “For example, it makes little sense to charge the Board with independently monitoring the executive branch’s actions related to privacy concerns, but require the Attorney General’s approval before issuing subpoenas. This bill will help ensure our intelligence agencies safeguard the American people’s civil liberties while protecting our national security.”

The SPOT Act also allows the PCLOB to issue subpoenas without having to wait for the Justice Department to issue them, and makes the board members full-time positions.

The Privacy and Civil Liberties Oversight Board is an independent oversight body that was established in 2007 as part of Congress’ measures to implement the recommendations of the 9/11 Commission. The commission called for an executive branch board that would ensure that government efforts to protect American security also protect Americans’ privacy and civil liberties. More recently, a number of outside experts, including the President’s own surveillance Review Group, have recommended that the Board’s mandate and authorities be expanded and clarified.  


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