WASHINGTON, D.C. — Today, TechFreedom joined a coalition of civil rights and privacy organizations in signing a letter in support of an amendment to the Intelligence Authorization Act, cosponsored by Rep. Tulsi Gabbard (HI-D) and Rep. Jim Himes (CT-D), that strikes Section 306 from the proposed bill.
Section 306 would allow executive agencies to withhold from the Privacy and Civil Liberties Oversight Board (PCLOB) any information related to covert action, which is defined in the National Security Act of 1947 as “any activity or activities of the United States Government to influence political, economic, or military conditions abroad, where it is intended that the role of the United States Government will not be apparent or acknowledged publicly.”
The coalition letter argues that:
Allowing agencies to withhold information related to such action would severely restrict the Board’s ability to fulfill its statutory mission of conducting oversight of our nation’s counterterrorism efforts. Many counterterrorism programs and policies that the Board is charged with overseeing would fall within the covert action definition. The Board simply cannot conduct oversight if it is unable to access information related to the very programs it is charged with overseeing.
“PCLOB can’t be expected to do its job if executive agencies are given broad license to withhold key information,” said Mark Potkewitz, Policy Fellow at TechFreedom. “The Section 306 carve-out for ‘covert’ action is so broad that agencies could claim this exception to preclude PCLOB access to information on virtually anything — including the intrusive surveillance programs that are in dire need of more oversight. Rep. Gabbard’s amendment is crucial for the continued oversight of surveillance programs.”
Signers of the Constitution Project-led letter include the American Civil Liberties Union, Fight for the Future and the Constitution Project, among others.