Giving Teeth to the Civil Liberties Board Recommended By the 9/11 Commission; Bipartisan Legislation Introduced

Mar 15, 2005
Press Release
 WASHINGTON, DC - The Civil Liberties Board that oversees all federal intelligence and security agencies has been made powerless, according to a 9/11 Commission member, the ACLU and Members of Congress. They stood together on Capitol Hill today as Reps. Carolyn Maloney (D-NY), Tom Udall (D-NM) and Christopher Shays (R-CT) introduced bipartisan legislation to strengthen the board, which was envisioned by the 9/11 Commission and created in last year’s landmark intelligence reform bill.  

9/11 Commissioner Richard Ben-Veniste, Voices of September 11th Founder Mary Fetchet and Timothy Edgar of the ACLU joined Maloney and Udall at today’s press conference. The bill’s sponsors stressed the need for increased civil liberties protections during the War on Terrorism.

“We need to give the Civil Liberties Board teeth if civil liberties are to be upheld,” said Maloney, Chair of the House Democratic Task Force on Homeland Security. “The president doesn’t seem committed to a strong guardian of civil liberties. However, America ceases to be the ‘land of the free’ if civil liberties are infringed upon, and the 9/11 Commission recognized that. We must uphold those ideals while fighting the war on terrorism.”

“This bill is important to both our security and our civil liberties,” said Shays. “As a key recommendation of the 9/11 Commission, the Civil Liberties Review Board is critical to ensuring we keep our country safe without sacrificing the principles upon which our government was established.”

“The 9/11 Commission concluded that the choice between liberty and security is a false choice,” said Ben-Veniste. “The shift of greater power and authority to government must be accompanied by an enhanced system of check and balances to protect the precious personal liberties that define our way of life.”

“The 9/11 Commission has recommended sweeping government reforms,” said Fetchet. “It is crucial that an independent, bipartisan civil liberties board is established with the necessary oversight to ensure that our rights as Americans are not infringed upon.”

Among other measures, the Protection of Civil Liberties Act would:

make the Civil Liberties Board independent by moving out of the Executive Office of the President;
give the Board subpoena power; and
ensure that the Board reports to Congress.

COSPONSORS OF LEGISLATION (24): Reps. Carolyn Maloney (NY-14), Tom Udall (NM-3), Christopher Shays (CT-4), Julia Carson (IN-7), Sanders (VT), Ed Case (HI-2), Bob Filner (CA-51), Elijah Cummings (MD-7), Mike Honda (CA-15), Tammy Baldwin (WI-2), Betty McCollum (MN-4), George Miller (CA-7), Frank Pallone (NJ-6), Brian Baird (WA-3), Major Owens (NY-11), Lynn Woolsey (CA-6), Charles Gonzales (TX-20), Susan Davis (CA-53), Steve Israel (NY-2), Diane Watson (CA-33), Barbara Lee (CA-9), Robert Wexler (FL-19), Bobby Scott (VA-03), Chris Van Hollen (MD-8).

Section-by-section description of legislation:

Sec. 1 - Short Title

Sec. 2 - Findings

Sec. 3 - Making the Board independent

Establishes the Board as an independent agency within the Executive Branch rather than within the Executive Office of the President.

Sec. 4 - Board membership

Section 1061 Subsection(e)(1) Requires that all Board members be confirmed by the Senate, structures the Board as consisting of one Chairman and four additional members, and makes the Chairman full-time.

Subsection(e)(2) Requires that Board members have expertise in civil liberties and privacy issues, requires that no more than three members of the Board be of the same political party, and requires that the President consult with the congressional leadership before he or she appoints a Board member of the opposing party.

Subsection(e)(3) Disallows elected officials, officers, or employees of the Federal government from serving as Board members.

Subsection(e)(4) Requires that Board members serve staggered six-year terms, except in certain cases. A Board member appointed after the start of a term will finish the remainder of that term, and a Board member can continue to serve up to sixty days after six years if the member’s successor has not yet been approved.

Subsection(e)(5) Stipulates that the Board meet upon the chairman’s call, or the call of three Board members.

Sec. 5 - Subpoena Power

Gives the Board subpoena power, and requires that failure to obey a subpoena be met with a district court order.

Sec. 6 (Part 1) - Reporting Requirements

Section 1061 Subsection(c)(4)(A) Requires that Board members submit semiannual reports, in unclassified form to the greatest extent possible, to congressional committees, and stipulates that reports include major Board activities, advice and oversight functions, minority views, and proposal that despite Board opposition, were implemented.

Subsection(c)(4)(B) Requires that the Board make its reports available to the public and hold public hearings to the greatest extent possible consistent with protection of classified information.

Sec. 6 (Part 2) - Privacy and Civil Liberties Officers

Section 1062 Subsection(a) Requires that the Board designate a senior official in each of fifteen intelligence agencies as a privacy and civil liberties officer.

Subsection(a)(1-3) Requires that the Officer assist the Department in considering privacy and civil liberties concerns in its policies, ensure Department adequately considers privacy and civil liberties in its operations, and ensure that complaints about privacy and civil liberties abuses are met with action.

Subsection(a)(4) Requires that the Officer consider, in giving advice to the Department, the need for the power being proposed, whether the need for the power is adequately balanced with the need to protect civil liberties, and whether adequate supervision of the power and oversight guidelines exist.

Subsection(b) Clarifies that Departments that already have Privacy Officers should adhere to the above requirements.

Subsection(c) Requires that the Officer reports to the head of the Department and coordinate activities with the Department Inspector General.

Subsection(d) Requires that the head of the Departments give the Officer full access to information and personnel.

Subsection(e) Stipulates that disciplinary action must not be taken against an employee who brings a complaint to the Board unless the employee knowingly submitted false information.

Subsection(f) Requires Officer to submit quarterly report to congressional committee, the Board, and head of the Department, and requires that reports include information about reviews taken by the Officer, advice provided, complaints received, and their results.

Subsection(g) Requires that Officers make congressional reports available to the public.

Subsection(h) Stipulates that this law will not limit responsibilities of officer previously provided by law.

Subsection(i) Ensures compliance with protections for human research subjects.