Three Agencies Failed to Appoint Required Civil Liberties Overseers

In 2004, in response to recommendations by the 911 Commission, the Privacy and Civil Liberties Oversight Board was created by Congress as part of the The Intelligence Reform and Terrorism Prevention Act of 2004. It was part of the White House and went nowhere. In 2007, Congress passed a new law establishing an independent board. There are currently no members and there have been no meetings. Bush did little with it after the terms expired in Jan. 2008. (He did nominate at least one person).

But, as part of the law, 8 departments were ordered to appoint a civil liberties director. Among the agencies that have failed to comply: The Departments of Defense, State, and Health and Human Services.

All three departments have failed to comply with a 2007 law directing them to appoint civil liberties protection officers and report regularly to Congress on the safeguards they use to make sure their programs don't undermine the public's rights and privacy, a USA TODAY review of congressional filings shows.


Government missteps such as putting innocent people on terrorist watch lists and misusing administrative warrants, known as national security letters, "might have been dealt with much sooner if we had … cops on the beat to make sure there are standards that are being upheld," says Caroline Fredrickson, legislative director at the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU).

....The lack of civil liberties officers at State and Health and Human Services is troubling because the departments hold passport and medical records, says James Dempsey, vice president of the Center for Democracy and Technology. "Security of that information is very important," he says, and these officers should monitor how it's used and shared.

The Pentagon also has sparked concerns. Its Counterintelligence Field Activity office was criticized by the ACLU for wrongly tracking anti-war groups — a charge confirmed by the Pentagon in 2006.

As to who has complied:

... Homeland Security, Treasury, the CIA and the Office of the Director of National Intelligence.

President Obama is aware of the law:

President Obama vowed after his election to give the oversight board subpoena power and make sure agencies meet civil liberties rules. The board was set up as a White House office in 2004, but Congress ordered in 2007 that it be revamped as an independent agency by last January. President Bush didn't nominate new members until August; none was confirmed.

State and Health and Human Services pledged in statements to work in the new administration to satisfy the law. A Pentagon statement said its offices already safeguard civil liberties.

Joe Lieberman and Susan Collins say agencies not in compliance will be held accountable. State and HHS say they are working on it. The Pentagon's response:

A Pentagon statement said its offices already safeguard civil liberties.

In other words, laws don't apply to the Pentagon. Hopefully, that Bush/Rumsfeld way of thinking is going by the roadside.

The Director of the Office of National Intelligence hired an ACLU lawyer, Tim Edgar, for the job. USA Today profiles him here.

< NY-Sen: A Primary Opportunity | Supreme Court Restricts More Rights >
  • The Online Magazine with Liberal coverage of crime-related political and injustice news

  • Contribute To TalkLeft

  • Display: Sort:
    laws don't apply to the Pentagon (none / 0) (#1)
    by SOS on Mon Jan 26, 2009 at 12:02:46 PM EST
    Two days after Obama announced a timetable to close the scandal-ridden prisoner compound at Guantanamo Bay the Pentagon dropped a report saying prisoners released from the prison are up to their turbans in plotting new acts of violence against the United States.

    No surprise there.

    Like VP Cheney, perhaps (none / 0) (#2)
    by oldpro on Mon Jan 26, 2009 at 01:33:17 PM EST
    they are their own branch of government.

    The congress, so far, has not held these renegades accountable.  Big news, hmmm?  Maybe if ex-Senator Obama had held a hearing or two in his subcommittee...?


    Treat as suspect (none / 0) (#3)
    by RonK Seattle on Mon Jan 26, 2009 at 06:17:23 PM EST
    I don't find any such statement in general release from "the Pentagon" (DOD). It may be a reporter's  or rewriter's paraphrase of a response from somebody at DOD, but it's probably not the literal word, or the last word.