A long dormant and little known presidentially appointed panel charged with overseeing how federal laws affect Americans’ civil liberties will meet behind closed doors next week to discuss the National Security Agency’s so-called PRISM program.
In a notice posted on the Federal Register Thursday, the Privacy and Civil Liberties Board disclosed that it would meet for two hours Wednesday “to discuss classified information pertaining to the PRISM-related activities and the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act.”
PRISM is the National Security Agency program at the heart of leaks by a former Booz Allen employee, who told the Guardian and Washington Post newspapers about NSA efforts to collect data on millions of Americans’ phone and Internet use.
The privacy board sat dormant for years both under President Bush and President Obama. It was created through a recommendation by the commission that investigated the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks.
Obama named four members late in his first term after criticism about the languishing vacancies on the panel. His nomination of attorney David Medine as chairman then languished for months until Medine was finally confirmed last month.
Without a chairman, the board couldn’t conduct much business and was even forced to borrow staff from other agencies.
“It’s certainly a step in the right direction,” Mark Rumold, staff attorney for the Electronic Frontier Foundation, which was among the groups that pushed for quicker appointments to the panel.
“It’s probably as much as anything part of some damage control by NSA, which might be trying to reach out and clean up its image a little bit.”