Near-Death of the PCLOB

By Paul Rosenzweig
Wednesday, December 21, 2016, 5:32 PM

The Privacy and Civil Liberties Oversight Board (PCLOB) is a 5-member board tasked with overseeing some aspects of privacy and civil liberties compliance by the Intelligence Community. The former Chairman, David Medine, left in the middle of last year, and no replacement has been named. As this report from the Seattle Times makes clear, another member, Jim Dempsey, will be leaving on January 3 and board member Judge Patrica Wald will retire on January 7. That's all of the Democrats on what is supposed to be a bi-partisan board. And of the two remaining members, one, Rachel Brand, has a term that expires in January (though she might be able to extend through March or through the end of the year). But a quorum of the Board is 3 members. And if Brand leaves, then only one member, Elisabeth Collins will remain.

The board was originally conceived as comprised of presidential designees, but Congress changed the law so that Senate confirmation is now required. Bad move! Anyone who thinks that filling the PCLOB's 3 or 4 open slots will be an early priority of the incoming Trump Administration will also be interested in the bridge I have available for sale in Brooklyn. [Though, to be fair, filling the board was unlikely to be a high-priority for the Clinton Administration either.] Best guess: The board is unable to function for all of 2017 if not longer -- and that can't be a good thing for governance.