Damage control: Obama meets with privacy board amid NSA scandal

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United States President Barack Obama is convening with a rarely assembled privacy and civil liberties board Friday in the wake of a series of scandals centered on his administration’s surveillance of US citizens.

In light of the revelations made earlier this month by former intelligence contractor Edward Snowden, Mr. Obama is meeting Friday with the Privacy and Civil Liberties Oversight Board, an independent agency within the executive branch that has only met previously with the president once during his four-and-a-half years in the White House.

Obama will speak with the oversight panel in Washington and is bringing along James Clapper, the director of national intelligence, as the discussion is expected to focus on the US government’s collection of phone and Internet records.

“Obama is specifically asking Clapper to review possible declassification of opinions from the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court, which approves the surveillance efforts,” the Associated Press reported.

The court, established under the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act of 1978, has the authority to compel telecommunication companies for the personal information of any user, American or other, in the name of investigating criminal matters. Those orders are done with questionable oversight, however, and are filed and delivered in secrecy. Gag-orders prevent telecoms from telling customers that their records are sought, and The Guardian newspaper published a leaked copy of one of those requests on Friday to show that a single paragraph is all that’s issued to demand the data.

A FISA judge simply “declares that the procedures submitted by the attorney general on behalf of the [National Security Agency] are consistent with US law and the Fourth Amendment,” The Guardian reported earlier this week.

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