Independent federal review board calls for NSA to end 'illegal' phone call data collection

Following up on what we've learned about the NSA's various spying activities over the last year, the aptly-named Privacy and Civil Liberties Oversight Board is apparently ready to issue a report on the mess. Established in 2004 (but only fully operational since November) within the executive branch to serve as an independent source of advice to the president on... privacy and civil liberties, it has arrived somewhat late to the party (President Obama announced reform plans last week, but has said its recommendations will be considered going forward), and delivering a split opinion which leans in favor of ending the NSA's bulk collection of information about phone calls (phone numbers, call times and duration). The 238-page report will be released later today but reporters for the New York Times and Washington Post got an early peek and have highlighted the key points.

The board has concluded that the NSA's phone metadata program does not meet the legal standard of the Patriot Act, raises serious privacy threats and is only of limited value at best. It's also opposed to a tweak proposed by the president's appointed panel that would see data held by a third party instead. Pointing out specific cases where other methods could have been used, it's recommending ending the program and making sure any government requests for data are tied to specific investigations. So far the program has continued on even after its existence was revealed and declassified, we'll see if these and other opinions have any affect the next time it's up for consideration.