The Daily Sandwich

"We have to learn the lesson that intellectual honesty is fundamental for everything we cherish." -Sir Karl Popper

Location: Boston, Massachusetts, United States


Monday, February 20, 2006

Possibly coming soon: The Privacy and Civil Rights Protection Board

Back in the final days of his administration, Bill Clinton had a counter-terrorism task force with whom he met regularly (more than once a week, if I remember correctly). It stayed intact over the transition to the Bush White House. But no-one in the administration had met with them in the year before 9/11. Now the White House is treating civil rights with the same sense of urgency:

For Americans troubled by the prospect of federal agents eavesdropping on their phone conversations or combing through their Internet records, there is good news: A little-known board exists in the White House whose purpose is to ensure that privacy and civil liberties are protected in the fight against terrorism.

Someday, it might actually meet.

Initially proposed by the bipartisan commission that investigated the attacks of Sept. 11, 2001, the Privacy and Civil Liberties Oversight Board was created by the intelligence overhaul that President Bush signed into law in December 2004.

More than a year later, it exists only on paper.

Foot-dragging, debate over its budget and powers, and concern over the qualifications of some of its members — one was treasurer of Bush's first campaign for Texas governor — has kept the board from doing a single day of work.

On Thursday, after months of delay, the Senate Judiciary Committee took a first step toward standing up the fledgling watchdog, approving the two lawyers Bush nominated to lead the panel. But it may take months before the board is up and running and doing much serious work.

Maybe this is a blessing in disguise-- given the crackerjack results we've seen from other Bush appointees, inaction could be the protection our best liberties have.