Members of an independent White House board voiced concern today about President Barack Obama’s suggestion to have private companies or a third party hold a vast database of phone records generated through government surveillance programs.

The bipartisan Privacy and Civil Liberties Oversight Board members offered their comments at a meeting in Washington just after the panel released a report critical of the National Security Agency’s bulk collection of telephone records under Section 215 of the USA Patriot Act.

Obama, during a Jan. 17 speech, citing concerns about the potential for government abuse, gave Attorney General Eric Holder Jr. and the NSA two months to find another place to store that database—millions of records that document phone numbers dialed and duration of the call.

Today, board member Rachel Brand, also the chief counsel for regulatory litigation for the Chamber of Commerce’s National Chamber Litigation Center, said she has not yet heard a proposal that is better than keeping the phone records with the NSA.

“A third-party alternative, something other than the service providers, I don’t see any possible way that could work,” Brand said. “And in terms of the providers themselves, I think that just provides a whole host of legal questions about the nature of the data, responsibility for the data, liability of the companies and additional privacy concerns.”

Another board member, Elisebeth Collins Cook, a Wilmer Culter Pickering Hale and Dorr litigation and government affairs counsel, said other alternatives pose difficulties. She cited an example in which telephone companies run queries of the database at the request of the NSA.

“However, even assuming the companies currently keep the relevant records, there is no guarantee that those records will continue to be retained in the future,” Cook wrote. “By the same token, if another terrorist attack happens, the pressure will be immense to impose data retention requirements on those companies, which would pose separate and perhaps greater privacy concerns.”

The most vocal board member critic was James Dempsey, vice president for Public Policy at the Center for Democracy & Technology, a non-profit public policy organization focused on privacy.

“I think the third party idea is a terrible idea. It just replicates all the problems that are unanswered,” Dempsey said. “Who is it, how long do they keep it, who else gets it, how do they secure it, what security requirements are their employees subject to, who oversees it, is it subject to the constitution.”

“To me you just take all the same questions and you have to answer them all over again from scratch,” Dempsey said.

Members of a White House committee voiced concern today about President Barack Obama’s suggestion to have private companies or a third party hold a vast database of phone records generated through government surveillance programs.

Privacy and Civil Liberties Oversight Board members offered their comments at a meeting in Washington hours after the panel released a report critical of the National Security Agency’s bulk collection of telephone records under Section 215 of the USA Patriot Act.
http://www.pclob.gov/SiteAssets/Pages/default/PCLOB-Report-on-the-Telephone-Records-Program.pdf

Obama, during a Jan. 17 speech, citing concerns about the potential for government abuse, gave Attorney General Eric Holder Jr. and the NSA two months to find another place to store that database—millions of records that document phone numbers dialed and duration of the call.

Today, board member Rachel Brand, also the chief counsel for regulatory litigation for the Chamber of Commerce’s National Chamber Litigation Center, said she has not yet heard a proposal that is better than keeping the phone records with the NSA.

“A third-party alternative, something other than the service providers, I don’t see any possible way that could work,” Brand said. “And in terms of the providers themselves, I think that just provides a whole host of legal questions about the nature of the data, responsibility for the data, liability of the companies and additional privacy concerns.”

Another board member, Elisebeth Collins Cook, a Wilmer Culter Pickering Hale and Dorr litigation and government affairs counsel, said other alternatives pose difficulties. She cited an example in which telephone companies run queries of the database at the request of the NSA.

“However, even assuming the companies currently keep the relevant records, there is no guarantee that those records will continue to be retained in the future,” Cook wrote. “By the same token, if another terrorist attack happens, the pressure will be immense to impose data retention requirements on those companies, which would pose separate and perhaps greater privacy concerns.”

The most vocal board member critic was James Dempsey, vice president for Public Policy at the Center for Democracy & Technology, a non-profit public policy organization focused on privacy.

“I think the third party idea is a terrible idea. It just replicates all the problems that are unanswered,” Dempsey said. “Who’s to say how long do they keep it, who else gets it, how do they secure it, what security requirements are their employees subject to, who oversees it, is it subject to the constitution.”

“To me you just take all the same questions and you have to answer them all over again from scratch,” Dempsey said.