Knight Institute Testifies before the Privacy and Civil Liberties Oversight Board

February 08, 2019


Public Hearing on Oversight Agenda for 2019 and Beyond
February 8, 2019

Submission of Alex Abdo, Senior Staff Attorney
Knight First Amendment Institute at Columbia University

Thank you for the opportunity to testify before the Privacy and Civil Liberties Oversight Board as it considers its oversight agenda for 2019 and beyond. The Board has contributed significantly to public understanding of the activities of the intelligence agencies, and I commend the Board for hosting this session. Before addressing the Board’s agenda, I want to encourage whatever efforts are being made to fill the Board’s vacancies. The Board’s legitimacy and its ability to operate effectively depend on its being fully staffed in a bipartisan manner, and so I hope the Board reaches full capacity again, soon.

With respect to the Board’s agenda, I would like to make one proposal: the Board should make it an explicit part of its agenda to narrow the gaps between what the public believes the intelligence agencies are doing and what the agencies are actually doing. The Board is uniquely well-positioned to identify these gaps and to advocate for the declassification of information sufficient to allow the public to understand, in at least general terms, the legal authorities of the intelligence agencies and the activities said to be justified by them. As I’ll explain below, this sort of transparency would promote democratic self- government, the legitimacy of the Board, and the legitimacy of the intelligence agencies’ activities.

Read the full testimony here.