The White House and Congress have largely failed to curb domestic spying by American intelligence agencies, according to a new report by US government privacy oversight board.
The members of the Privacy and Civil Liberties Oversight Board (PCLOB), an independent bipartisan agency within the executive branch of the US administration, wrote that despite having authority to end the Nation Security Agency’s telephone metadata collection programs, the Obama administration continues to bring the issue to Congress, the Government Watchdog (watchdog.org) reported on Wednesday.
The Government Watchdog is a collection of independent journalists covering state-specific and local government activity in the United States.
“It should be noted that the Administration can end the bulk telephone records program at any time, without congressional involvement,” wrote the members of PCLOB.
The phone metadata includes call duration and location which are collected for all people living inside the United States without exception.
The domestic espionage scandal hit the Obama administration in 2013 when Edward Snowden, a computer professional working as a contractor for the NSA, disclosed the details the data collection program.
In January 2014, President Barack Obama acknowledged the power of new technologies and the responsibilities of the government and promised to reform the method of data collection by security agencies.
Shortly after the speech, the PCLOB issued a list of recommendations including ending the phone data collection program.
“Many of the recommendations directed at the Administration have yet to be fully satisfied, with the Administration having taken only partial steps, at most, toward implementing them,” wrote the Board.
Obama has been reluctant to shut down the phone data collection program and rather asked Congress to deal with the issue.
None of the legislation aimed at reforming national security routines has been sent to the White House since last year.
However, the Obama administration has reportedly put limited controls on the NSA’s collection of data on Americans and foreigners.
NSA analysts will be ordered to delete some information accidentally collected about US citizens, but which provides no real intelligence value to the agency, the Office of the Director of National Intelligence (ODNI) said it its report on Tuesday.
Information about foreigners that offers no real intelligence value must be expunged within five years.
The metadata collection program has been the most controversial aspect of the NSA's surveillance revealed in documents from Snowden. Civil liberties proponents have claimed that the program is illegal and should be ended.
Obama said a year ago that he would end the NSA's bulk collection of US telephone records.
Privacy rights advocates and tech firms had strongly criticized Obama’s proposed reforms to Washington’s spying activities, saying the proposals would have little effect and would only preserve the status quo.