(Corrects date to July in last paragraph)
By Dustin Volz
WASHINGTON Oct 3 The U.S. intelligence
community does not support pending congressional legislation
that would curtail the authority of a privacy watchdog that
advises the president on government surveillance programs,
according to an unclassified memo seen by Reuters.
The position amounts to a rare show of support for the
Privacy and Civil Liberties Oversight Board, or PCLOB, from the
spy agencies it is designed to oversee.
It came in a letter to the leaders of congressional
intelligence committees that outlined opposition to several
sections of an annual intelligence funding bill awaiting action
President Barack Obama's senior advisers would recommend a
veto of the bill if Congress does not address the concerns
raised, the letter said.
The intelligence community "strongly opposes" part of the
proposed legislation seeking to limit the jurisdiction of PCLOB
to the privacy rights of Americans, and not foreigners, the
letter, signed by Director of National Intelligence James
PCLOB is "uniquely situated" to give advice to spy agencies
on how to respect global privacy interests, and limiting its
authority "is a significant step backward from the reforms that
the president has directed."
Some members of Congress have increasingly attempted to
restrict PCLOB, which released a report in January 2014 that
concluded a National Security Agency program that collected U.S.
phone metadata in bulk was illegal and ineffective.
That program, exposed by former NSA contractor Edward
Snowden, was later reformed by Congress.
The letter, dated Sept. 9, also objected to a provision that
would require PCLOB to keep senior intelligence and
congressional officials informed about its activities, an
arrangement it said would present significant separation of
In a statement Monday, ODNI spokesman Richard Kolko said the
positions in the letter "remain the intelligence community's
A PCLOB spokeswoman did not comment on the letter but
referred to an earlier statement expressing concern with the
restrictions proposed by Congress, while noting Americans were
the primary focus of the board.
The House intelligence committee has received the
administration's comments and was working with Senate colleagues
to finalize a version of the bill that can be enacted into law,
said a spokesman for committee chairman Devin Nunes, a
Democratic Senator Ron Wyden has placed a "hold" on the
intelligence authorization bill due in part to the PCLOB
language, a maneuver that prevents quick passage of the
PCLOB, a bipartisan five-member panel created by Congress in
2004, has been without a chairman since July.
(Editing by Matthew Lewis)