privacy watchdog big brother Privacy and Civil Liberties Oversight Board (PCLOB)
Wednesday, April 18, 2012Last Update: 2:27 PM PT
Hearing Strains to Revive Addled Privacy Watchdog
By ADAM KLASFELD
(CN) - The U.S. Senate Judiciary Committee met Wednesday to grill five nominees for a watchdog group that has not been staffed in four years.
The 9/11 Commission Report recommended establishing the Privacy and Civil Liberties Oversight Board (PCLOB) in 2004 to check against abuses of power in the name of fighting terrorism.
Beset by claims of interference from the Bush administration and neglect in Obama's first term, however, the board has foundered.
The only Democratic member of the first board, Lanny Davis, resigned in protest of the more than 200 revisions the Bush administration made to its first report in 2007, according to the Washington Post.
The board has been vacant and inactive since 2008.
Three years into his term, Obama made his first five nominations: James Dempsey, an executive with the Center for Democracy & Technology; Elisebeth Collins Cook, a former Department of Justice lawyer; Rachel Brand, an attorney for the U.S. Chamber of Commerce; Patricia Wald, a former federal judge for the D.C. Circuit; and David Medine, a WilmerHale partner tapped to chair the board.
Dempsey, Wald and Medine are Democrats. Cook and Brand are Republicans.
All of the candidates seemed reluctant Wednesday to comment on Obama administration policies that most trouble civil libertarians.
All five ducked questions from Sen. Chuck Grassley, R-Iowa, about the CIA's controversial targeted-killing program. The senator blasted the program's secrecy before the hearing and demanded to see the top-secret government memo justifying drone strikes.
Several candidates reserved comment until they could see that memo and other classified data and opinions.
"I'm going to approach that with an open mind and listen to the current thinking that has evolved," Dempsey said.
Sen. Al Franken, D-Minn., grew impatient with the nominees' evasive answers.