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About the Board

What is the Privacy and Civil Liberties Oversight Board?

The Board is an independent, bipartisan agency within the executive branch established by the Implementing Recommendations of the 9/11 Commission Act, Pub. L. 110-53, signed into law in August 2007. Comprised of four part-time members and a full-time chairman, the Board is committed to making information available to the public through a website and, to the greatest extent possible, making its reports and recommendations available to the American people. The current iteration of the Board is a successor to the Board created within the Executive Office of the President under the Intelligence Reform and Terrorism Prevention Act of 2004.

What are the Board's Authorities?
The Board’s enabling statute, codified at 42 U.S.C. § 2000ee, establishes the Board consistent with the findings of the 9/11 Commission. Through this statute, the Board is vested with two fundamental authorities: first, to review and analyze actions the executive branch takes to protect the Nation from terrorism, ensuring the need for such actions is balanced with the need to protect privacy and civil liberties; and second, to ensure that liberty concerns are appropriately considered in the development and implementation of laws, regulations, and policies related to efforts to protect the Nation against terrorism. The Board also has designated roles under the following legal authorities:
  • Section 803 of the Implementing Recommendations of the 9/11 Commission Act of 2007 (the 9/11 Commission Act), codified at 42 U.S.C. § 2000e-1, directs the privacy and civil liberties officers of eight federal agencies – and any additional agency designated by the Board – to submit quarterly reports to the PCLOB regarding the number of complaints received, the advice and response to those complaints, and the nature of the complaints. Section 1061(d)(3)(A) of PCLOB’s enabling statute directs the Board to receive the reports as outlined in Section 803.

  • Executive Order 13636 on Improving Critical Infrastructure Cybersecurity calls on multiple agencies to research and create a Cybersecurity Framework to minimize the risk of a cyber attack on critical infrastructure. In particular, the Department of Homeland Security is ordered to release a report on cyber risk in consultation with the PCLOB, to ensure appropriate privacy and civil liberties protections are applied. This report is to be reviewed annually.

  • Presidential Policy Directive 28 (PPD-28) articulates "principles to guide why, whether, when, and how the United States conducts signals intelligence activities for authorized foreign intelligence and counterintelligence purposes." In it, the President encourages the Board to provide him with an assessment of the  implementation of any matters contained in the directive that fall within the Board's mandate.

What is the History of the Board?
The Board today is in its third iteration. The National Commission on Terrorist Attacks on the United States (the 9/11 Commission) recommended that a Board be created in the Executive Branch to ensure the protection of civil liberties. In response, President George W. Bush created the President’s Board on Safeguarding Americans’ Civil Liberties in 2004. The President’s Board ceased to meet following the enactment of the Intelligence Reform and Terrorism Prevention Act of 2004 (IRTPA), which created the Privacy and Civil Liberties Oversight Board within the Executive Office of the President. As chartered under IRTPA, the Board was comprised of two Board members (the Chairman and Vice Chairman) appointed by the President by and with the advice and consent of the Senate, and three additional Board members appointed by the President.In 2007, the 9/11 Commission Act reconstituted the Board in its current form as an independent agency within the executive branch. The Act required that all five Board members be appointed by the President, by and with the advice and consent of the Senate, for staggered six-year terms. With the reconstitution of the Board, the 9/11 Commission Act terminated, effective January 30, 2008, the terms of the individuals then serving as Board members within the Executive Office of the President. From that time until August 2012, the Board did not exist. Ultimately, the Senate confirmed the Board’s current four part-time members in August 2012, providing the new Board with a quorum to begin operations as an independent agency. The Board’s Chairman was confirmed in May 2013, and took office in June 2013, finally providing the Board with a full complement of five members.

What are the Board's Responsibilities?
To meet its mission, the Board must provide advice to the President and executive branch agencies and departments on policy development and implementation. This role requires that the Board oversee certain actions, regulations, policies, and procedures of the executive branch. When appropriate, the Board will coordinate the activities of federal agency privacy and civil liberties officers on relevant interagency matters. Twice each year, the Board must report to the Congress on its activities.

What Actions Can the Board Take?
The Board is authorized to access all relevant executive agency records, reports, audits, reviews, documents, papers, recommendations, and any other relevant materials, including classified information. The Board may interview, take statements from, or take public testimony from any executive branch officer or employee. Additionally, the Board may request in writing that the Attorney General subpoena on the Board's behalf persons (other than departments, agencies, and elements of the executive branch) to produce relevant information.