Current Oversight Projects
Countering Domestic Terrorism and its Impacts on Privacy and Civil Liberties
In this Oversight Project (“Project”), the Board will examine Executive Branch (“Government”) policies and activities to counter domestic terrorism. The Board will focus this project on two simultaneous and distinct workstreams: the impact on First Amendment rights; and the impact on privacy and civil liberties of particular groups, such as those with shared racial, religious, political, or ideological affiliations. Across both workstreams, the Board will examine how the Government collects, retains, analyzes, and disseminates information about domestic terrorism threats; and how it operationally responds to and seeks to prevent domestic terrorism. Through the Project, the Board seeks to increase transparency regarding the Government’s activities to counter domestic terrorism, and to explore whether any changes to existing policies or activities should be made to better protect privacy and civil liberties.
First Amendment Workstream:
The Board will examine how the Government’s activities to counter domestic terrorism intersect with First Amendment rights. This will focus on how the Government, in its efforts to counter domestic terrorism:
- Distinguishes First Amendment-protected speech and activity, including political, religious, and protest speech or activity, from domestic terrorism, and how that distinction is reflected in the Government’s policy and training;
- Ensures that operational personnel comply with such policy and training as they execute mission activities, including and with respect to communities of color, religious communities, and political groups;
- Collects, retains, analyzes, and disseminates publicly accessible online activity;
- Defines, identifies, evaluates, seeks to counter, and seeks to suppress mis- and disinformation;
- Engages with and/or directs social media companies and other third parties regarding domestic terrorism and all the categories of speech and activities referenced above, and the resulting impact on individual users’ or groups’ speech; and
- Distinguishes the speech of foreign actors from that of U.S. persons.
Shared Affiliations Workstream:
The Board will examine whether and how the Government’s efforts to counter domestic terrorism uniquely affect the privacy and civil liberties of particular groups, with an emphasis on rights under the Fourth, Fifth, and Fourteenth Amendments to the Constitution. Examples of such groups may include persons with shared racial, religious, political, or ideological affiliations. The Board’s project will also cover those groups whose members are suspected of engaging in domestic terrorism, as well as those whose members are targets or victims of domestic terrorism. The project will focus on whether the policies, tools, and resources for counter-terrorism operations are appropriate relative to the threat presented or faced by members of these groups. The Board will examine how the Government, in its efforts to counter domestic terrorism:
- Defines and identifies distinct groups of people that may present or face a significant level of domestic terrorism threat meriting Government response, prevention, or protection activities;
- Assesses the domestic terrorism threat presented or faced by such groups, and prioritizes the Government response, including prevention and protection activities;
- Determines the type, amount, and allocation of resources considering the level of the domestic terrorism threat to and from such groups;
- Ensures that efforts to counter domestic terrorism do not disproportionately or otherwise inappropriately affect particular racial groups, historically underserved communities, religious groups, politically disfavored groups, and other individuals, relative to the threat, and how this is reflected in the Government’s policy and training;
- Ensures that operational personnel comply with such policy and training as they execute mission activities, including and with respect to communities of color, religious communities, and political groups; and
- Limits use of racial, religious, political, or ideological affiliation as a predicate for investigation or surveillance.
FISA Section 702
The Board is conducting an Oversight Project to examine the surveillance program that the Executive Branch operates pursuant to Section 702 of the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act (FISA), in anticipation of the December 2023 sunset date for Section 702 and the upcoming public and Congressional consideration of its reauthorization. The goals of the Oversight Project are to ensure that privacy and civil liberties are protected in the course of the Executive Branch’s use of its Section 702 authorities, and to ensure that Congress and the public are able appropriately to assess and consider the program’s value, and efficacy in protecting the nation’s security and producing useful intelligence.
This Oversight Project is examining significant changes to the operation of the 702 program since the Board’s Report on the Surveillance Program Operated Pursuant to Section 702 of the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act (July 2, 2014) (“2014 Report”) in order to provide an accurate description of the current program. The Board’s review covers selected focus areas for investigation, including but not necessarily limited to, U.S. Person queries of information collected under Section 702, and ‘Upstream’ collection conducted pursuant to Section 702. The Oversight Project also includes reviewing the program’s past and projected value and efficacy, as well as the adequacy of existing privacy and civil liberties safeguards.
National Counterterrorism Center’s (NCTC)
The Board is reviewing the National Counterterrorism Center’s (NCTC) access to and handling of datasets containing non-terrorism information and assessing whether NCTC’s policies and practices concerning such materials.are consistent with governing laws, regulations, and policies and appropriately balance privacy and civil liberties interests with national security interests relating to counterterrorism.
The Board’s review also considers NCTC’s implementation of procedures drafted by the Office of the Director of National Intelligence pursuant to Executive Order 12333 (“ODNI Procedures”).
FBI Collection of Open-Source Data
The Board is reviewing the FBI’s acquisition and use of data from open-source or commercially available sources as part of its efforts to protect the nation against terrorism, as well as the legal, policy, and technological safeguards in place to protect privacy and civil liberties.
Facial Recognition and Other Biometric Technologies in Aviation Security
The Board is reviewing how biometric technologies are used to verify identity at each phase of an air journey, considering both operational benefits and privacy and civil liberties concerns.
The Terrorist Watchlist
The Board is reviewing the operation of the Terrorist Screening Database (TSDB), commonly referred to as the Terrorist Watchlist, a database containing information on known and suspected terrorists, including U.S. persons, which the U.S. government uses to populate various terrorist screening systems. The Board is examining, among other things, the standards for placing individuals on the Watchlist and the procedures followed to add and remove individuals.
Airline Passenger Data
The Board is conducting an oversight project related to the use of airline Passenger Name Records.
FBI Searches of Data from FISA Section 702
The Board is reviewing the FBI’s querying of data obtained pursuant to Section 702 of the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act and related authorities. The review will also examine the procedures and technology used to record queries and ensure compliance with applicable rules.
Reports by Privacy & Civil Liberty Officers
The Board receives and reviews reports from Civil Liberties and Privacy Officers under Section 803 of the Implementing Recommendations of the 9/11 Commission Act of 2007.
Critical Infrastructure Cybersecurity
The Board receives and reviews reports under Executive Order 13636, Improving Critical Infrastructure Cybersecurity.