Civil liberties monitoring found lacking

Jan. 26, 2009 at 8:38 AM
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WASHINGTON, Jan. 26 (UPI) -- An independent body set up to monitor if U.S. federal agencies are protecting Americans' civil liberties has been dormant since 2007, USA Today reported Monday.

The Privacy and Civil Liberties Oversight Board, meant to be a watchdog on the civil liberties compliance of the U.S. departments of Defense, State, and Health and Human Services, hasn't met publicly since 2006 and it no longer has members, the newspaper's investigation revealed Monday.

In the meantime, the three departments have failed to comply with a 2007 law directing them to appoint civil liberties protection officers and report regularly to Congress on what they're doing to make sure their programs don't undermine the public's rights and privacy, USA Today found.

James Dempsey, vice president of the Center for Democracy and Technology, said the lack of civil liberties and privacy compliance officers at the State and Health and Human Services departments is disturbing because the agencies handle passport and medical records.

U.S. President Barack Obama indicated after his election he wanted to give the oversight board subpoena power and to ensure sure agencies meet civil liberties rules, USA Today said.

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