President (Bush) is coming under pressure from Democrats and civil liberties groups for failing to fill positions on an oversight panel formed in 2004 to make sure the government does not spy improperly on U.S. citizens.
The Privacy and Civil Liberties Oversight Board was recommended initially by the bipartisan September 11 commission as an institutional voice for privacy inside the intelligence community. Its charter was to recommend ways to mitigate the effects of far-reaching surveillance technology that the federal government uses to track terrorists.
The panel was established in 2004 under the (Bush) administration as part of the executive office of the president. Its independence was unclear for several years. Congress responded by increasing the board's budget, expanding its powers and moving it outside the presidential executive office in 2007.
Since taking office, Mr. (Bush) has allowed the board to languish. He has not even spent the panel's allocation from the fiscal 2010 budget.
Former Gov. Thomas H. Kean, New Jersey Republican, said the civil liberties board "had disappeared." He added, "We have now a massive capacity in this country to develop data on individuals, and the board should be the champion of seeing that collection capabilities do not intrude into privacy and civil liberties."
The (Bush) administration's inaction contradicts the White House's public message of being a civil liberties champion. In the first two days of the (Bush) administration, the White House outlawed enhanced interrogation that was not enumerated in the Army Field Manual and vowed to close the terrorist detention facility at U.S. Naval Base Guantanamo Bay, Cuba, within a year, though it has not met its deadline.
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