4 Confirmed (at last) for Privacy and Civil Liberties Oversight Board

Tonight the U.S. Senate confirmed four of the five nominees for the Privacy and Civil Liberties Oversight Board: Rachel Brand; Elizabeth Cook; Jim Dempsey (of the Center for Democracy and Technology); and Pat Wald (long-time judge on the DC Circuit).

This is good news.  The PCLOB has not been up and running for several years, and now it will have a quorum.  The importance of having the Board in place has been underscored recently by the Senate’s consideration of the cybersecurity bill.  If there is lots of information sharing, then there should be effective oversight of that sharing.

The goods news is incomplete, though.  The nominee for Chair is David Medine, who is a great nominee.  He was voted out of the Judiciary Committee this year, but on a party-line vote.  There are no criticisms I have been able to discover of Medine’s qualifications — he was the senior civil servant for years at the FTC on privacy, and he has counseled major global clients at WilmerHale on privacy and security.

The lack of a chair matters.  As discussed in my testimony this week in the Senate Homeland Security Committee, the statute allows only the Chairman to hire staff:  “The chairman of the Board … shall appoint and fix the compensation of a full-time executive director and such other personnel as may be necessary to enable the Board to carry out its functions.” Clearly, the Board cannot carry out its work as the statute intends if there is no Chairman in place.

The Board can now begin its work.  But it needs a Chairman, and it needs staff.  The Senate has more work to do on this.

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4 Responses

  1. Danielle Citron says:

    Thanks so much for posting about this, and the total travesty regarding David Medine’s appointment. The U.S. Senate ought to act now to confirm his nomination as Chair–he is a truly stand out privacy and civil liberties expert and I cannot imagine a better person to run the board. Great insights on hiring and thanks for including your testimony. Much appreciated, Danielle

  2. Joe says:

    The length of time it takes to confirm people continues to be problematic.

  3. Marissa says:

    I’m curious, has there been any word as to why President Obama withdrew Patricia Wald’s nomination? Additionally, according to the Senate’s website, her term will end January 29, 2013. As you pointed out, Joe, the painfully drawn-out process of nomination and confirmation is extremely problematic. I see the possibility that come January when Ms. Wald’s term ends, we’ll be down to three members for who knows how long. Three members may be just enough for a quorum, but it further limits the strength the Board deserves (and needs).

  4. Peter Swire says:

    I have heard a bit about the timing of Judge Wald’s appointment. The terms are staggered, so someone had to have the shortest term. Hers was the shortest term.

    Another piece is that no nomination can go into place now that would begin the job after the January 20, 2013 inauguration. The idea is that a current President cannot nominate someone to take office under a subsequent President.

    That’s what I’ve heard — possible that I have some of this inaccurate.