Wald, the former chief judge of the U.S. Court of Appeals for the D.C. Circuit and soon to be Medal of Honor recipient, has served on the recently-revived Privacy and Civil Liberties Oversight Board for more than a year. Wald's confirmation to the board is not controversial; she was approved in committee today with a voice vote and now awaits a vote in the full Senate.
Still, the board has moved into the national spotlight amid growing public concern about the scope of the National Security Agency's domestic telephone and internet surveillance programs. Senator Chuck Grassley (R-Iowa) noted in written remarks before today’s vote that he has concerns about the NSA surveillance review panel the Obama administration recently established.
President Barack Obama announced in August he would appoint independent group of experts to review NSA programs. Lawmakers and privacy groups have raised questions about the fact the group is run through the Office of the Director of National Intelligence.
"I asked Judge Wald about the NSA surveillance review panel which the President recently established," Grassley said in the statement. "Unlike the PCLOB, this panel does not appear to be bipartisan, but rather seems to be comprised of individuals who reasonably could be described as White House 'insiders.'"
Wald told Grassley her knowledge of the group was limited to public releases, Grassley said.
"I hope the establishment of this Review Group is not another attempt by the White House to circumvent Congressional oversight or to avoid public accountability," Grassley said. "I would suggest that it might be appropriate for our Committee to pursue this matter."
The privacy and civil liberties group held its first public panel discussion in July—the members focused on NSA surveillance programs—and has another public meeting is scheduled for October 4 at the Renaissance Mayflower Hotel in downtown Washington.
Three panels of lawyers from government agencies, in addition to legal experts, will talk about privacy issues tied to Section 215 USA PATRIOT Act and the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court. Under the Section 215, the surveillance court permitted the NSA's bulk collection of millions of Americans' phone records.
One panel on Section 215 and Section 702 of the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act features John Carlin, the U.S. Department of Justice's acting assistant attorney general for National Security; Rajesh De, NSA general counsel; Robert Litt, Office of the Director of National Intelligence general counsel; and Andrew Weissmann, Federal Bureau of Investigation general counsel. (Obama recently nominated Carlin to serve as the permanent head of the DOJ National Security Division, to replace Lisa Monaco.)
A panel on the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court features James A. Baker; senior federal trial judge James Carr, who formerly served on the FISA court; and former Justice Department attorney Marc Zwillinger, a name partner in the Internet privacy and security law boutique ZwillGen PLLC in Washington.
A panel of academics and outside experts includes law professors Orin Kerr of George Washington University Law School and Stephen Vladeck of American University Washington College of Law.