Reuters / Kevin Lamarque
President Barack Obama will hold talks Friday with a largely unknown privacy oversight watchdog board as he works to clarify details related to the government surveillance controversy.
The Privacy and Civil Liberties Oversight Board is a five-person independent agency that is supposed to monitor steps the government takes regarding national security and raise flags if any steps infringe on privacy and civil liberties.
It was created in 2004 during President Bush's administration as part of the executive branch, then made an independent agency in 2007. However, the group has been largely dormant since 2008 and never met officially because of confusion over its exact duties, until now.
Its new chairman, former Federal Trade Commission official David Medine, was just confirmed by the Senate in May, shortly before news broke in early June that the National Security Agency (NSA) has been monitoring phone and Internet data in an effort to foil terror plots.
The board held its first full-fledged meeting on Wednesday, and on Thursday the president directed his homeland security adviser, Lisa Monaco, to ask the director of national intelligence to review Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act court opinions and filings relevant to the NSA's surveillance programs and determine what additional information the government could reveal about them.
This latest move "builds on the administration's ongoing effort to declassify a significant amount of information regarding these programs," the White House said in a statement. "The president's direction is that as much information as possible be made public while being mindful of the need to protect sources and methods of national security."