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Civil liberties panel recommended by 9/11 Commission finally getting under way

[JURIST] The Privacy and Civil Liberties Oversight Board created by the US Congress in December 2004 implementing a recommendation [CRS backgrounder] from the 9/11 Commission [official website] will finally begin to function later this month when the Board's five members are sworn in at the White House and convene their first session, according to Newsweek magazine Sunday. In association with its counter-terrorism recommendations, the 9/11 Commission final report [PDF] called for the creation of "a board within the executive branch to oversee adherence to guidelines on, and the commitment to defend, civil liberties by the federal government." The first nominations for the board were not made until June 2005, however, and the President's FY 2006 budget [text] contained no requests for funds for the panel. 9/11 Commission chairman Thomas Kean [official profile] has called the delay "outrageous", emphasizing its need at a time of ever- increasing executive powers, and claims that the White House and congressional leaders have denied the board basic tools and limited its scope. In December, Kean and 9/11 Commission co-chair Lee Hamilton gave the Bush administration a "D" for its lack of support of the board in the context of a more general and largely negative report card [PDF] on the government's response to 9/11 Commission recommendations. The composition of and structure of the board has also been criticized by legal experts and rights groups. A bipartisan group of 23 members of Congress - led by Reps. Carolyn Maloney (D-NY) and Christopher Shays (R-CT) - last week urged the administration [letter, PDF] to give the board adequate resources and support legislation to broaden its powers.

President Bush has nominated [press release] Carol Dinkins [firm profile], a Texas lawyer and former senior Justice Department official, as board chairman. The panel is expected to address issues such as the domestic surveillance program [JURIST news archive], the Patriot Act [JURIST news archive], and Pentagon data mining. Newsweek has more.

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