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Public Statements

Executive Session

Floor Speech

Location: Washington, DC


Mr. LEAHY. Mr. President, I am glad the Senate is finally confirming David Medine as Chairman of the bipartisan Privacy and Civil Liberties Oversight Board, PCLOB. The confirmation of this nominee is a significant victory for all Americans who care about safeguarding our privacy rights and civil liberties. The American people now have a Privacy and Civil Liberties Oversight Board that is at full strength. This Board should help ensure that we honor our fundamental values as we implement a strategy to keep our Nation safe. Today's victory is also a reminder of the challenges we face, and the commitment we must keep, to protect personal privacy as new technologies emerge. Last month, the Judiciary Committee unanimously reported bipartisan legislation that Senator Lee and I authored to update the Electronic Communications Privacy Act. I hope that the Senate will promptly consider and pass this good privacy bill, as well.

The Judiciary Committee favorably reported this nomination last May along with a bipartisan group of nominees to serve as members of the Board. This nomination should not have taken a year to be considered and confirmed by the Senate. The Senate finally confirmed all of the other individuals, those nominated to serve as members of the Board, last August. Republican Senators refused to vote on the chairman's nomination. This was a needless delay and prevented the Board from functioning at full strength. This is reminiscent of how they have obstructed this President's nominees to the National Labor Relations Board and the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau, as well as so many of his judicial nominees. Now, after a year of obstruction, the Senate will finally vote on the nomination, and the Privacy and Civil Liberties Oversight Board we in Congress worked so hard to establish will finally be able to begin to carry out its important work on behalf of the American people.

The Privacy and Civil Liberties Oversight Board is a guardian of Americans' privacy rights and civil liberties as well as an essential part of our national security strategy. When we worked to create this Board in the wake of the Nation's response to the terrorist attacks on September 11, 2001, we did so to ensure that our fundamental rights and liberties would be preserved as government takes steps to better secure our Nation. In the digital age, we must do more to protect our Nation from cyber attacks. But we must do so in a way that protects privacy and respects our fundamental freedoms.

Protecting national security and protecting Americans' fundamental rights are not in conflict. We can--and must--do both. The Privacy and Civil Liberties Oversight Board should help ensure that we do now that the Senate has finally been allowed to act on the nomination of Chairman Medine.

With that, I yield the floor and suggest the absence of a quorum.


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