- The Washington Times - Friday, January 24, 2014

President Obama disagreed with a privacy watchdog group who declared the National Security Agency’s highly controversial phone collection program illegal, The Washington Post reported.

The independent group, the Privacy and Civil Liberties Oversight Board, called for the administration to end its bulk collection of phone records, which include numbers dialed and phone call times, but no actual conversations, The Post said.

The NSA’s authority to collect these records is granted under Section 215 of the Patriot Act. The privacy group’s recommendations are similar to those from a presidential review panel last month, which also proposed for the program to end.

“On the issue of [Section 215], we simply disagree with the board’s analysis on the legality of the program,” The Post quoted White House spokesman Jay Carney yesterday.

The board reached its conclusion with only a narrow majority, reflecting broader national divisions over the collection of such data. Last month, one federal court ruled the program legal, while another declared it illegal.

“As the mother of this board, that [split decision] is not what I’m looking for,” Sen. Susan Collins told The Wall Street Journal. The Republican from Maine co-wrote the post-Sept. 11 legislation creating the Privacy and Civil Liberties Oversight Board. The split in the board’s first major report, “really weakens its recommendations and undermines the role that we envisioned it would play,” Ms. Collins said.

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