The White House said Tuesday that President Trump intends to nominate Travis LeBlanc, former chief of the Enforcement Bureau at the Federal Communications Commission, and Aditya Bamzai, formerly an attorney-adviser with the Department of Justice and now an associate law professor at the University of Virginia, to the Privacy and Civil Liberties Oversight Board (PCLOB).

The board is an independent executive branch agency established in 2007 that regularly weighs in on two fronts: reviews of executive branch actions to protect the United States against terrorism and whether those actions are “balanced” with the need to protect privacy and civil liberties of U.S. citizens; and making sure that “liberty concerns are appropriately considered” in development of U.S. law, regulation, and policy related to anti-terrorism efforts, PCLOB says.

Some of the board’s most notable work in recent years has come in evaluating government operations under Section 215 of the USA PATRIOT Act, and Section 702 of the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act.

The board consists of five members with the chairman serving on a full-time basis, and the other four members devoting part-time effort.

The board has only one member currently, Elisebeth Collins. Earlier this year, President Trump nominated Edward Felten and Jane Nitze to the board, but those nominations await Senate confirmation, as does the 2017 nomination of Adam Klein as board chair.

LeBlanc’s current full-time employment is partner at Boies Schiller Flexner, practicing in a variety of areas including technology, cybersecurity, and privacy. Last year he was selected by the Commerce Department and the European Commission as an arbitrator for the EU-U.S. Privacy Shield Framework, which created the mechanism under which companies in the United States, EU, and Switzerland comply with data protection requirements when transferring personal data in connection with commercial activities.

Perhaps significant to LeBlanc’s nomination, PCLOB plays an important role in maintenance of the Privacy Shield Framework as the board is called upon to report on how U.S. intelligence agencies are handling bulk surveillance data.

According to press reports last month, the European Parliament adopted a resolution calling for suspension of the agreement, citing their view that the agreement does not provide “essentially equivalent” data protection for EU citizens. The list of concerns cited by the European Parliament include requests that PCLOB report on issues related to U.S. intelligence internet and phone data collection, and PCLOB’s present roster of just one member is causing concern with the EU legislators, reports indicated.

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John Curran
John Curran
John Curran is MeriTalk's Managing Editor covering the intersection of government and technology.