The NSA collects data on billions of phone calls and internet communications per day. Are these surveillance programs legal? Do they keep us safe? If not for the former NSA contractor Edward Snowden, most Americans would be unaware of the vast amounts of information their government is secretly collecting, all in the name of national security. But whether you believe leakers are heroes or traitors, an important public conversation has finally begun, and we should ask ourselves: What tradeoffs are we willing to make between security and privacy?
As Benjamin Franklin might have asked, "Are we giving up essential liberty to purchase temporary safety, and thus deserving of neither?"
Stewart Baker practices law at Steptoe & Johnson, covering homeland security, cybersecurity, data protection, encryption, lawful intercepts, intelligence and law enforcement issues, and foreign investment regulation. He is the author of Skating on Stilts – Why We Aren't Stopping Tomorrow's Terrorism, a book on the security challenges posed by technology, and he writes on cybersecurity and privacy law at www.skatingonstilts.com. From 2005 to 2009, Baker was the first assistant secretary for policy at the Department of Homeland Security. During 2004 and 2005, Baker served as general counsel of the WMD Commission investigating intelligence failures prior to the Iraq war. From 1992 to 1994, he was general counsel of the National Security Agency, where he led NSA and inter-agency efforts to reform commercial encryption and computer security law and policy. His book on these topics, The Limits of Trust: Cryptography, Governments, and Electronic Commerce, analyzes encryption and authentication laws in dozens of countries.
David Cole is a professor at Georgetown University Law Center and serves as the legal affairs correspondent for The Nation. As an Open Society Fellow, he is writing a book that explores the effectiveness of civil society organizations in holding the US government accountable for abuses following the September 11 attacks.
Richard Falkenrath, Deputy Assistant to President Bush and former Deputy Homeland Security Advisor, has held a range of leadership positions in U.S. counterterrorism efforts. The principal author of the National Strategy for Homeland Security, he served as Senior Director of Policy and Plans within the Office of Homeland Security after 9/11. From 2006 to 2010, he served as the New York City Police Department's Deputy Commissioner for Counterterrorism, where he strengthened the city's overall effort to prevent, prepare for, and respond to terrorist attacks. Falkenrath is now Principal at The Chertoff Group, a global security and risk-management advisory firm; an adjunct senior fellow for Counterterrorism and Homeland Security at the Council on Foreign Relations; and a contributing editor at Bloomberg News.
Mike German is the senior policy counsel for the American Civil Liberties Union’s Washington Legislative Office, where he develops policy positions and pro-active strategies concerning national security and open government. Prior to joining the ACLU, he served for 16 years as a special agent with the FBI, where he specialized in domestic terrorism and covert operations. He also served as an adjunct professor for Law Enforcement and Terrorism at the National Defense University and is a senior fellow with GlobalSecurity.org. German’s first book, Thinking Like a Terrorist, was published in January 2007. He has a B.A. in Philosophy from Wake Forest University and a J.D. from Northwestern University Law School.