Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Conference

“Big Data,” a big story in the media today, is rarely discussed in public by experts with inside knowledge. The GW National Security and U.S. Foreign Relations Law Program partnered with the ABA Standing Committee on Law and National Security in May to assemble a group of experts for a conference at the law school titled Foreign Intelligence Surveillance in an Era of ‘Big Data:’ Is There a Need to Recalibrate Boundaries?

Panelists included current or past national security officials Michael Leiter, Ken Wainstein, Joel Brenner, Robert Litt, and Steven Bradbury, Judges Patricia Wald, John Bates, and James Baker, and law professors Laura Donohue, Orin S. Kerr, and Peter Raven-Hansen, as well as civil liberties experts.

The first panel discussed why our government conducts and needs foreign intelligence surveillance. Another considered the trade-offs between surveillance and civil liberties, and the changes in personal behavior that can result from anxiety about both government and commercial collection of big data and from the recent (and continuing) disclosures of NSA surveillance programs. The last panel tackled prospects for reform, platforming in part off the recent report of the Privacy and Civil Liberties Oversight Board (on which Judge Wald serves) on “702” surveillance. 

The GW National Security and U.S. Foreign Relations Law Program expects to partner again with the ABA Standing Committee on Law and National Security to promote public understanding of national security law issues and dialogue in the profession.