Transcript: Newseum Special Program - NSA Surveillance Leaks: Facts and Fiction

Newseum Special Program: NSA Surveillance Leaks: Facts and Fiction

Location: Newseum Knight TV Studio, Washington, D.C.

Date: Tuesday, June 25, 2013 Time: 4:00 p.m. EDT

Welcome by: James Duff, President, Newseum Introduction by: Laurel Bellows, President, American Bar Association

Moderator: Harvey Rishikof, Chair, American Bar Association Standing Committee on Law and National Security of the Advisory Committee

-Robert Litt, General Counsel, Office of the Director of National Intelligence;
-M.E (Spike) Bowman, Professorial Lecturer, The George Washington University; Former Deputy National Counterintelligence Executive;
-Kate Martin, Director, Center for National Security Studies;
-Gene Policinski, Executive Director, First Amendment Center;
-Ellen Shearer, William F. Thomas Professor of Journalism and Co-Director, Medill School of Journalism, Northwestern University;
-Joel Brenner, Former Inspector General, National Security Agency; Former National Counterintelligence Executive
-Stewart Baker, Partner, Steptoe & Johnson; Former General Counsel, National Security Agency

JAMES DUFF: Good afternoon, everyone. I’m Jim Duff. I’m president here at the Newseum. And this is a very special day for us at the Newseum as we launch our Newseum Institute, officially tomorrow, but the first – very first program of our institute, which will be really devoted to civil education of the public about very important First Amendment issues, will be a collaboration of all of our educational outreach programs.

We are just delighted that today is the day that we’re going to launch it here at the Newseum. And what better way and what better topic – nothing could be more topical or informative and important to us all as Americans as the current events involving NSA surveillance leaks. And it’s our particular pleasure to co-host this event today with the American Bar Association – we’re delighted that they have really put together a wonderful lineup of panelists who will be introduced to you shortly – the Medill School at Northwestern University and the McCormick Foundation are all co-hosts along with us here at the Newseum of this important discussion.
And before introducing you to the president of the American Bar Association, I do want to say a special thank you to my dear friend, Harvey Rishikof, who will be moderating the program this afternoon. Harvey was my predecessor in Chief Justice Rehnquist’s chambers, in a position now called counselor to the chief justice. When Harvey and I held that position, it was called administrative assistant the chief justice. So they waited till we got out of there and then upgraded it to counselor, which sounds much more important and – the same job though, nonetheless. Harvey was very, very helpful to me in transition in the chief justice’s chambers.

I think you will agree with – based on the turnout here this afternoon for this program, I think you’ll agree with me as to how important this topic is to all of us as Americans. And we want to get right to it. So I do want to now introduce you to the president of the American Bar Association, Laurel Bellows, who has quite a distinguished career and heads the Bellows Law Group in Chicago and is a great leader of the American Bar Association.

Laurel, welcome. (Applause).

LAUREL BELLOWS: Thanks, Jim. And thanks for your introduction. And there’s no way of thanking you enough for being a co-host of this event with the – with the Freedom Center and the First Amendment Center and Medill School of Journalism at Northwestern University. I’m a Chicagoan, so I get to shout-out for Northwestern, not simply the Blackhawks, but Northwestern, right? (Laughter).

And a special thanks to Robert R. McCormick Foundation for its help in presenting this program here today and for the ABA Standing Committee on Law and National Security, which is the oldest committee at the American Bar Association and, of course, the organizer of this event. And before I say a few words about why we’re here and what we’re doing, again, a shout-out from me to Harvey Rishikof, who – without his opening his rolodex today and understanding the crucial nature of beginning this conversation, we would not be here today with the stellar panel that you are about to meet.

We are all aware that, as time goes by, our lives are under increasing surveillance. Nevertheless, the existence of PRISM and the vastness of its scope came as a surprise to Main Street America. Many have framed the PRISM controversy in terms of how much surveillance is acceptable. And anything in excess of acceptable is, a priori, an infringement of our Constitutional liberties.

As lawyers, we should not be willing to accept sound bite Constitutional analysis. We should also not be too quick to applaud our ability as a society to obtain pictures of the Boston Marathon bombing suspects within hours or even minutes but at the same time condemn more sophisticated surveillance. I, for one, am not persuaded that the analysis of what kind of surveillance is legally improper depends on the method used to obtain the information or even the number of gigabytes obtained.

We are a nation of laws. Consequently, we should be concerned with whether checks and balances are in place, who authorized the surveillance, under what authority, has that authorization been reviewed to determine whether it was lawful? American lawyers have the obligation to be heard on matters affecting what we do to protect our rights and liberties in the context of assuring the security of our society and our nation.

The views you will hear today don’t necessarily represent the views of the American Bar Association as a whole. Our membership, like all of you, is involved in a learning process. It’s my hope that other ABA sections and voices will be heard, and in the coming weeks we’ll present other perspectives so that most importantly, we can have in this country a full and informed debate.

And now it is my pleasure to turn this program over to its organizer, Harvey Rishikof, who will serve as our moderator. Thank you. (Applause).
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