FISA: Reform

Geoffrey Stone on How Review Group Service Changed His View of NSA

By Benjamin Wittes
Tuesday, April 1, 2014, 8:34 AM

Very interesting post over at Huffington Post from Geoffrey Stone about his Review Group service, his changed view of NSA, and trust of the spy agency. Quite moving, actually. Writes Stone:

From the outset, I approached my responsibilities as a member of the Review Group with great skepticism about the NSA. I am a long-time civil libertarian, a member of the National Advisory Council of the ACLU, and a former Chair of the Board of the American Constitution Society. To say I was skeptical about the NSA is, in truth, an understatement.

I came away from my work on the Review Group with a view of the NSA that I found quite surprising. Not only did I find that the NSA had helped to thwart numerous terrorist plots against the United States and its allies in the years since 9/11, but I also found that it is an organization that operates with a high degree of integrity and a deep commitment to the rule of law.

He concludes:

To be clear, I am not saying that citizens should trust the NSA. They should not. Distrust is essential to effective democratic governance. The NSA should be subject to constant and rigorous review, oversight, scrutiny, and checks and balances. The work it does, however important to the safety of the nation, necessarily poses grave dangers to fundamental American values, particularly if its work is abused by persons in positions of authority. If anything, oversight of the NSA -- especially by Congress -- should be strengthened. The future of our nation depends not only on the NSA doing its job, but also on the existence of clear, definitive, and carefully enforced rules and restrictions governing its activities.

In short, I found, to my surprise, that the NSA deserves the respect and appreciation of the American people. But it should never, ever, be trusted.