How It Looked Then: Edward Levi's 1975 Take on Security, Secrecy, and Accountability

By Robert Chesney
Thursday, June 27, 2013, 3:00 PM

Back in 1975, the Attorney General was Edward Levi.  Levi was extraordinarily distinguished, and had been appointed to this position in no small part to bring order and restore trust in the aftermath of tumultuous events of the early 1970s.  Related to that, he was at the helm as the Church and Pike Committees went about their work investigating various national security activities and related scandals, including investigations touching on NSA programs involving US person communications.


I mention all of this simply by way of introduction to a thoughtful speech Levi gave to the Association of the Bar of the City of New York, in 1975, in which he discussed the tension between the legitimate need for secrecy in connection with some national security activities, and the legitimate need for transparency in order to make possible democratic accountability.  I used this speech as the introduction framing my 2007 article on the state secrets privilege.  It doesn't offer any grand solutions, to be sure, but it is a nice model for intelligent discussion of this recurring issue.  Given recent events, it seems timely to draw attention readers attention back to the original.   DOJ has posted it here.  Enjoy.