FISA: Reform

The National Security Agency at the Crossroads: A Conference at UT (April 3-4)

By Robert Chesney
Sunday, March 30, 2014, 7:00 PM

I'm very pleased to report the latest venture of the Intelligence Studies Project at the University of Texas (co-sponsored by the Strauss Center and the Clements Center):  a conference addressing the controversies surrounding the NSA, to be held in Austin on Thursday and Friday this week.

As you'll see in the agenda below, we were at pains to ensure a diversity of viewpoints, as well as bringing to bear an array of non-legal perspectives (including technologists, diplomats, and historians).  We hope to stream the public sessions live here on Lawfare, and in any event we will have the video and audio files available as soon as possible after the event.  The full details, including the agenda, appear below:

NSA event


Thursday & Friday, April 3-4, 2014

University of Texas at Austin

AT&T Executive Education and Conference Center

The Intelligence Studies Project is a joint venture of the Strauss Center and Clements Center at the University of Texas at Austin, aiming to encourage policy-relevant academic inquiry into the past, present, and future of intelligence agencies and the legal, policy, and technological environments in which they operate. Nothing better illustrates the need for such inquiry than the events of the past year surrounding the National Security Agency. As part of a larger effort to improve public understanding of those events, the Robert S. Strauss Center for International Security and Law and the William P. Clements Jr. Center for History, Strategy & Statecraft are hosting a major interdisciplinary conference focused on the NSA from April 3rd through 4th. It will cover topics including the history of the NSA, the role of the media in revealing classified information about its activities, the legal architecture in which it operates, the compliance and oversight mechanisms associated with the NSA, the diplomatic fallout from the recent revelations, and the prospects for reform.


Wednesday April 2 [invitation only]

7:00-8:30          Preconference Reception and Dinner [invitation only]
8:30-9:30          Evening Address [invitation only]
Speaker:            Chris Inglis (NSA Deputy Director, 2006-Jan. 2014)

Thursday April 3
[open to the public, but rsvp required; students and faculty receive first priority in the event of excess demand]

All sessions to be held in Classroom 203 at the AT&T Executive Education and Conference Center.

8:30-8:50          Conference Check-in
8:50-9:00          Welcome Remarks
                                  Speaker:               Bobby Chesney (UT)
9:00-9:45          Opening Address
Speaker:             Admiral Bobby R. Inman (USN, Ret.; NSA Director, 1976-1981)
9:45-10:45      Session 1: The Role of Media
Moderator:          Benjamin Wittes (Brookings Institution)
Participants:        Siobhan Gorman (Wall Street Journal), Shane Harris (Foreign Policy), Ellen Nakashima (Washington Post)
10:45-11:00      Break
11:00-12:00        Session 2: NSA in Historical and Diplomatic Perspective
Moderator:         Jeremi Suri (UT)
Participants:       Susan Landau (Author, Surveillance or Security? and Privacy on the Line), Kristen Silverberg (Former U.S. Ambassador to the European Union), James Simon (Former Assistant Director of Central Intelligence for Administration)
12:15-1:30        Lunchtime Address [lunchtime address to be held in Classroom 104]
Speaker:                Bruce Schneier (Berkman Center, Harvard Law School)

1:45-2:45          Session 3: The 21st Century Fourth Amendment
Moderator:          Ahmed Ghappour (UT)
Participants:       Hanni Fakhoury (Electronic Frontier Foundation), Benjamin Powell (Fmr. General Counsel, Office of the Dir. of National Intelligence)
2:45-3:45          Session 4: The Metadata Debate
Moderator:           Bobby Chesney (UT)
Participants:        Steven Bradbury (Fmr. Acting Asst. Attorney General, Office of Legal Counsel), Jennifer Daskal (American University)
3:45-4:00          Break
4:00-5:00          Session 5: The Content Collection Controversy
Moderator:          Bobby Chesney (UT)
Participants:        Timothy Edgar (Brown University), Jennifer Granick (Stanford University)

7:00-9:00          Dinner, Featuring a Conversation with NSA General Counsel Raj De [invitation only]

Friday April 4
[open to the public, but rsvp required; students and faculty receive first priority in the event of excess demand]

All sessions to be held in Classroom 203 at the AT&T Executive Education and Conference Center.

8:30-9:00          Check-in
9:00-10:00        Session 6: A Roundtable Discussion on the Compliance Program and Oversight Framework
Moderator:          Ahmed Ghappour (UT)
Speakers:            John DeLong (NSA, Director of Compliance), Alexander Joel (Civil Liberties Protection Officer, Office of the DNI), Margo Schlanger (University of Michigan)
10:00-10:15       Break
10:15-11:45      Session 7: The Prospects for Reform
Moderator:          Bobby Chesney (UT)
Participants:       Carrie Cordero (Georgetown), Julian Sanchez (Cato)


Advanced registration is required and space is limited. There is no registration fee. Please register here.

The conference will be held at the AT&T Executive Education and Conference Center in Austin, TX:
Driving directions and information about parking can be found on the AT&T Center's website.

There will be a small number of dedicated hotel rooms for out of town conference attendees. For more information, contact Jessica Mahoney, Strauss Center Program Coordinator, at or (512) 471-8327.

The Robert S. Strauss Center for International Security and Law at the University of Texas at Austin was founded to fulfill the legacy of its remarkable namesake by bridging the divides between academia, government, and the private sector and by integrating an array of disciplines, including law, history, political science, technology, and economics. It does so in service of its mission to develop non-partisan, policy-relevant insights and solutions for the most pressing international security challenges of the 21st century.

The William P. Clements Jr. Center for History, Strategy & Statecraft at the University of Texas at Austin seeks to bring the insights of the past to national security policy through teaching and research at the intersection of history, strategy, and statecraft. It is a non-partisan center whose primary focus is on the uses of history by national security leaders and scholars, and its larger hope is to produce insights and habits that can help other leaders in the private sector, and help strengthen citizenship more broadly. It is committed to policy-relevant scholarship that addresses the most important strategic issues facing our nation today and in the coming decades. The Clements Center will honor the legacy of its namesake and bequeath it to the next generation of leaders.

This conference is part of the Intelligence Studies Project, a joint initiative of the Clements and Strauss Centers that seeks to improve understanding of the U.S. Government's Intelligence Community and similar institutions in service of other states—and, in some instances, in service of no state at all.