Implications of the Edward Snowden-National Security Agency scandal are still being uncovered, and differing opinions of the long term consequences can cause enough debate to fill up two hours.
That’s what happened Oct. 3, as the Mershon Center for International Security Studies presented a panel comprised of four Ohio State professors to discuss cyber security and intelligence issues which appeared after developments in technology and changes in policy.
Peter Mansoor, Gen. Raymond E. Mason Jr. chair in military history, John Mueller, Ralph D. Mershon senior research scientist, Dakota Rudesill, an assistant professor of law at Moritz College of Law, and Peter Shane, Jacob E. Davis and Jacob E. Davis II Davis chair in law, were the panelists.
In June, Edward Snowden leaked confidential information he had collected as an employee of government contractor Booz Allen Hamilton. Snowden revealed the NSA was monitoring phone records of Verizon’s U.S. customers, as well as using Internet surveillance programs, such as Prism, that allowed government officials to access things like search history, emails and file transfers from systems including Google and Facebook. All of this intended to detect and prevent terrorism, according to The Guardian.
Each panelist came to the Snowden debate from different sides. While Mansoor was an assistant to Gen. David Howell Petraeus in Afghanistan, Mueller was a research scientist, Rudesill was a lawyer in Congress and Shane was a constitutional law specialist.
Mueller initiated with a discussion of the point of the NSA and its relationship with the FBI and the CIA. The NSA sends hundreds of leads a day to the FBI, which then has to track them down, Mueller said, who asked if this was truly an efficient use of time.
Rudesill pointed out the new occurrences of what he called “secret law,” warrants that have full arguments looking like Supreme Court documents given by the Foreign Surveillance Court, which has jurisdiction over the NSA. These papers stay private, though they affect everyday people.
He said the court only hears one side of the proceedings when deciding to grant the warrants, and typically that is only the side of the person who wants the warrant. He called for a group employed by the government who would argue the side against granting the warrant.
Shane said the difference between “voluntarily given” information, such as the difference between a sender and a receiver on a phone call and what the phone call contains, are two things that have been under hot debate lately.
Finally, Mansoor said he believes Snowden hurt foreign policy more than he exposed problems in the NSA. He added that he believes these government agencies are important to national security.
“We need to temper policy with our need to protect,” Mansoor said.
Afterward, first-year in international studies Robin Smith said she was amazed at the panel’s discussion.
“My mind is kind of blown. I didn’t know about any of this before,” Smith said.
Smith said she wasn’t sure if she wanted to go into national security, but she was thinking about it. Her professor, Gerry Hudson, said he was impressed she came to the event.
“It’s great that first year students like Robin come to these. It’s an advantage of Ohio State,” Hudson, a professor emeritus of political science, said.
Some private sector workers and other university’s professors also attended the discussion. Columbus State University sociology professor Mary Reiter came to the meeting to hear more about the implications of the Internet.
“I like to think about how the NSA request for data from Facebook, Google, and Apple impact(s) our expectation of privacy,” Reiter said.