The Adlai Stevenson Center on Democracy is pleased to announce the establishment of its first ever Student Advisory Committee!


The Adlai Stevenson Center on Democracy is pleased to announce the establishment of its first ever Student Advisory Committee! Join us in welcoming Natalya Wallin, Katharine Brown, and Mary Hanley from the University of Chicago Harris School of Public Policy who have eagerly taken on this role in support of our mission to promote dialogue on challenges facing democratic institutions. The new Student Advisory Committee is tasked with providing strategic input and leadership on public outreach, programming, and engagement with the next generation of leaders in policy and public service.

Liberty and Security in a Changing World

Geoffrey Stone was the Center's first dialogue speaker, January 16, 2011. The Center is pleased to have received his commentary on the surveillance issue along with the Commission's report:

On August 27, President Obama met in the White House Situation Room with the five members of his newly appointed Review Group on Intelligence and Communications Technologies. The five members of the Review Group were Richard Clarke, a former member of the National Security Council; Michael Morell, a former Deputy Director and Acting Director of the Central Intelligence Agency; Cass Sunstein, a former Director of the Office of Information and Regulatory Affairs; Peter Swire, a former Chief Counselor for Privacy in the Office of Management and Budget; and me.

The immediate backdrop for the President’s appointment of the Review Group was a series of unauthorized disclosures of classified information involving foreign intelligence collections by the National Security Agency. Our charge was to submit a formal Report by December 15, 2013, advising the President on how the United States can employ its information collection capabilities in a way that protects our national security and advances our foreign policy, while at the same time respecting our commitment to privacy and civil liberties, recognizing our need to maintain the public trust, and reducing the risk of unauthorized disclosure.

Operating out of a Sensitive Compartmented Information Facility, or SCIF (pronounced “skiff”), in Washington, D.C., the Review Group, all with top secret clearances, met every week (except during the government shutdown) between late August and mid-December. It was a challenging, demanding, and illuminating experience.

By the time we delivered our 65,000 word Report to the President (a day early), we had met with an extraordinary array of individuals and organizations, including not only the President, but also National Security Advisor Susan Rice; NSA Director General Keith Alexander; a dozen members of the Senate and House Intelligence and Judiciary Committees; high-level officials in the NSA, the CIA, the FBI, the DIA, the DEA, DARPA, PCLOB, and the ODNI (government acronyms are maddening!); representatives of the Departments of State, Defense, Homeland Security, Commerce, and Treasury; the former Chief Judge of the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court; representatives of the European Union; representatives of more than twenty-five private organizations ranging from the ACLU, Human Rights Watch, and the Reporters Committee for Freedom of the Press to Google, Facebook, and Yahoo; and many, many more besides. It was, to say the least, exhausting.

During the course of our work, we had access to a great deal of highly classified material. Although none of that information appears in our Report, which we were determined to make available to the American people, much of it informed our understanding and our recommendations.

In the most general terms, the Review Group concluded that, although the national security threats facing the United States and our allies continue to be numerous and significant, and although robust foreign intelligence collection continues to be essential if we are to protect ourselves and our allies against such threats now and in the future, our nation’s fundamental commitment to the values of civil liberties and individual privacy has in certain respects been unnecessarily compromised by the Intelligence Community’s understandably aggressive efforts to “connect the dots” in order to prevent future attacks.

After careful consideration, the Review Group therefore recommends more than forty changes to our foreign intelligence collection programs (forty-six, to be precise) in an effort to better protect our nation’s most fundamental values -- without undermining what we need to do to keep our nation safe.

The specific issues addressed in our Report pose extraordinarily complex legal, moral, technological, international, economic, and national security questions. To what extent should our government collect mass “meta-data” on Americans’ phone calls in order to identify possible terrorist threats? To what extent should the United States respect the privacy and civil liberties interests of non-Americans? To what extent should information about foreign intelligence collection be made available to the American public – and to our enemies? How can the public’s trust in the Intelligence Community, whose success is critical to our nation’s security, be maintained? How can the United States lead on human rights issues in the international arena if we are seen by friends and foes alike as indifferent to the privacy interests of non-Americans? How can we best protect the secrecy of information that needs to be kept secret?

Download the Full Report →