November 05, 2018

Time is now to confront privacy issues in digital age, NSA top lawyer says

According to National Security Agency General Counsel Glenn Gerstell, the United States has reached an inflection point: Our dependence on technology has necessitated a clear legal framework for privacy protections. 


“Although we continue to forge ahead in the adoption of new technologies, we simply haven’t confronted…what privacy means in a digital age,” Gerstell said during his Nov. 1 keynote at the American Bar Association Standing Committee on Law and National Security annual conference.

To help define the way forward, a panel of national security law experts came together following Gerstell’s remarks.

Our laws with respect to law enforcement access to data are robust, but it has come at the expense of consumer privacy, said associate law professor Jennifer Daskal of American University Washington College of Law.

As a roadmap to help protect consumers, Wyndee Parker, national security advisor to U.S. Rep. Nancy Pelosi, said the current legal framework of the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act has proved resilient and remains consistent with Fourth Amendment privacy protections.

George Mason University professor Jamil Jaffer also noted the importance of the law, saying that changes to FISA over the years have only strengthened it. The professor, who is also founder of the university’s National Security Institute, highlighted FISA’s flexibility as a key to its effectiveness and continued relevance as protection.

In agreement, Benjamin Powell, who is former general counsel to the director of national intelligence, said that FISA will continue to stand the test of time, even with issues like cloud computing and artificial intelligence coming into play.

“The 4th Amendment, Surveillance and the Future” was moderated by Harvey Rishikof, chair of the ABA Standing Committee on Law and National Security Advisory Committee.