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Event Summary

Are your phone calls and emails being monitored by the federal government? On Wednesday afternoon, AEI’s Marc Thiessen moderated a panel discussion on the National Security Agency’s (NSA) classified terrorist surveillance programs. In light of the debate over the NSA’s alleged encroachment on civil liberties, the panelists specifically addressed the extent to which the agency’s activities are lawful, constitutional, and vital to national security.

Michael Hayden, former director of the NSA, remarked that the media has unfortunately misconstrued many details about the NSA programs, leaving the public misinformed about the agency’s surveillance activities. According to Hayden, in reality, the surveillance programs are designed to place “the lightest hand possible on our traditional freedoms and privacy.”

Georgetown University Law Center Professor David Cole argued that the secrecy surrounding the programs made them susceptible to abuse. However, former head of the US Department of Justice’s Office of Legal Counsel Steven Bradbury warned that publicizing the programs also served to expose their limitations, thereby informing terrorists on how to avoid detection.

While unconvinced that the leaks effectively handed “our enemies a playbook on how to avoid surveillance,” former Federal Bureau of Investigation senior intelligence adviser Philip Mudd asserted that getting rid of data collection programs would undermine counterterrorism efforts.

The panelists agreed that the balance between national security and civil liberties is indeed a delicate one.
–Justin Lang

Online registration for this event is now closed. Walk-in registrations will be accepted. 

The exposure of the National Security Agency’s (NSA) classified terrorist surveillance programs has reinvigorated the debate over the balance between privacy and national security. What does the leak reveal about NSA surveillance activities? Should former Central Intelligence Agency employee and NSA contractor Edward Snowden be praised as a whistleblower or prosecuted as a felon? Are your phone calls and emails really being monitored by the federal government?

Join AEI’s Marc Thiessen as he hosts a panel discussion on the significance of the NSA leaks.

If you are unable to attend, we welcome you to watch the event live on this page. Full video will be posted within 24 hours. You can also leave comments during the event right here.


3:15 PM

3:30 PM
Steven G. Bradbury, Former Head of the US Department of Justice’s Office of Legal Counsel
David D. Cole, Georgetown University Law Center
General Michael Hayden (ret.), Former Director of the National Security Agency
Philip Mudd, Former Senior Intelligence Adviser at the Federal Bureau of Investigation

Marc A. Thiessen, AEI

5:30 PM

Event Contact Information

For more information, please contact Justin Lang at [email protected], 202.862.5948.

Media Contact Information

For media inquiries, please contact [email protected], 202.862.5829.

Speaker Biographies

General Michael Hayden (ret) served as director of the National Security Agency from 1999 to 2005. He subsequently served as the nation’s first principal deputy director of national intelligence from 2005 to 2006, and as the director of the Central Intelligence Agency from 2006 to 2009. Hayden is also a retired four-star US Air Force general, having retired from the Air Force in 2008 after a distinguished 39 years of military service. Currently, Hayden is a principal at the Chertoff Group, a strategic consultancy focusing on the defense and security industries. Hayden is also a distinguished visiting professor at George Mason University’s School of Public Policy, and serves on the board of directors at a number of major corporations, including Motorola Solutions Inc. and Alion Science and Technology Corporation.

Steven G. Bradbury served as the head of the US Department of Justice’s (DOJ) Office of Legal Counsel, which provides legal advice to the president on the National Security Agency’s terrorist surveillance activities. Bradbury served as the principal deputy assistant attorney general from 2004 to 2009 and as acting assistant attorney general from 2005 to 2007. Over the course of his distinguished career at DOJ, Bradbury received the Edmund J. Randolph Award for outstanding service to the DOJ, the Secretary of Defense Medal for outstanding public service, the National Security Agency’s Intelligence under Law Award, the Director of National Intelligence’s 2007 Intelligence Community Legal Award, and the Criminal Division’s Award for Outstanding Law Enforcement Partnerships. Currently, Bradbury is an attorney in Washington, focusing on antitrust, securities litigation, and other commercial litigation and appellate matters.

David D. Cole teaches constitutional law, national security, and criminal justice at Georgetown University Law Center. He is also a volunteer attorney at the Center for Constitutional Rights, the legal affairs correspondent for the Nation, a regular contributor to the New York Review of Books, and a commentator on National Public Radio’s “All Things Considered.” He is the author of a number of books on liberty and security, including “Securing Liberty: Debating Issues of Terrorism and Democratic Values in the Post-9/11 United States” (iDebate Press, 2011), “Less Safe, Less Free: Why America Is Losing the War on Terror” (New Press, 2007), and “Terrorism and the Constitution: Sacrificing Civil Liberties in the Name of National Security” (New Press, 2006). Cole has litigated many significant constitutional cases in the Supreme Court and has been involved in some of the nation’s most important cases related to civil liberties and national security. In recognition for his work, Cole has received awards from the Society of American Law Teachers, the National Lawyers Guild, the American Civil Liberties Union of Southern California, the American Bar Association Section on Individual Rights and Responsibilities, and the American-Arab Anti-Discrimination Committee.

Philip Mudd served as the Federal Bureau of Investigation’s (FBI) senior intelligence adviser until 2010. Previously, he served as the first-ever deputy director of the FBI’s National Security Branch upon its inception in 2005. Mudd also worked at the Central Intelligence Agency (CIA) as the deputy director of its Counterterrorist Center from 2003 to 2005. Before his work at the Counterterrorist Center, Mudd served on the National Intelligence Council and worked on a Middle East-related assignment at the White House National Security Council. Mudd is the recipient of numerous awards, including the CIA Director’s Award, the George H.W. Bush Award for excellence in counterterrorism, the CIA’s Distinguished Intelligence Medal and Distinguished Career Intelligence Medal, the first-ever William Langer Award for excellence in analysis, and numerous exceptional performance awards. Currently, Mudd is a senior global adviser to Oxford Analytica and a senior fellow at the New America Foundation and George Washington University’s Homeland Security Policy Institute.

Marc A. Thiessen is an AEI scholar and former member of the White House senior staff under President George W. Bush. As an official in the Bush administration, Thiessen served as chief speechwriter to the president and to former secretary of defense Donald Rumsfeld. Before joining the Bush administration, Thiessen spent more than six years as spokesman and senior policy adviser to former Senate Foreign Relations Committee chairman Jesse Helms (R-NC). He is a weekly columnist for the Washington Post, and appears regularly on Fox News and other news networks. His book on the Central Intelligence Agency’s interrogation program, titled “Courting Disaster” (Regnery Press, 2010), was a New York Times bestseller. He is the coauthor, with Wisconsin Governor Scott Walker, of the forthcoming “Unintimidated: A Governor’s Story and a Nation’s Challenge” (Penguin, 2013). At AEI, Thiessen writes about US foreign and defense policy issues for and the AEI Ideas blog.

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