January 9, 2014

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NSA surveillance program focus of ‘draft symposium’

An academic journal led jointly by faculty and students at The Ohio State University Moritz College of Law has launched an online “working draft symposium” regarding the controversial electronic surveillance programs of the National Security Agency.

“NSA Surveillance: Issues of Security, Privacy, and Civil Liberty” is only the second academic symposium to be published in the wake of recent revelations concerning NSA’s bulk collection of data about Americans’ telephone and Internet communications. It was organized by I/S: A Journal of Law and Policy for the Information Society.

According to law professor Peter M. Shane, the journal’s co-founder and faculty adviser: “The symposium is unique because we are publishing our contributors’ papers early in working draft form. Polishing a volume of this scope for final publication ordinarily takes many months, but I/S and our authors wanted to get our ideas ‘out there’ while debate about the NSA’s future is so hot.”

“The authors will continue revising the papers in light of feedback they receive from early readers,” Shane said. A final edition of the papers should appear online and in printed form in the spring.

When complete, the volume will feature a dozen articles by legal scholars, past and current government officials, leading practitioners, and scholars in political science, philosophy and sociology.

“No one journal volume can cover all the big questions that the NSA disclosures raise,” Shane said, “but we wanted to be sure to have a range of divergent opinions and thoughtful analyses by researchers who look at the NSA from very different angles.”

Included among the papers will be a defense of the programs’ legality by former Bush Justice Department official and current Berkeley law professor John C. Yoo, as well as critical legal analyses by other prominent law professors and Shayana Kadidal, a senior managing attorney with the Center for Constitutional Rights.

Several authors debate the appropriate degree of secrecy regarding government surveillance programs and their value for national security. Other papers suggest ways of improving the current legal regime concerning electronic surveillance.

For example, former Federal Communications Commission Chairman Reed E. Hundt argues that the key reform should be greatly reducing the secrecy regarding the nature of information collection from individual citizens by both government and the private sector.

In a “keynote essay,” George Washington University Professor Amitai Etzioni, a preeminent sociologist and champion of communitarian approaches to public policy issues, outlines what he takes to be the key principles to undergird the re-design of privacy law for the cyber age.

The I/S Journal was founded in 2004 as an interdisciplinary forum for exploring key law and policy issues arising from the proliferation of new information and communication technologies.

A distinguished external editorial board, along with faculty at Ohio State’s Moritz College of Law, plays a key role in overseeing the journal. Much of its day-to-day operation, as well as the final editing of all published manuscripts, however, is the responsibility of its law student editors, who are chosen based on interest, qualifications, and performance on a test of editing skill.

Once a year, the journal also hosts a live symposium on a critical topic within its subject domain. Its next live symposium, “Big Data Future,” will be held March 19-21 at the Moritz College of Law.

SideBar is a monthly electronic newsletter for Moritz College of Law alumni. Questions regarding this publication should be directed to moritzlawnews@osu.edu.