As a service to its alumni and friends, the College of Law is happy to provide free CLE credits during the 2013-2014 academic year as it provides a wonderful opportunity to use the facility and reconnect. 

Everything You Wanted to Know about the Snowden Leaks, but (because of NSA Surveillance) Were Afraid to Ask

Speaker: Professor Richard Moberly, University of Nebraska College of Law

DATE: Thursday, April 24, 2014
TIME: 4:00 - 5:00pm
Happy Hallow Club, Omaha, NE
Approved for 1 CLE credit hour



Edward Snowden’s disclosures about the National Security Agency’s pervasive surveillance raise a host of complicated and intertwined legal issues about secrecy, transparency, free speech, privacy, separation of powers, and national security. Although commentators hotly debate the legality of the NSA program, as important are broader questions about the law’s regulation of secrecy. When should the government be able to keep secrets (like the existence of the surveillance program) from the public? When should it be transparent? The government’s surveillance raises similar questions about an individual’s secrets: when should individuals be able to keep secrets from the government (like the numbers they call from their cell phone) and when should the needs of national security trump privacy concerns? To resolve these questions, one must balance fundamental societal norms of transparency, accountability, privacy, and security.

In addition to thinking about how the law balances these competing norms, Snowden’s actions involve important questions about who should oversee this balancing to make sure secrecy only trumps government transparency and individual privacy when absolutely necessary for national security. Secrecy demands oversight, but every option presents problems. Congressional oversight of secret programs might lead to significant separation of powers concerns. Court oversight raises institutional competency concerns. Individual oversight, in the form of public disclosures by people like Snowden, raises democratic and effectiveness concerns. We want insiders to publicly disclose when our government acts illegally, but we may not be confident that individuals understand complicated national security issues sufficiently to act on the public’s behalf.

This CLE will explain the legal principles underlying these issues, as well as the historical and legal precedents, from the Cold War to the Pentagon Papers, from the Patriot Act to WikiLeaks, that inform and complicate resolution of these essential questions about democracy and national security.