In a post-9/11 world, U.S. intelligence and law enforcement officials are expected to strike a delicate balance between conducting aggressive, swift intelligence gathering and adhering to constitutional privacy protections. But in a digital age, private information can sometimes be obtained easily and without an individual’s permission or knowledge, compromising civil liberties. How does the U.S. government reconcile the need to provide security to its citizens without overstepping privacy laws, which are seen as fundamental rights in a democracy?
On March 11, the Brookings Institution hosted a Judicial Issues Forum discussion on The Watchers: The Rise of America’s Surveillance State (Penguin Press, 2010), a new book by National Journal intelligence and homeland security correspondent Shane Harris. Harris discussed the rise of the American surveillance state over the past 25 years, and offered his views on how our government’s intelligence strategy has made it harder to catch terrorists and easier to spy on everyday citizens.
Following Harris’ remarks, Ben Wittes, Brookings senior fellow, and Kim Taipale, founder and executive director of the Stilwell Center for Advanced Studies in Science and Technology Policy, provided reaction and offered their views on protecting individual privacy in an era of invasive technology.
After the program, the participants took audience questions.