Georgetown Law National Security Experts Take Center Stage

October 15, 2013 —

Amid ongoing controversy surrounding U.S. intelligence gathering practices, the deep roster of national security and Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act (FISA) experts at Georgetown University Law Center has been on full display in recent weeks.

On October 2, Professor Laura K. Donohue, director of Georgetown’s Center on National Security and the Law, and Adjunct Professor Carrie F. Cordero, director of National Security Studies, testified at a Senate Judiciary Committee hearing on FISA oversight. Judiciary Committee Chairman Patrick Leahy (D-Vermont)(L’64) noted that it was nice to have Georgetown represented at the hearing. At the conclusion of their testimonies, Sen. Sheldon Whitehouse (D-Rhode Island) remarked that both Donohue and Cordero, who hold differing views, “acquitted themselves with very great ability.”

Donohue’s and Cordero’s written testimonies are available here and here. Webcasts of the hearing are available on the Judiciary Committee's website and on C-SPAN

Just two weeks earlier, Donohue moderated a panel of 1975-76 Church Committee members — including former Vice President Walter Mondale and former Sen. Gary Hart — as they discussed surveillance abuses decades ago that played a key role in the creation of FISA. Sen. Leahy delivered keynote remarks at the event. 

That discussion was the first of a series of three panels to be held at Georgetown Law in the coming months on surveillance and foreign intelligence gathering in the United States. The second installment of the series will take place November 19. It will include a keynote address from Rep. Jim Sensenbrenner (R-Wisconsin), and a panel discussion featuring such experts as Robert Litt, general counsel for the Office of the Director of National Intelligence, Matthew Olsen, director of the National Counterterrorism Center and former general counsel for the National Security Agency, and Adjunct Professor Marc Rotenberg, president and executive director of the Electronic Privacy Information Center (EPIC).

Rotenberg is also counsel of record in the mandamus petition to the U.S. Supreme Court in which EPIC is challenging the legality of the National Security Agency’s metadata program. Both Donohue and Professor Randy Barnett co-wrote amici briefs in support of EPIC’s challenge. Donohue’s brief is on behalf of former Church Committee members, and Barnett's is on behalf of the CATO Institute. Barnett has been speaking extensively about the unconstitutionality of the metadata program as well. He spoke at the UC Berkeley School of Law and the University of Nevada, Las Vegas earlier this month. He also spoke about national defense as part of a Heritage Foundation panel on October 7. 

Additionally, Georgetown Law faculty members have been featured prominently in media coverage of national security issues and FISA. Professor David D. Cole was interviewed for an episode of NPR’s All Things Considered that aired October 2 about the impact of the digital age on Fourth Amendment protection. Professors Martin Lederman and David Luban are founding editors of Just Security, a new blog devoted to issues of national security and the law that launched in September. Cole and Distinguished Visitor Mary DeRosa are executive editors. 

As these issues of national security continue to generate discussion, Georgetown Law is poised to remain at the center of the conversation.