cover image Beyond Snowden: Privacy, Mass Surveillance, and the Struggle to Reform the NSA

Beyond Snowden: Privacy, Mass Surveillance, and the Struggle to Reform the NSA

Timothy H. Edgar. Brookings Institution, $21.99 (222p) ISBN 978-0-8157-3063-7

Edgar, a former ACLU lawyer who left that group in 2006 to advise the director of national intelligence on safeguarding civil liberties and privacy, has the appropriate background to provide this deep dive into the recent history of the American intelligence community’s adoption of mass-surveillance techniques and the ensuing efforts to balance security and freedom. While the general public is familiar with the contours of the issues and the revelations that Edward Snowden provided, Edgar provides an insider’s perspective on the government’s internal debates. For example, after Snowden revealed the existence of the NSA’s collection of Internet communications, there were serious discussions about changing how the FISA court functions to include a privacy advocate as a check on government overreach. But Edgar, who left the Obama administration in 2013, concedes that the election of Donald Trump has left the future of such discussions in limbo, with even government officials who had pushed for “stronger surveillance powers” concerned about the potential for their abuse. Despite the seriousness of the issues raised, Edgar is forced to concede that his ultimate conclusion—that “there is or at least ought to be common call” among “both intelligence officials and civil libertarians” for a “future that reconciles the need for surveillance programs with respect for internet freedom, privacy and human rights”—is precatory, rather than descriptive. [em](Aug.) [/em]