Testimonies on transparency: House Intel Committee weighs FISA changes with two panels

Today the House Intelligence Committee will address “Potential Changes to the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act (FISA)” which would include efforts to increase transparency. The opening hearing with be comprised of two panels. On the first, the usual suspects (household names by now): Director of National Intelligence, James Clapper; DOJ Deputy Attorney General, James Cole; NSA Director, General Keith Alexander; and NSA Deputy Director, Chris Inglis. The second panel is less well-known so I’d like to take a moment before the committee convenes to consider their perspectives.

Steven G Bradbury is a partner at Dechert LLP and the former head of the Office of Legal Counsel at the Department of Justice. According to his firm’s bio Bradbury received the National Security Agency’s Intelligence Under Law Award and the Director of National Intelligence’s 2007 Intelligence Community Legal Award (Team of the Year, FISA Modernization). In 2006 Bradbury testified on the national security benefits of FISA modernization before the House Subcommittee on Crime, Terrorism, and Homeland Security as the DOJ acting attorney general. From his testimony:

We believe that any legislative package must also deal with the litigation arising from the Terrorist Surveillance Program and other alleged classified communications intelligence activities. Such litigation undeniably risks national security by increasing the risk of additional disclosures and by subjecting vital intelligence activities to the unpredictability of varying (sometimes conflicting) court decisions.

We urge Congress to act to protect sensitive national security programs from the risk of disclosure and disparate treatment in the various district courts where litigation may be brought.

Originally the second slot was to be filled by Chertoff Group’s Paul Rosenzweig but due to a scheduling issue was replaced by Stewart A Baker, a partner at Steptoe & Johnson LLP. Of course this did not stop him from publicizing the testimony he would have given. Look for a post on Paul Rosenzweig and the Chertoff Group later this week.

Baker returned to Steptoe after serving as the Assistant Secretary for Policy at the Department of Homeland Security. Prior to his stint at DHS, Baker led a telecommunications practice at Steptoe where he was integral in the implementation of CALEA, the 1994 wiretapping legislation that mandated telephone companies to redesign their network architectures to accommodate wiretapping. He touts this achievement in his bio on Steptoe’s website:

In addition, he was responsible for spearheading the government-private sector coalition that permitted major telecommunications equipment manufacturers and carriers to break the decade-long deadlock with law enforcement on wiretapping of modern technology, permitting successful implementation of the Communications Assistance for Law Enforcement Act (“CALEA”).

Potentially countering Bradbury and Baker is Stephen Vladeck, a law professor at American University Washington College of Law who has been a part of several lawsuits challenging surveillance and detention policies.

The testimony from panel two should be interesting but don’t expect it to aggressively counter the first. Proceedings begin at 1:30pm today.