Safe and Free: National-Security Surveillance and Safeguards Across Rule-of-Law States

Adam Klein |  December 15, 2023

In the decade since Edward Snowden began leaking classified documents from the National Security Agency, scholars and policymakers around the world have debated how to ensure that intelligence agencies respect civil liberties and privacy and follow the law. Intelligence oversight, once an arcane topic with little visibility, now features regularly in U.S. congressional debates and even presidential politics.

The U.S. and other rule-of-law democracies have passed major intelligence reforms since Snowden’s leaks. Germany adopted a statutory charter for its main foreign intelligence agency, the BND. Canada created a new oversight commission. The United Kingdom adopted a “double-lock” requiring for the first time that judges approve surveillance warrants.

There are obvious reasons for citizens to care about their own governments’ intelligence-related policies and protections. After all, we have the most to fear from those who wield coercive power over us.

But why study how other governments oversee their intelligence agencies? A new Strauss Center project, “Safe and Free: National Security Surveillance and the Rule of Law Across Democratic States,” aims to spur the comparative study of surveillance and to move that field beyond the narrow, often rivalrous transatlantic comparisons of the post-Snowden era. Instead, the Safe and Free series harnesses comparative study to gain insight about oversight structures, transparency, legal remedies, and political and technological trends affecting many rule-of-law democracies.

To read more, view the article here on Lawfare.