The NSA Report

Title:                      The NSA Report

Author:                 Richard A. Clarke

Clarke, Richard A. (2014), Michael J. Morell, Geoffrey R. Stone, Cass R. Sunstein, Peter Swire. The NSA Report: Liberty and Security in a Changing World. Princeton. NJ: Princeton University Press

LCCN:    2014001797

KF4850 .U54 2014

Corporate name


  • Principles — Lessons of history — Reforming foreign intelligence surveillance directed at united states persons — Reforming foreign intelligence surveillance directed at non-united states persons — Determining what intelligence should be collected and how — Organizational reform in light of changing communications technology — Global communications technology : promoting prosperity, security, and openness in a networked world — Protecting what we do collect.


Other edition

Date Posted:      September 8, 2016

Caveat. Perpendat itaque lector cavendum (civilis).[1]

Reviewed by Joseph C. Goulden[2]

On 27 August 2013, in response to the furor created by the unauthorized release of NSA documents by Edward Snowden, President Barack Obama announced the formation of the Review Group on Intelligence and Communications Technologies. The group’s mission was to recommend actions that would permit the Intelligence Community to meet its national security obligations while protecting the public’s privacy concerns. The group was made up of Richard Clarke, a former White House national security advisor; Michael Morell, the former deputy director of CIA; Edward Levi, a law professor at the University of Chicago; Cass Sunstein, a professor at Harvard University; and Peter Swire, a professor at the Georgia Institute of Technology.

Following the precedent of most government documents, The NSA Report is something of a literary brick. Nevertheless, it presents a succinct summary of the country’s national security threats—terrorism, WMD proliferation, cyber espionage, and warfare—and NSA’s role in dealing with them while simultaneously protecting public privacy and civil liberties. On the latter point, the report assumes that these “fundamental values have at times been eroded by excessive intelligence collection” (p. xv) and makes 46 recommendations intended to correct the problem. The recommendations cover personal surveillance, organizational reform, global security issues, the collection and protection of data, and managing the associated risks.

For those wanting a quick look at the recommendations, there is a section listing each one without any analysis of the justification involved. This is followed by a chapter summarizing the historical lessons that led to the collection of communications data, and the impact of 9/11. The balance of the report repeats each recommendation and adds the supporting rationale. For example, they explain the reasons for recommending that communications data be held by private firms.

The NSA Report recommends many changes intended to protect national security and personal privacy. Whether they will accomplish both must await another report.

[1] On occasion, personal loyalties and opinions can be carved in stone and defended with a vengeance — at times with some venom thrown in. In these situations, the actual importance of the subject matter is dwarfed by the amount of aggression expressed. Retain a sense of proportion in all online and in-person discussions. [From The Intelligencer: Journal of U. S. Intelligence Studies.]

[2] Goulden, Joseph C. in The Intelligencer: Journal of U.S. Intelligence Studies (22, 2, Spring 2016, p. 124). Joseph C. Goulden’s 1982 book, Korea: The Untold Story of the War, was published in a Chinese-language edition in 2014 by Beijing Xiron Books. He is author of 18 nonfiction books. Goulden is a long-time reviewer of espionage and spy books for The Washington Times, for AFIO’s Intelligencer, for law journals, and other publications. Some of the reviews appeared in prior editons of The Washington Times or The Washington Lawyer (DC Bar Association) and are reprinted by permission of the author. Goulden’s most recent book [as of 2016] is Goulden, Joseph C. (2012). The Dictionary of Espionage: Spyspeak into English. Mineola, NY: Dover Publications.

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