To outsiders, its initials once stood for No Such Agency. To its employees, they stood for Never Say Anything. Today the public knows that the ultra-secret National Security Agency manages the nations spy satellites, but few know exactly why the NSA is the most powerful U.S. intelligence agencyor its roles in the Cold War, the hunt for Osama bin Laden, and Echelon, the worldwide NSA spying operation that, many charge, is illegally monitoring innocent citizens. No outsider knows more about the NSA than investigative journalist James Bamford, who began to research it before most members of Congress had even heard of it. In this talk, Mr. Bamford explained why he believes the NSA is a dangerous, two-edged sword.
Drug abuse is a serious problem, but the "War on Drugs" shows no sign of being won and has come with a heavy price tag. Critics say that its side effects- increased taxes, increased crime and corruption here and abroad, loss of civil liberties, decreased health, prison overcrowding, discrimination against African Americans and other groups, and the diversion of resources away from other problems- are even worse for society than the drugs themselves. Many public officials share this sentiment but fear political reprisals if they speak out. However, Judges James Gray and Vaughn Walker, having witnessed the Drug War up close, believe that the time has come to testify publicly about its ill effects- and to outline bold, new approaches to the drug problem.
Many people have wondered how technological progress will affect political, economic, and civil freedoms. With the rise of encryption software, the National Security Agency's Echelon worldwide surveillance system, and the FBI's Carnivore e-mail snooping program, this subject is no longer the exclusive domain of speculative thinkers or futurists, it is the subject of intense public-policy debate. Will privacy-enhancing technology improve faster than privacy-threatening technology? Should the government mandate privacy standards? Should it enforce contracts in cyberspace, or would private law do a better job? Economist, physicist, and legal scholar David Friedman discussed these and related questions about technological change and the case for and against government involvement.
With the recent school massacre in Littleton, Colorado; the shootings of Jewish children in Los Angeles; and rampant drive-by shootings and other atrocities, what can and should be done to protect the innocent against violence in American society? Can government protect the citizenry against gun-related violence? What is the record of individual self-defense against violence in Britain and the U.S.? In this very timely Independent Policy Forum, acclaimed historian Joyce Lee Malcolm and civil rights attorney Don Kates will examine gun laws, violence, and rights.