The Breakfast Table

Continuing the Conversation

Patrick, Marty, and Orin—

This will be my last post, and I want once more to thank all of you, and Slate, for the opportunity to participate. I learned a lot from the substance of your contributions and from the process of responding to them, and my respect for you and other journalists and bloggers is higher than ever. This exercise brought home to me how really hard it is to be timely, relevant, accurate, and readable. (That’s especially true if you want to avoid saying something that you later conclude is wrong, intemperate, or thoughtless—a standard I’m not sure I met.) My hat is off to all three of you. I also want to thank the Department of Justice for its generosity in reviewing my posts far more rapidly than is required by the governing regulation.

I have to agree with Marty and Orin that, despite our extended discussion, the new Protect America Act remains a bit of a cipher. We’ve all offered some speculation, but none of us is really sure what it means, particularly with respect to broad surveillance of domestic communications. I think we all hope that, consistent with the protection of classified information, the next amendment to FISA emerges from a more orderly process.

In the meantime, I hope we keep the conversation going. We may be playing Orin’s game of Guess the Classified Program, and we may never know if our guesses are right. But those guesses, and our other speculation, may help those who do have access to classified information and who are charged with writing any new legislation that emerges.

In that spirit, Jim Baker and I are hosting a one-day symposium on modernizing FISA, to be held on Sept. 10 at Georgetown law school. Jim is the former head of the DoJ’s Office of Intelligence Policy and Review, and he’s now also a lecturer at Harvard Law School. In addition to Jim himself, we expect to have several other government officials participating, including Ben Powell, who is DNI McConnell’s top lawyer, and Ken Wainstein, the DoJ’s assistant attorney general for national security. Best of all, Marty and Orin have also agreed to participate. Maybe together we can ask the government panelists some of the questions we’ve struggled to answer here.

Thanks again.