SF State hosts national security panel

SF State will host a panel this Tuesday called “Civil Liberties and National Security in the Age of Big Data.”

Three SF State professors will sit with an American Civil Liberties Union attorney and Daniel Ellsberg, the former military advisor responsible for the leak of the Pentagon Papers, to discuss national security in the US today. The panel is a part of Constitution Day, which is the anniversary of the American constitution adoption and a federal education day that requires colleges to offer programs on the US Constitution.

“The panel raises all kinds of issues about government surveillance and privacy and whether people have any kind of protections if they blow a whistle on something considered to be illegal or a violation to the constitution, and even what is a whistleblower,” said Dr. Philip Dreyfus, chair of SF State’s History Department, which organized the event.

Daniel Ellsberg was a military analyst for the RAND Corporation during the Vietnam War and collected and released 7,000 pages of top secret military information, also known as the Pentagon Papers, that exposed bombings and raids unknown to the American public. He and another RAND Corporation colleague were charged with espionage, theft and conspiracy, and faced 117 years in prison.  All charges were later dropped due to mistrial.

Recently, Ellsberg announced support of Chelsea Manning (formerly Bradley), the U.S. soldier who leaked thousands of classified military documents to Wikileaks; and Edward Snowden, who tipped the press about American and British mass surveillance programs.

“He basically draws parallels between his own activity in the 1960s and 70s and Edward Snowden’s revelations in the 21st century,” said history Professor Susan Englander. “People like Daniel Ellsberg form a continuum between the 20th and 21st centuries to show that a lot of the issues that we care about 50 to 40 years ago are still present and current issues.“

Other speakers on the panel are ACLU attorney Matt Cagle and SFSU professors Sarah Crabtree, a colonial America historian, and David Fischer, a former American ambassador and the University’s Diplomat-in-Residence.

“It has been nearly three decades since we have had a serious debate on the issues surrounding civil liberties and the role of intelligence agencies. Since then, we have experienced the searing attacks of 9/11, a massive growth of the intelligence community, and advances in technology that were unthinkable even ten years ago,’” Ambassador Fischer said to the Xpress. “These are not easy issues and are made more difficult by the fact that many of these programs are shrouded in secrecy. The more we know, the better able we will be to make intelligent choice.”

The panel will be at noon until 2 p.m. in the Humanities, room 587 and is free of charge.