GDISC VIII Speakers Tout Roles of NSA, NATO in U.S. Security Policy

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On March 25th, the International Relations Club hosted the eighth annual Georgetown Diplomacy and International Security Conference (GDISC VIII) in Riggs Library. The event featured speakers with wide-ranging backgrounds on international security and cooperation including NSA Director Admiral Mike Rogers and Former-Principal Director of European and NATO Policy at the Office of the Secretary of Defense Christopher Skaluba.

Rogers spoke about the role of the NSA as a foreign intelligence collection agency, stressing the importance of strict Obama-era regulations on the collection of data from U.S. citizens. These rules govern the NSA’s limited domestic role and ensure that all data collection on U.S. soil require warrants from the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance (FISA) Court.

The NSA director emphasized the importance of the relationships between the U.S. and European nations, acknowledging the diplomatic complications of the careless use of intelligence services, especially in the light of the recent NSA scandal over the surveillance of our European allies’ heads of state, including German Chancellor Angela Merkel.

Rogers also mentioned a new ambiguity in his orders after the change in administration. He said that under President Barack Obama, “the default” was to immediately delete most incidentally collected communications from U.S. citizens, but President Trump has not made a similar commitment, putting the privacy of all Americans at risk.

Skaluba spoke more specifically about the relationship between the U.S. and NATO and how he expects it to change under the Trump administration. He explained that the point of his talk was to convince the listener that NATO is “boring but important.”

Skaluba focused on the importance of a shared military bureaucracy in aiding effective trans-national cooperation, including such seemingly dull operations as standardizing names for enemy weapons systems, unifying intelligence, and setting joint security priorities. These remarks are particularly laudable in light of Trump’s recent unfounded comments on NATO, and the Obama-era bureaucrat noted that while NATO is not “sexy,” it is not, as Trump has suggested, “obsolete.”

Skaluba conceded that NATO was not constructed to be a counterterrorism task force, mostly as a result of a fundamental disconnect between the U.S. and its European allies on the matter: while European nations put terrorism into the domain of domestic police forces, the U.S. sees it as a job for the military.

Both Skaluba and Admiral Rogers, however, spoke to the overall theme of the conference: “Adapting to a Dynamic Security Landscape.” Rogers’ regard for the rule of law and the Constitution was evident when he stressed that there exists an important balance between security and privacy, and he has the unenviable task of finding that balance as he continues in his role as head of some of the United States’ most important intelligence apparatuses. Meanwhile, Skaluba explained that in the case of the U.S.-NATO alliance, the status quo is the status quo for a reason.

Christopher Stein

SFS 2020