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Liberty and Security in a Changing World

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Liberty and Security in a Changing World

Report and Recommendations of the President’s Review Group on Intelligence and Communications Technologies

Princeton UP,

15 min read
10 take-aways
Audio & text

What's inside?

How can the US promote security and liberty in a world of vast technological and political change?

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Editorial Rating



  • Innovative


Counterterrorism expert Richard A. Clarke, constitutional law scholar Cass R. Sunstein, and other top thinkers and strategists created this report about the collision of national security and personal liberty at the behest of President Barack Obama. Their transmittal letter, executive summary and historic overviews explain the group’s principles and its assumptions on global security issues. The members lay out their recommendations bluntly. When the report addresses specific legal matters, its language may leave general readers a bit behind. That is unfortunate, because the recommendations and the reasoning behind them have pragmatic utility. While never politically partisan, getAbstract recommends this report to those interested in national security, political liberty and the ragged places where those concerns intersect with information technology.


The Current Situation

The United States faces a complex and ever-shifting security situation. The nation must protect individual liberty while guarding against all internal and external “threats to national security.” The US has to meet those goals while promoting its “foreign policy interests,” protecting individual “right to privacy” at home, and supporting democracy at home and abroad. The US seeks to undertake these complex and potentially conflicting goals in a world defined by changing technology, “cyber espionage” and threats by terrorists or other nations.

This calls for insightful risk management, evaluating the hazards involved in the nation’s actions and reducing those risks. The US cannot balance individual liberty against national security; it must protect both.

Technological advances and social change complicate the application of these lofty principles. During the Cold War, the United States and its allies squared off against defined enemies, in “nation state” form, like the US. Now the West fights terrorists, who have no home state and who blend into civilian populations. Throughout World War II and the Cold War, military “signals intelligence...

About the Authors

The President’s Review Group on Intelligence and Communications Technologies is made up of Richard A. Clarke, Michael J. Morell, Geoffrey R. Stone, Cass R. Sunstein and Peter Swire.

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