The Big Snoop: Life, Liberty, and the Pursuit of Terrorists: A Brookings Essay

Brookings Institution

The divergent views of four respected experts help frame the debate over the future of the NSA in the Snowden Era By Stuart Taylor, Jr. April 29, 2014 When Edward Snowden hit the send button on a laptop in Hong Kong last June, just shy of his 30th birthday, he became the poster boy for an acutely American conundrum: the tension between the government’s constitutional commitment to the privacy of individuals and its responsibility for the safety of the nation.

Marijuana Policy and Presidential Leadership: How to Avoid a Federal-State Train Wreck

The Brookings Institution

Stuart Taylor, Jr. examines how the federal government and the eighteen states (plus the District of Columbia) that have partially legalized medical or recreational marijuana or both since 1996 can be true to their respective laws, and can agree on how to enforce them wisely while avoiding federal-state clashes that would increase confusion and harm communities and consumers. Continue reading the article here.

Looking Forward, Not Backward: Refining American Interrogation Law

The Brookings Institution


The worldwide scandal spurred by the abuse of prisoners in Abu Ghraib, Guantánamo, Afghanistan and secret CIA prisons during the Bush Administration has been a stain on America’s honor and a catastrophe for our national image. Understandably eager to save innocent lives by breaking the resistance of a few Al Qaeda leaders, Bush and his aides went way overboard. Instead of crafting special rules to allow for exceptionally tough interrogations of those few leaders and maintaining strict limits to ensure that those interrogations stopped short of torture, the Bush team chose to gut the laws, rules and customs restraining coercive interrogations. They did this with a public bravado and an ostentatious disregard for international law that both scandalized world opinion and sent dangerous signals down through the ranks. These signals contributed to lawlessness and to confusion about what the rules were supposed to be. They helped open the floodgates both to CIA excesses widely seen as torture and to brutal treatment by the military of hundreds of small-fry and mistakenly-arrested innocents in Iraq and Afghanistan and of an unknown number of prisoners at Guantánamo. All this inspired widespread international and domestic revulsion and gravely undermined America’s political and moral standing and ability to work with some allied governments.

Rights, Liberties, and Security: Recalibrating the Balance after September 11

Brooking Institution

How can we avert catastrophe and hold down the number of lesser mass murders? Our best hope is to prevent al-Qaida from getting nuclear, biological, or chemical weapons and smuglling them into this country. But we need be unlucky only once to fail in that. Ultimately we can hold down our casualities only by finding and locking up (or killing) as many as possible of the hundreds or thousands of possible al-Qaida terrorists whose strategy is to infiltrate our society and avoid attention until they strike.

The urgency of penetrating secret terrorist cells makes it imperative for Congress—and the nation—to undertake a candid, searching, and systematic reassessment of the civil liberties rules that restrict the government’s core investigative and detention powers. Robust national debate and deliberate congressional action should replace what has so far been largely ad hoc presidential improvisation. While the USA-PATRIOT Act—no model of careful deliberation—changed many rules for the better (and some for the worse), it did not touch some others that should be changed.