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W&L Law's Russ Miller Testifies on NSA Affair for German Parliament

Washington and Lee law professor Russell Miller testified this month before a German Parliamentary committee investigating the so-called “NSA Affair.”

The Special Committee of Inquiry was convened in the wake of revelations by NSA contractor Edward Snowden showing that for many years the U.S. has been pursuing massive intelligence gathering operations in Germany, including the collection of Germans’ telecommunications data and content. It was also revealed that the U.S. had been monitoring the German Chancellor’s personal cell-phone.

Miller is an expert in U.S. and German Constitutional Law. In 2009 he published the book “U.S. National Security, Intelligence and Democracy,” which explores the U.S. Senate’s 1976 Church Committee investigation of American intelligence activities in the war on terror.

Miller notes that many Germans are outraged by the recent revelations.

“Germans place a high priority on privacy, and the NSA intelligence gathering is viewed as a betrayal by the U.S., who Germans see as an ally and partner,” says Miller.

Miller was called as an expert to provide the Committee with an understanding of the relevant American law and also to draw on his expertise in German law to offer comparative insight into how – and why – the two countries differ so dramatically on the question of how to balance security and liberty.

Aided by rising second year law student Steve Chovanec, Miller submitted a fifty page report in advance of his appearance. The report sought to answer a sweeping range of formal questions from the committee, including what provisions of law exist in the U.S. authorizing the collection, retention and distribution of telecommunications data and content.

During his testimony, Miller underscored that the issue of national security has typically been a political rather than a judicial matter in the U.S. and that any calls for legally or judicially enforced responses to these issues will sound foreign to Americans. He answered numerous detailed and often provocative questions from the Committee, including how the U.S. would respond to the discovery that the German intelligence services had been collecting and distributing communications data collected from American soldiers serving in Afghanistan and Iraq.

“I was honored to be able to make a modest contribution to the work of the Committee,” Miller says, “I value and still believe in the German-American partnership, and I’ll be pleased if my testimony gave the committee members a slightly better understanding of the legal, as well as social and cultural, differences that frame these issues in our two countries.”

The Special Committee is planning to take fact testimony from Edward Snowden in Moscow. Miller and Snowden are likely to be the only Americans to appear before the committee.

Related Links

Der Spiegel International Online Coverage (in English)

Video of Special Committee Hearing (in German)