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Surveillance, Liberty, and Privacy: A Conversation on National Security & Emerging Technologies with Adam Klein

Updated: May 26

HOSTS: Michelle Daniel, Taylor Helmcamp GUEST: Adam Klein, Director of the Robert Strauss Center for International Security & Law

Michelle: To start off, we just kind of want to know about you, and we had a similar interview with one of your colleagues, Paul Edgar over at the Clements Center. So we kind of want to know about you and your journey to UT, your journey to to law in general. Just give us the Adam Klein back story.

Adam Klein: Well, my interests have always been national security spent some time in Washington. Working on that in the policy realm and then to take the legal path and went to law school and after doing clerkships in a bit of private. Practice. I found my way back to the confluence of national security and law over the past five to 10 years or so, I focused on surveillance and intelligence programs, and now those are authorized and constrained. By the law, and that is naturally led into an interest in emerging technologies because, of course, surveillance depends on where the data is, where the information is, and today most of the really good information or much of it lives in in the digital realm. And so when government goes after information, it needs for intelligence purposes it necessarily interacts with emerging technologies that determine how it gets the data, how it analyzes the data, how the data stored and so forth. And I should add that here at the University of Texas, I also lead the Robert Strauss Center on International Security and Law, which is an interdisciplinary center that focuses on a range of issues. National security law, of course. So we work with the US military, the intelligence community and. Partners on emerging issues in national security law. We also have major programs in cybersecurity, emerging technologies, Central America and Mexico, and a few other regional areas.

Taylor H: That sounds great. So how long have you been at UT and why did you choose UT? Or did you always know that you wanted to enter into academia later?

Adam: While I was serving in government, I was leading an executive branch agency, an independent board called the Privacy and Civil Liberties Oversight Board that was created after 911 to keep an eye on the new and innovative intelligence gathering techniques. That agencies were developing to respond to the threat of terrorism, which of course manifested itself so terribly on September 11th. And so my agency, the Privacy and Civil Oversight Board, would look at programs conducted by NSA, CIA, FBI, Homeland Security, Treasury and other agencies that involve collecting large amounts of data to gather information on terrorist threats and other national security priorities, with a particular focus on how that data potentially affected the privacy and civil liberties of Americans. And so I was doing that. And when I had the opportunity to come down to the Strauss Center, it seemed like a natural place to continue doing that work.

Taylor: So you have a pretty extensive background. I know that you went through it pretty quickly right now, but you did clerk for some pretty high-profile people like Justice Scalia and former Circuit Judge, now Justice, Kavanaugh. Did you always know that you wanted to clerk coming out of law school? Or how did you end up choosing those experiences?

Adam: I don't know how many law students you have listening to the podcast or future law students, but for those who are, clerkships are a great thing to do if you have the opportunity. The irony of law school is that the better you do on your grades, the less choice you have because you get tracked into a set of choices that are very prestigious, that are great to do and that are almost impossible to turn down if you have the opportunity to do that. So going to work on the Court of Appeals for Judge Kavanaugh was obviously a great training, training experience, incredible training to learn from one of the hardest working, sharpest practitioners in the law. And that really prepared me very well for the opportunity to go to the Supreme Court. It's really a rare privilege to be at the core to be admitted to the confidences of the court and to have the justices trust you for a short period of time to do that work was a it was a really special experience.

Taylor: Yeah. And did that experience in any way shape your path towards continuing International Security and the law or was that kind of a separate experience? And then you later chose your passion?

Adam: Well, I think to be honest, national security is not something that the courts or really ideally should be a lead player in. That's just the nature of the allocation of powers in our system. The courts, as you will know,  as a law student, are only able to decide cases and concrete cases and controversies that are brought before them by litigants. Many of the most important things that happen in national security are happening overseas, happening in my field in secret. And so there is no one to bring a claim before court that a court can really decide. And so these things are happening in a much more nebulous realm where the law is being developed within the executive branch, in dialogue between cleared actors in Congress and in the executive branch. And so one of the interesting challenges that we have in national security law is what is the law, when it's not being litigated, when there are different views, when there's no one to give an authoritative interpretation, when someone may be pushing the boundaries without another actor who's aware of what they're doing to come in and check it. And so we have to learn to wrestle with law as a more nebulous force that operates alongside policy considerations.

Michelle: What do you see the state of international law today? I mean, we have so many conflicts going on that are just very explosive and it just kind of seems like a lot of actors, state actors, are not following international law.

Adam: Well, I drive on the roads in Texas, and Texas has very, very high speed limits, but they don't seem to be high enough for most of the drivers. That just because people are speeding doesn't mean that the speed limit is not a law. So for people who think question whether international law even exists because it's not fully enforced, I think that's the answer international law exists, it’s meaningful up to a point, but of course the enforcement mechanisms in the international system are inchoate, are contested, and really the enforcement of international law depends on the allocation of power within the international system. And so for a brief 30 year period we had a glorious moment of unilateral US power where we were so overwhelmingly dominant that what we said would be enforced, or we thought - so we thought it turned out to be more difficult than that - but so we thought and certainly there was no one who had enough power to contest us. Now we are, some would say, in a multipolar environment. You could say, more accurately, a bipolar environment, with China really emerging, at least in the in East Asia and the Western Pacific. As a peer competitor and things are different. Countries have options. Countries don't necessarily have to take our way or the highway they can bid our influence against that of China, Russia, for example, is still despite its its military struggles during its invasion of Ukraine is still is still a player in West Africa, is giving the new military governments in West Africa an alternative patron they can turn to if they don't want to accept the US vision of the international system. And so of course we would all prefer to see a world in which democracy is the only path in which Western style industrialized democracy is the only path that has powerful backers, but we're not there anymore. And so as international lawyers, as policymakers, they have to see the world for what it is and to choose a course of action that's going to get us a better outcome, given the allocation of power that we now face in the world.

Taylor: So who are the main actors threatening US security today, in your opinion?

Adam: The director of National Intelligence puts out an annual threat every year and you can go and pull that document down from online, it's totally unclassified, and you can see how they rack and stack the threats. After 911, which is the period when I really got engaged in this field professionally, of course, counterterrorism was the predominant priority and counterterrorism as the lead priority, really determined our geopolitical behavior for almost 2 decades that has completely changed. The top two threats now are unquestionably China as #1 Russia as I would say, a distant second, just given China's technological development, economic power, it vastly exceeds that of Russia. And of course, the Western Pacific, I shouldn't say, of course, maybe this isn't apparent to all the listeners, but the Western Pacific is an area where the US has long standing bases as mutual defense commitments, has immense immense economic interest, with, for example, the Taiwan Semiconductor Manufacturing Corporation on Taiwan being the predominant producer of the high end chips that are in all of our smartphones and the latest and greatest electronic devices. If that supply is cut off, it will lead to supply chain disruptions that would dwarf what happened during COVID. And that's just one of the economic interests we have in the region. In addition to all of our security interest. And so China is #1 Russia, obviously, we're effectively in a proxy war with them now as to be #2, and then there's a second tier where I think you'd put counterterrorism, which remains a significant threat. We've seen Hamas, you know that Hezbollah is out there, which has killed many, many hundreds of Americans over the years. Isis is still percolating around. Fortunately, Al Qaeda, core al Qaeda, which got us on 9/11 so horribly, has been pretty decimated by the excellent work of our intelligence community and military over the past 20 years. But their terrorism still remains a threat. Iran and North Korea would also be on that tier 2 with Iran obviously rising as its appetite for mischief in the Middle East grows even more. And then you might imagine a third tier of other threats, other challenges, drug cartels in Mexico are a major one. Instability in places like the Sahel and West Africa, which are incubators for terrorism. Other regional threats and then transnational challenges like the risk of future pandemics. Climate is one that's getting a lot of attention and intelligence bears on all of these things. Even something like climate, which may not seem like something that intelligence would be relevant to. If we're going to have some people want binding agreements on carbon reductions, how are we going to make sure those are being enforced? Ultimately, if people don't want to tell the truth and want to obscure what they’re doing, which certain countries might want to do, you need intelligence to gain insight about what's really going on.

Taylor: There's this. It seems like in the American popular mythology, we think of intelligence gathering as the human covert operations, and these really snazzy CIA sending people abroad to do fancy things in secret. But a lot of intelligence operations don't necessarily need humans on the ground anymore, is that correct?

Adam: I want to give a qualified answer that like like a good lawyer, there's always a place for human intelligence. Fundamentally, politics is a human endeavor. Geopolitics is a human endeavor. Intelligence is a human endeavor. In the end, it's human beings whose actions you're trying to predict, whose behavior you're trying to influence. So there always be a place for that. Increasingly, the information that we seek is in digital networks and so the more digitized the world becomes, the more predominant digital collection, the more valuable digital collection becomes. And so the role of NSA is more important than it ever has been. Just to give an example, the type of information that once might have been obtainable only by getting into a filing cabinet somewhere in Moscow, or only by having someone relate a conversation to you in person that he or she had with another official now can be acquired by hacking the digital equivalent of that filing cabinet, or intercepting the digital equivalent of that conversation, which is now probably taking place on a text message or some other asynchronous messaging service rather than in person. And so digital collection is only going to become more and more important now. That being said, increasingly human intelligence officers have a role in digital collection. How do you get access to networks when adversaries are trying to keep you out, especially sometimes physical access can be very important, sometimes persuading a human being to give you access to those digital networks, whether by sharing credentials or letting you into the data center, or doing something else like that, can be vital. So this is what's called human-enabled SIGINT. So a human being is giving you access to collect those signals that you need to inform your policy maker or to defend against a threat. There's also the flip side of that which is SIGINT enabled human. So the things that you collect off of your signals collection can help you recruit human sources.

Michelle: So I'm thinking about all these digital networks and and emerging technologies as you mentioned before. I guess what technologies that are are more most concerning to you and I don't just mean artificial intelligence, but anything that that you know that's on the horizon that how do you how do you categorize the threat level when it comes to technologies.

Adam: I should start by saying we shouldn't look at it as a threat, we should look at it as an opportunity because the United States has benefited asymmetrically from the digital economy, where all the major companies are based and it's our openness to innovation and willingness to run the experiment and let people try things that has made us the leader. And if we keep doing that, it should continue to benefit us asymmetrically, especially as you've seen China pulling back on its tech industry because of fears that it's creating an alternative power base or that it's destabilizing social relations which ultimately threatens the control of the Chinese Communist Party. And so it's our openness, our willingness to experiment, to allow innovation, that is our biggest advantage, and we shouldn't allow fears of particular technologies to blind us to that we have to keep running the race. We have to keep running the experiment and being open so that we can, especially so that we can stay ahead from a foreign policy perspective. Answering the question more directly, are there particular technological developments that are worrying or threatening from the US perspective? Sure. I don't think it's cause for panic, but these are things we should be aware of. You talked about AI and generative AI there's certainly a concern that Gen AI could be used, for example, to generate phishing emails or other types of spoofing that could enable hacking or other malicious behavior online. So that's something that if we have to be concerned about, have to be aware of, we have to hope that the platforms that hold most of our sensitive data are developing defenses to detect that and stop it, and there's every reason to believe that we'll be up to that challenge. One thing that does concern me is China's advantage in manufacturing dual-use goods. What do I mean by that? Dual use is something that is overtly civilian, but in a conflict,  can be put to military use. Well before World War 2, the United States was the world leader in manufacturing dual-use goods like aircraft and cars, we no longer have, and we use that manufacturing base to become the arsenal of democracy. You've got the Ford production line you flip it over to tanks when the war starts, and then you flip it back again at the end of the war. The Ford production line is not what it used to be, and we don't have production lines for many other things that are important in armed conflict, so a great example here is drones. There's a Chinese company called DJI that is the overwhelmingly dominant player in consumer drones, and we have a few smaller players that are very good but don't have anywhere near the scale or manufacturing capacity that DJI does, just because people keep buying DJI, it's cheaper. And US consumers buy overwhelmingly DJI. Well, you might say, what's the harm in that? These are just toys. You fly it around you. Take some nice pictures. It's not shooting missiles or anything. Well, if you look at Russia and Ukraine, each side is expending 10s of thousands of these drones almost per month, I  want to check that number, but it's a vast, vast number. They're cheap. They're easy to destroy, but you can keep throwing more and more of them up there for things like artillery spotting, reconnaissance, and so forth. If we get into an armed conflict with China, China's got the production lines at the ready to deploy slightly modified versions of these things as reconnaissance drones, as one-way suicide munitions, etcetera. And we don't have the production capacity. And so that's a real worry. We have to see some of these decisions we're making it seem purely economic against the backdrop of an armed conflict that, unfortunately, is a very realistic possibility, that doesn't mean we want it to happen, but the best way to prevent it from happening is to show them that we're absolutely prepared for it if it comes. So I'm concerned about that as well.

Michelle: And just to push on that a little bit more so armed conflict with China, how do you actually see that playing out?

Adam: Well, this is, I mean if you talk to people in defense policy in Washington, DC this is the number one thing that's on everyone's mind is the Taiwan scenario. Qi Jinping has told his military to be ready by 2027 to invade Taiwan. That doesn't mean they're going to do it, it could be an aspirational goal, but it's certainly one that we have to be aware of and take seriously that the United States is not officially pledged to defend Taiwan. The Taiwan Relations Act has an ambiguous formula that requires us to maintain the capacity to defend Taiwan but doesn't explicitly commit us to doing that. But President Biden has said that he would defend Taiwan, and if the United States doesn't defend Taiwan, that would utterly reshape the Pacific. It would effectively mean the end if US power is a security guarantor in the region, other countries would have no choice but to bandwagon with China. And so this is a very, very real prospect of major power conflict that would be devastating to the world economically would result in, at a minimum, 10s of thousands of casualties on both sides, and could spiral into something very scary. And so people in Washington, people who studied defense issues closely, take this very, very seriously. CSIS, the Center for Strategic International Studies, did a really good set of war games where they ran many, many simulations of the conflict and try to predict how it will go depending on choices made by the US and China and really, US intervention would be would be decisive to enable Taiwan to have a chance of prevailing. And so this is something that I think we all have to be conscious of as we're talking about things like intelligence and should we reduce our intelligence programs or technology, should we allow China to have the dominant market share in dual-use technologies that have military applications? We have to be thinking about the possibility that in two months and six months in a year, we could be facing off against them in a in a near existential conflict.

Michelle: And if that happens, where do you see Russia falling into this? Do you think they will side with with China? Do you think they will just stay neutral? I mean, I know you're not a Russia expert exactly, but you know looking at it geopolitically.

Adam: Yeah, if I could just step back from the question a little bit. Distraction and chaos benefits certain actors in the global environment, and so right now, what's happening in the Middle East, which is largely driven by Iran and the proxy groups that Iran has funded benefits other actors who might want to revise the existing global order. So of course when when Hamas attacked Israel, they were popping champagne corks in the Kremlin because this takes the attention momentarily off their aggression, it diverts resources, it diverts will. It diverts attention away from helping Ukraine to helping Israel or stabilizing the situation in the Middle East and preventing escalation there. And that principle applies more broadly. I I don't think people have been talking about this enough, but Azerbaijan made a move on the Nagorno Karabakh enclave, which they've had their eye on for 30 years. When did they do it? When the Russia Ukraine war had taken people's eyes off of it, and when Europe now needs Azerbaijan's gas exports to make up for the loss of Russian gas. So chaos and disruption creates opportunities for people to act and revise the existing global order. And so that principle applies just the same for China, and the more distracted we are the, the more thinly we spread our military resources, our intelligence resources,  we should be aware that that they're watching that and it makes it potentially more attractive for them.

Taylor: Following up on that kind of utilitarianism that Russia benefits from while the world is quote-unquote distracted from their own aggression, misinformation has been kind of a hot topic around the world, and especially in the United States, in the last couple of years, especially allegations of Russian misinformation and propaganda in the United States to try to sway public opinion domestically. How do you think misinformation and countering misinformation plays into this intelligence threat analysis?

Adam: I personally don't think the terms disinformation and misinformation are very helpful. I think they there's a lot of linguistic slippage there where it starts to become unclear what we're talking about and then it becomes an epithet that can be just applied to things that we don't like or disagree with or want to see censored or disposed of. I think it's more helpful to name things as they are, so a foreign state intelligence service using clandestine means to spread disruptive propaganda in the United States is a bad thing, it’s against the law. Our intelligence services are properly empowered to investigate that and deal with that. That's one category that's that's what you would traditionally have called disinformation in the kind of KGB sense, KGB operative, sneaking around, spreading false narratives about the CIA causing the crack cocaine epidemic and so forth. OK, so we can put that in one bucket. That's an easy that's a pretty easy case. It's illegal. We kind of know what to do with it. There's a separate set of situations where Americans are unwittingly amplifying messages that were literally created by a foreign intelligence service, not narratives that a foreign government might spread, but if a specific document or set of tweets or whatever that was literally created by a foreign intelligence, a front for a foreign intelligence service that might be a harder case than you might you might think the government should let the American know that this is actually created by the SVR, cut out of the SVR and then the American can choose whether they would want to continue doing that or not. I think a much more dangerous category is what has, something that has actually been labeled by prominent people? Disinformation,  is when Americans choose to express opinions that may quote unquote, I'm doing the air quotes thing, here align with a narrative espoused by a foreign government. And we might not like some of those opinions, but that's just debate about foreign policy and a good example that I like to use is before The Iraq war, when Senator Barack Obama stood up and said Iraq is not a threat to the United States or state senator at the time is not a threat to the United States Iraq doesn't have weapons of mass mass destruction. The only people who were saying that at the time was Iraq. The US intelligence community assured everyone that we that they do have weapons of mass destruction, the New York Times is running front page stories about it, and so the authoritative sources that the quote-unquote fact-checkers were telling us one thing, and the state senator was telling us the other thing he was, of course, proven right ultimately. And so we need to preserve space in our system for democratic debate. And I worry that the epithet disinformation has migrated over from the old school KGB type thing to encompass all arguments that we disagree with, that run counter to the prevailing, the prevailing wisdom of the day that comes from our institutions, and we've seen in the past few years, our institutions repeatedly getting things wrong. So Russia collusion during the 2016 election ran on the front page of every major newspaper for several years and turned out not to be proven. COVID-19 we had, we were assured that the lab leak theory was hoax, and then a few years later, President Biden is commissioning the intelligence community to look into it, which signals that it's credible enough to spend very valuable and scarce resources on. But of course, in the intervening period, it's taken down off of social media you can't talk about it, you can't discuss it, you're chased out of polite society. That's not the sign of a healthy public public information environment if you want to use the jargon and so ultimately, the loser if we purge our our information spaces of discussion and dissent is us. Because we see that countries around the world like Russia that do not have open debate about foreign policy and the assumptions underlying that policy make bad decisions. Putin was absolutely sure Ukraine is not a real country there's no will to fight, their institutions are rotten, the FSB has recruited every single Ukrainian government official to flip as soon as we invade, and all those assumptions turned out to be completely wrong because no one was telling them otherwise. So we don't want to get into a position where the FBI or other elements of the US government or the the the Homeland Security departments, disinformation. Or yet to decide what messages can be heard, which of course will align with their view of the world and what the correct policy is. And then we don't ever get to hear countervailing opinions. And then we stumble into blunders based on our preconceived notions.

Taylor: That's a really good kind of analysis on this whole situation and kind of following up to that, typically a discussion about security versus liberty as these two conflicting goals, especially with intelligence gathering where Americans are concerned, our own rights to privacy, rights to speech. Perhaps even and where do you think the ideal mix of security and liberty?

Adam: Our Constitution was created to provide us with both security and liberty, or to put a finer point on it, to get us security in a manner that does not require us to surrender liberty. You. It's easy to have security. You just have a tyrant who crushes any opposing force and prevents anyone from doing anything to anyone else, and you'll be safe, you'll have security. That's a formula that has been figured out by humans for time immemorial. The trick that our Constitution attempts is to provide security, to have a government that can provide for the general welfare and the common defense without sacrificing security. So that's the junior genius of our founders, who might be out of fashion in some quarters today, but who were the greatest generation of political geniuses ever assembled in one place at any time. And the durability of the constitutional order that they've created, for all its faults, for all the struggles that we all have with our political system nowadays, it's quite impressive when you look around the world. There aren't many other countries with a with a record of a single constitutional order enduring and adapting to incredible change in tumult over 250 years. So that being said, trading off security and liberty within the framework of our system is not a choice that we should be excited about, right? We should always be thinking security with liberty and we should expect our institutions to deliver that. And so how does that manifest itself in practice? Well, on the one hand, we do need strong institutions in a very, very dangerous world. We have nuclear weapons. Our adversaries have nuclear weapons. It is no longer, and Gary Wills has written an entire book about this called bomb power. It is inevitable, once you have a world with nuclear weapons that you are going to have a strong Presidency capable of acting decisively because you can't persuade your adversary that you are prepared to use nuclear weapons unless you have a decision-maker who can act quickly and make that decision. It's essential to the logic of deterrence. So the nuclear bomb fundamentally reshapes our constitutional order because of the security dilemmas that it imposes. We have global military posture. We have to protect our forces. We have alliance commitments. We have threats here at home, we have terrorists, we have drug cartels. It's a very complicated world. The oceans are no longer a satisfactory defense. So we need intelligence agencies. We established that the question is, how do you have intelligence agencies in a manner that protects liberty? And unfortunately, we have a history in this country, we don't we don't talk about it a lot, of having intelligence agencies that don't protect liberty, and the FBI was run by the same person for 48 years because he used his power to protect himself, to protect the FBI from criticism and from reform. And so we've seen what doesn't work. We also have a pretty decent record of seeing what does work. And so some of those things are very strong congressional oversight, declassification and transparency and a press that asks tough questions, independent oversight, bodies within the executive branch and, of course, Congress, as I already mentioned, a measure of judicial involvement, compliance programs within the agencies, so having people whose job it is to make sure that their colleagues stay in bounds, whistleblower protections, it's a multi faceted approach, but if you throw all of these things at the problem, you at least have a better chance of keeping these very powerful and secretive agencies on the rails. Just to close out, changing gears a bit, we also have to remember that the threats to liberty are not always from the state. They're often from other citizens, so if we look at what are the threats to my ability to express myself, to practice my religion, to assemble peaceably assemble with other people who share my views, it's often other citizens who are angry, who are violent, who are disturbed in some way, who have a radical ideology and who want to attack me and other people like me or other vulnerable groups, in order to act out their rage or their ideology. And so having security services that can detect these threats and stop them is necessary to enable people to exercise their constitutional rights.

Michelle: OK, so I wanted to connect back to some of what you were talking about before regarding free speech and and security. Maintaining this balance between liberty and security and and trying to think of both of those things the same time, when Secretary of State Anthony Blinken was here a few weeks ago, he was talking about the lack of unified approach to to information security and especially in the cyberspace and such and he was just saying that there's a lack of vision, so I was wondering if you had a vision for the world in terms of how we can approach the balance between free speech and and security.

Adam: I don't want there to be a common vision. I don't think we agree with other countries on this. I think that's fine. Our constitutional tradition is very different. We have the 1st amendment, which is first for a reason, the freedom of speech underpins the possibility of self government, the freedom of speech is and the freedom to dissent and to criticize the state is one of the things that the people who started this country fought for. And it's one of the things that defines being an American, at least when I was a kid, you'd say it's a free country and I can say whatever I want, but it's deeply embedded in our our self-conception as you all know, as people who have traveled widely, that's not widely shared around the world, that dogmatic attachment to our right to say whatever we want. My wife is from Canada. Canada strikes the balance very differently. They prioritize civility and not offending others over their freedom speak. In Germany, whereas you know I've spent a lot of time, denying the Holocaust offending different groups is prohibited, it’s criminal offense. None of us think that's a good thing to say, but in the US it is constitutionally protected expression, however much we we might dislike it, there are very tight limits in the United States on what the government can criminalize, what types of speech the government can prohibit and censor. France, again, similarly, the European Union generally has something called the right to be forgotten, where you'll be forced to take down material that casts someone in an unfavorable light, even if it's true, because the court decides that it's too old to be relevant anymore, that's not something that we can reconcile with the American traditions on free speech. And I haven't even gotten into authoritarian states where obviously anything, in many cases, that offends the powers that be can get you arbitrarily detained, thrown in jail, and of course, censorship is ubiquitous and so there is no global agreement on this. Americans, hard to speak for 300 million people, but you're never going to get all of them or even many of them to agree on which speech to be allowed and which speech should not be, and the attempts to do so started down that road a bit in recent years and it's already proved extraordinarily divisive. And so I don't really see a future for that in the United States if we want to preserve the tenuous consensus that holds us together as a nation. And I don't think we can really be leading International Convention on speech regulation given our domestic constitutional order. So this may be one of those areas where we and our friends around the world have to agree to disagree and try to understand one another.

Taylor: This is kind of a pivot, but you speak a second language. You speak German. And how did you acquire German and how do you think knowing a second language has contributed to your own professional development and your own career path?

Adam: I I love the question. I also speak French and and and and Spanish which is I would say intermediate and slowly improving. It's a great question. Obviously, given the nature of the podcast, it's one that I'm sure all of you feel strongly about as well.I don't think the best argument for learning a second language is instrumental in the United States, because it's a really big country, you can get along just fine with English, you can have a great career. Everyone around the world, that’s an exaggeration of course, speaks English or learns English as the default first foreign language, and so you can slide by just fine. And so I think the best argument is not you have to learn this or you or you or you won’t be successful , but what are you going to be missing out on if you don't do it?  And if you care about the world, assuming people who are listening to this care about the world and care about other cultures, learning the language is the only way to understand how people in those societies see the world and see their own society. Because language is the window through which we understand the world and the blocks that our language gives us enable us to build our picture of the world. And so and you just missed so much nuance -  how people argue about politics, really how people in, in another society talk to each other. Right, talking to you is one thing. How do they talk with each other? How do they debate with one another? And so you can't have a true window into another culture unless you at least attempt to learn the language and even making the initial forays gives you something. It gives you more than having zero. And of course, it's extremely rewarding. Because the farther you go the more you get out of it and the rewards keep unfolding themselves.

Taylor: That's great. So flowing back to the Strauss Center, are there any programs going on that? You're particularly excited about with the Strauss Center and what are your plans with Strauss in the future?

Adam: Strauss Center is an interesting mix of a campus center which focuses on student programming and events and so forth and a think tank. And so we are doing always sponsoring a mix of academic research and policy focused research, I would say with the emphasis on the latter. And so in the in that bucket in the research bucket, we are on the verge of releasing a paper series on how countries authorize and oversee electronic surveillance programs. And we've this since Edward Snowden's leaks in 2013 has roiled important international relationships, especially between the night States and Europe. And Snowden and what followed after that gave rise to this perception that the US is an outlier in surveillance, that we spy way more than anyone else, way more aggressively than anyone else, that we're not what, that our that our agencies are not constrained. And none of that is really true. And in fact, if you look around the world, countries manage these very sensitive capacities, which have the ability to threaten democracy and freedom in different ways, and they are struggling with a wide range of challenges about how you control these agencies. In some countries it's populism and disputes between populist movements and the establishment, which also plays out in the realm of intelligence. In some countries, it's the disruptive effects of new technology that have put existing laws on the back foot,  in other countries it’s the threat environment that the country faces externally that's pushing it to be much more aggressive on intelligence collection. And so I think the lesson that that that I've taken from these papers, which we're very excited to release is that there are many paths to having the rule of law and intelligence coexist. And we can all learn something from each other. Comparative law is not something that is really prioritized in American law schools, unfortunately, we don't study other legal systems as much as we should, but there's quite a lot to learn from doing so. So that's an example of our research work. Student engagement. We have all kinds of exciting things going on. We obviously had a big event on the Hamas terrorist attacks a couple weeks ago where we had 400 people come to hear analysis from former senior U.S. government officials here on campus. We had a group of students down at the border two weeks ago in Brooks County, Texas, as part of our Central America and Mexico program, doing very powerful work, for example helping document migrant migrant remains so that those can be given a dignified treatment and also inform research on how to prevent migrant death for people coming North from the border. And so I think that gives you a sense of the the range of activities we have. We've got a big event coming up on cyber security. Our cyber policy competition, where we'll have teams from all across the country, from the service academies, from other universities, from here in Texas competing to solve a simulated cybersecurity scenario with expert speakers flying in from Washington to present to the students. And so it's a really wide range and I think the message is that here at the University of Texas with podcasts like this with programs that like you all sponsor with the other programs that we work with here, we have a really, really great range of opportunities for students interested in national security and foreign affairs.

Taylor: That's great. And just to closeout, do you have any words of wisdom for students that might want to enter national security as a field or even potentially considering law as a path for them? Do you have any advice?

Adam: Put down your phone and read books. Jim Mattis, who was a Secretary of Defense after having an accomplished military career, once said something like if your knowledge is limited to your personal experience, you are functionally ignorant and the only way to expand your circle of knowledge about the world about history, about other cultures, all of which are relevant inputs if you want to be in national security is to read and read a lot, and if you're not reading about the field for fun, you're probably not going to be very good at it.

Outro: The Slavic Connexion is part of the Texas podcast network. The conversations changing the world. Brought to you by the University of Texas at Austin. The opinions expressed in this program represent the views of the hosts and the guests and not of the University of Texas at Austin. For more information, please visit us online at, thank you.

Outro: The Center for Russian, East European and Eurasian study condemns the Russian Federation's military invasion of Ukraine. We stand in support of the people of Ukraine who are fighting for their lives and sovereignty in the face of the unjustified invasion by Russian military forces. Awesome.


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