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Issues in Public Policy: Privacy and National Security

Edward Snowden’s leaking of information regarding the National Security Agency’s (NSA) electronic surveillance programs has stimulated a public policy debate regarding the balance between the need for information to protect national security versus the right of citizens to be protected from excessive government surveillance. The University Libraries has some excellent resources for persons researching this issue.

The August 30, 2013 issue of the CQ Researcher includes an article, “Government surveillance: is government spying on Americans excessive?” which provides an overview to the issue in general. Researchers can access CQ Researcher through links in Minerva, the libraries online catalog.

The United States Congress has its own research unit, the Congressional Research Service (CRS) which provides background papers on almost every major issue which Congress considers. The CRS recently published a report, “NSA Surveillance Leaks: Background and Issues for Congress” which summarizes the NSA programs. This report as well as other CRS reports are accessible through the Gallery Watch CRS database. A link to the Gallery Watch database can be found by clicking on “databases” from the libraries homepage and then browsing the alphabetical list of databases.

The US Congress has also held committee hearings on this issue and a bill, Fourth Amendment Restoration Act of 2013, has been introduced regarding the issue. Text of the proposed legislation as well descriptions of the hearings can be easily accessed using the ProQuest Congressional database. A simple search for “NSA” will retrieve these documents as well as other publications of Congress dealing with the NSA and its programs.

The University Libraries have many books in their collections concerning the limits of government surveillance. Here are some recent books on the topic:

Marks, Ronald A. Spying in America in the post 9/11 world: domestic threat and the need for change. Santa Barbara, Calif.: Praeger, c2010. University Library JK 468 I6 M411 2010.

Brooks, Clem and Manza, Jeff. Whose rights? : counterterrorism and the dark side of American public opinion. New York: Russell Sage Foundation, [2013]. Dewey Library HV 6432 B76 2013.

Solove, Daniel J. Nothing to hide: the false tradeoff between privacy and security. New Haven [Conn.]: Yale University Press, c2011. Dewey Library KF 1262 S663 2011.

Research organizations and advocacy groups may also provide useful information on the topic. Here are a few worth consulting:

Berkman Center for Internet and Society at Harvard Law School

Center for Democracy and Technology

The Constitution Project

Electronic Frontier Foundation

If you are interested in researching this topic, contact our Public Policy Bibliographer, Richard Irving for assistance. He can be reached at 442-3698 or

Blog post created by Richard Irving and Aurora Becker

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