I am in Utah to speak at the Constitution Day celebrations at Utah Valley University and its conference on privacy in America. The conference is the latest national conference organized by the Center for Constitutional Studies. The speakers at the event include Governor Thomas Ridge, former Homeland Security Secretary, who gave a surprising speech that questioned the growth of the department and the raised concerns over the threat to privacy poised by recent disclosures of warrantless surveillance. Ridge repeatedly returned to expressing his trepidation over the sweeping assault on privacy as well as the lack of safeguards under the FISA court and existing laws.
Also speaking at the conference are Ambassador Doug Kmiec (Pepperdine), Robert O’Harrow (Washington Post), Marc Rotenberg (Georgetown), Catherine Crump (Stanford), Alessandro Acquisti (Carnegie Melon), and Daniel Hannan (Member of Parliament) as well as other intellectuals. It is an extraordinary array of experts in the fields of national security and privacy.
I was most struck by the remarks of Doug Kmiec who was once a strong defender of national security programs over privacy objections. Kmiec gave a heartfelt account of how he has come to reconsider his position in favor of privacy values. He spoke at length about the threat to privacy facing the country. Like Ridge, his objections to current national security programs surprised many in the audience.
It was also a delight to return to UVU and see the majestic mountains and valleys of this gorgeous area. I have had the pleasure of watch UVU grow rapidly and emerge as an intellectual center under the leadership of President Holland. UVU is now the largest university in the state and the new Center is an extraordinary addition to the academic institutions in the state. The University wisely selected Professor Rick Griffin as the founder and direction of the Center. While a Viking fan, Griffin has shaped this Center into a premier forum for the discussion of issues ranging from privacy to federalism to religious values in government. The Center continues to draw international figures to Utah to address different views on fundamental legal questions like privacy. The Center continues to distinguish both the UVU and its faculty as a catalyst for such discussions.
The focus on the loss of privacy in America revealed a strong alliance between both liberal and conservative scholars and experts in opposing the expansion of surveillance systems and databank systems in the United States. The conference showed that privacy concerns transcend political divisions that are so evidence in other areas. Virtually every participant expressed alarm over the loss of privacy, including Ridge who was the first Secretary of Homeland Security. There is no better way to honor Constitution Day.