An aerial view of the NSA. For the last two months, we’ve all watched the news about the National Security Agency and its friends over at the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court (FISC), which approves secret orders on behalf of the NSA and other spy agencies. But more often than not, a lot of these articles take the same basic structure: documents provided by NSA leaker Edward Snowden show X, and then privacy advocates and civil libertarians decry X for Y reason. That now raises the question, what would these privacy advocates do if they were put in charge of the NSA and the FISC? Or more specifically, what changes would they immediately enact at those two opaque institutions? Ars checked in with some of the best technical and legal minds that we know: Bruce Schneier, one of the world’s foremost cryptographers, and Jennifer Granick, an attorney and director of Civil Liberties at Stanford University’s Center for Internet and Society.

For a historical perspective, we chatted with Gary Hart, a former United States senator from Colorado who served on the Church Committee in 1976.

Its recommendations led to the creation of the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act (FISA) and the FISC. We also looked at recent public statements by the Electronic Frontier Foundation (EFF) and the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU). 5     

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