2014 Annual Student Symposium

Security vs. Freedom: Contemporary Controversies

Florida Student Chapter LogoThe University of Florida Levin College of Law’s Federalist Society Student Chapter hosted the 33rd National Federalist Society Student Symposium.

The Federalist Society Student Symposium attracts hundreds of law student members from across the country each year. This year's conference addressed contemporary issues in the perennial debate concerning where to draw lines among security, freedom and privacy.

Americans have been embroiled in debate regarding the boundaries between the freedom that defines us and the safety measures necessary to achieve that freedom. The issue is so divisive that individuals who share a large majority of their core beliefs can be bitter rivals regarding the line drawing in this debate. Now, more than a decade following the 9/11 terrorist attacks, balancing national security and personal freedom seems more challenging than ever.

With events like the Boston Marathon Bombings, leaks of confidential governmental information, and shifting global hostilities occurring seemingly daily, questioning our security and freedom are commonsense and responsible questions to explore. There are also a number of deeper issues that rarely emerge in our public debate, such as: Are security and freedom necessarily in opposition? Does the expression of one entail the truncation of the other? How do we strike a balance between them – i.e. where exactly is the middle ground between totalitarianism and the solitary, nasty, brutish, and short life?

The perennial debate regarding the reconciliation between security and freedom has not been the topic of a symposium since at least Harvard’s “Law and Freedom” conference in 2005, yet so much has changed in our world since then. We will critically explore this important topic in March 2014.


Introductory Remarks - Audio/Video
6:00 p.m.
J. Wayne Reitz Union

  • Mr. Devon Westhill, Chairman, Symposium Executive Committee
  • Dean Robert H. Jerry II, University of Florida Levin College of Law

Roundtable Discussion: “BALANCING PRIVACY AND SECURITY” - Audio/Video
6:15 – 8:00 p.m.
J. Wayne Reitz Union

This roundtable will address a wide range of issues and potential solutions to the challenges associated with balancing privacy and security in an increasingly technological world. In an era where individuals increasingly entrust their data to third parties, how can the right balance be struck between the government’s need to collect information, and the individual’s right to privacy in that information. Does the Fourth Amendment adequately protect an individual’s rights in an era of rapidly advancing technology, or should Congress play a more active role in regulating this space?

  • Mr. Ted Ullyot, Facebook
  • Mr. Steven G. Bradbury, Dechert LLP
  • Hon. Rachel L. Brand, Privacy and Civil Liberties Oversight Board
  • Prof. John Stinneford, University of Florida Levin College of Law
  • Mr. Julian Sanchez, Cato Institute
  • Moderator: Hon. William H. Pryor Jr., U.S. Court of Appeals for the Eleventh Circuit

8:15 – 9:15 p.m.
J. Wayne Reitz Union

Recent leaks of classified information have undermined the public’s confidence in the ability of their government to keep secrets. Government officials have alleged that these leaks have caused irreparable harm to America’s national security. However, while government officials criticize leaks, they oftentimes are complicit in leaking information when it serves their political interests. All experts seem to agree that some exposures undermine America’s ability to combat terrorism and counter other national security threats. But, other leaks are viewed as a form of whistleblowing and public accountability. Are there good leaks and bad leaks, and who decides? Should the U.S. government do a better job of protecting secrets? Should leakers be prosecuted? What about those media outlets and other entities who publish national security secrets, should they also be prosecuted?

  • Dr. Roger Pilon, Cato Institute
  • Prof. Nadine Strossen, New York Law School/ACLU
  • Moderator: Hon. Jerry E. Smith, U.S. Court of Appeals, Fifth Circuit

Cocktail Reception - Audio and video not available.
9:30 – 11:00 p.m.
University of Florida President’s House

  • Greeting from Congressman Ted Yoho
    United States House of Representatives
  • Special Video Greeting from Senator Marco Rubio
    United States Senator from Florida


Panel 1: “CYBERSECURITY AND THE NSA” - Audio/Video
9:00 – 10:45 a.m.
J. Wayne Reitz Union

The NSA acts pursuant to broad statutory authorities, and has interpreted those statutes to enable vast data collection programs. Two programs in particular, programmatic surveillance of the content of communications and bulk collection of metadata have become the subject of heated public and scholarly debate. Are these programs consistent with the NSA’s mission to gather foreign intelligence and to defend U.S. government information systems? Have the leaks about these programs jeopardized national security, or have they enhanced public accountability? Is there a better way to strike a balance between privacy and security?

  • Mr. Stewart Baker, Steptoe & Johnson
  • Prof. Randy Barnett, Georgetown University Law Center
  • Prof. Jeremy Rabkin, George Mason University School of Law
  • Moderator: Chief Justice Ricky Polston, Florida Supreme Court

Debate 2: “IS THE FISA COURT TOO SECRET?” - Audio/Video
11:00 – 12:15 p.m.
J. Wayne Reitz Union

The proceedings before the FISA Court are ex parte, and secret, prompting critics to argue that the court has become a rubber stamp, authorizing governmental activity without democratic accountability. Are activities conducted pursuant to FISA too secret? Does FISA require more oversight or accountability? Are there any feasible reforms that can effectively balance the need for foreign intelligence gathering against the rights of individuals who are surveilled? This debate will address these important questions.

  • Mr. Alex Abdo, American Civil Liberties Union
  • Prof. Gregory McNeal, Pepperdine University School of Law
  • Moderator: Justice Charles T. Canady, Florida Supreme Court

1:45 – 3:30 p.m.
J. Wayne Reitz Union

This panel will address the ongoing debate regarding trying, convicting and punishing suspected terrorists. Should military tribunals be abandoned in favor of trying individuals in Article III courts? A mere seven individuals held in Guantanamo Bay have been tried and convicted bQy military commissions, while DOJ reports that more than 500 individuals have been convicted of terrorism related offenses. What has prevented the trial of suspected terrorists held in Guantanamo Bay? Should military commissions for suspected terrorists and other enemies be abandoned or do they serve a valuable function?

  • Prof. Laura Donohue, Georgetown University Law Center
  • Prof. Deborah Pearlstein, Cardozo School of Law
  • Prof. Peter S. Margulies, Roger Williams University School of Law
  • Prof. Christopher Jenks, Southern Methodist University School of Law
  • Moderator: Hon. A. Raymond Randolph, U.S. Court of Appeals, DC Circuit

3:45 – 5:30 p.m.
J. Wayne Reitz Union

A key element of America’s national security strategy has been the use of drones to carry out targeted killings against suspected terrorists. Targeted killings have become increasingly controversial, critics argue that the strikes violate the sovereignty of the nations where the attacks occur, and when those strikes occur outside circumstances of armed conflict amount to extrajudicial killings in violation of international human rights law. The U.S. contends that the strikes are part of America’s armed conflict with al Qaeda, and therefore are lawful strategies pursued pursuant to that armed conflict. Under what circumstances does the President have the authority to order the killing of suspected terrorists? Does he require statutory authorization, such as an Authorization for Use of Military Force, or can he rely on his own inherent power? Is the President bound to abide by treaties and customary international law prohibitions on the use of force? What due process rights are U.S. citizens entitled to when the President chooses to use military force against them? May the President use force against suspected terrorists inside the U.S.?

  • Prof. Martin Flaherty, Fordham University School of Law
  • Prof. Rosa Brooks, Georgetown University Law Center
  • Mr. Gregory Katsas, Jones Day
  • Prof. Michael Stokes Paulsen, University of St. Thomas School of Law
  • Moderator: Hon. Eileen J. O'Connor, Pillsbury Law

7:00 – 10:00 p.m.
J. Wayne Reitz Union – Grand Ballroom

2014 Paul M. Bator Award Presentation - Audio/Video

  • Paul M. Bator Award Winner: Prof. Joshua D. Wright, George Mason University School of Law
  • Presented by: Mr. Zach Mayo, Vice President & Chair of the Bator Award, University of Chicago Law School Federalist Society Chapter
  • Introduction: Mr. Eugene B. Meyer, President, The Federalist Society

Keynote Address - Audio/Video

  • Hon. Michael B. Mukasey, 81st Attorney General of the United States
  • Introduction: Prof. Steven J. Willis, University of Florida Levin College of Law

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