A Rule of Lenity for National Security Surveillance Law
Orin S. Kerr
The George Washington University Law School
October 20, 2014
100 Virginia Law Review 1513 (2014)
GWU Law School Public Law Research Paper No. 2014-29
GWU Legal Studies Research Paper No. 2014-29
This Essay argues that Congress should adopt a rule of narrow construction of the national security surveillance statutes. Under this interpretive rule, which the Essay calls a “rule of lenity,” ambiguity in the powers granted to the executive branch in the sections of the United States Code on national security surveillance should trigger a narrow judicial interpretation in favor of the individual and against the State. A rule of lenity would push Congress to be the primary decision maker to balance privacy and security when technology changes, limiting the rulemaking power of the secret Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court. A rule of lenity would help restore the power over national security surveillance law to where it belongs: The People.
Number of Pages in PDF File: 32
Keywords: surveillance, FISA, Snowden, NSA
JEL Classification: K1, K42
Date posted: May 9, 2014 ; Last revised: February 9, 2015
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