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Yet what may be our most valuable contribution is a series of recommendations on national security transparency policies for the future, including publishing declassified Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court opinions with significant implications for Americans’ liberties, putting at the surveillance court’s disposal a corps of outside advocates to present the other side of those cases that are important to Americans’ privacy and liberties, and calling upon Congress, when adopting or interpreting laws that impose surveillance on Americans, to announce the “purpose and framework” of those laws (without revealing sensitive operational details).

Happily, all of these transparency recommendations, except for the congressional requirement, were unanimous. Indeed, one highly placed intelligence community leader told us that, in retrospect, he wished the government had just told the American people back at the beginning what it was doing in the Section 215 program, which would have saved so much trouble.

We are now having the overdue public debate that our unique form of representative democracy demands. We think this bodes well for our country’s future.

David Medine is chairman of the Privacy and Civil Liberties Oversight Board, of which Patricia Wald, a retired federal appeals court judge, is a member.