Timothy Edgar, a Bush- and Obama-era intelligence official and civil liberties lawyer, spoke Tuesday at the Yale Law School about a book he recently published, “Beyond Snowden: Mass Surveillance in the Shadow of Trump.” The book examines the intelligence community’s movement toward transparency both before and in the wake of the Snowden revelations of 2013.

The Information Society Project, a group within the Law School that studies technology, law and society, hosted the talk, which took place at noon on Tuesday. Speaking before a crowd of about 40, Edgar reflected on his efforts as a member of the intelligence community to establish oversight of government data collection and mass surveillance.

“We were doing a lot to unify different intelligence capabilities, both domestic and foreign, to fight the transnational threat of terrorism,” he said. “This posed real risks for our privacy and civil liberties… We missed the broader impact of mass surveillance on privacy.”

Edgar explained Tuesday that there was “a major shift in transparency” after the Snowden leaks, prompting changes that ultimately made government surveillance more respectful of citizens’ privacy. He pointed out that the National Security Agency’s strategy of making specific data queries instead of more sweeping information collection has yielded more pertinent information.

But he noted that “we should not be relying on individuals having to blow up the system” to achieve transparency.

Edgar argued that the intelligence community was becoming more transparent even before the Snowden revelations. He explained that during his time as an intelligence officer, the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court began to review and grant warrants for government wiretapping activity. This move placed government surveillance under greater judicial oversight.

Rebecca Crootof, the executive director of the Information Society Project, said she was proud that her organization hosted the talk.

“It is critically important to have these discussions and I’m very proud of the Information Society Project for continuing to host them,” she said. “We plan on having a lot more privacy and surveillance-related events coming up.”

The Information Society Project will celebrate its 20th reunion this October.

Keshav Raghavan | keshav.raghavan@yale.edu