Illegal surveillance, public outrage on privacy, Constitutional concerns … in many ways, the Watergate break-in and cover up sound like they could’ve happened last week.
Watergate, the incident that ultimately brought down the Nixon presidency, also opened a broader conversation on privacy in the 1970s. A key figure in the outcome from the Watergate exposure of Nixon’s recordings and surveillance was White House counsel John W. Dean.
Dean was dismissed by Nixon for defiance and later testified against the maligned president. Far from going away quietly, Dean has spent that past few decades hammering out books of historical reflection, working to shape legal frameworks on ethics, stirring the political pot on the Left and Right, and staying on top of the technology behind it all.
At the ABA TECHSHOW later this week in Chicago, we’re sponsoring Dean’s talk on ethics, legal tech and the connections between Watergate and today’s security and surveillance challenges. In preparation, we had a fascinating conversation with Dean – ranging from Edward Snowden, government contracts, the Constitution and VMs. We won’t spoil the details of his talk, entitled “Nixon’s Watergate Abuses: The Hackings That Forever Changed Legal Ethics.” But there was one quote that really stuck with us. In getting to the essence of privacy and surveillance, Dean sees a direct link from political snooping in the ‘70s to the NSA and ways attorneys and private citizens are protecting their information. Dean told us:
“Really, the issues haven’t changed. There’s little difference between surreptitious recording of phone calls in the ‘70s and the surveillance of information today. Between personal protection and the government’s obligations … encryption is going to be the bottom line.”
We sponsored the talk because of his distinct role and keen awareness of both the broad technological landscape and the ways the legal community needs to stay safe. And, for someone who’s been a lightning rod amid world-changing political events, Dean carries no shortage of intrigue. We’ve got a list of questions to kick-off our Q&A with him after his presentation, but we’d love for you to join the conversation (even if you can’t make it in-person to Chicago).
What would you ask him? Watergate, ethics, privacy, the NSA, encryption … it’s all fair game.
If you are going to the Tech Show, stop by our booth, #919. We’ve got a special offer for attendees to provide easy encryption starting at $1 (plus the requisite giveaways and goodies).