Every year the National Security Agency Office of General Counsel honors the men and women who work to ensure the rule of law is upheld throughout the NSA Enterprise. The 29th Annual Law Day Award Luncheon hosted Intelligence Community partners, past and present, and Senator Thomas Cotton of Arkansas addressed the NSA workforce and invited guests from the IC.
Cotton emphasized the importance of preparedness, integrity, justice, and adherence to the rule of law.
He challenged a room full of IC lawyers to think strategically and question conventional wisdom, "especially when that wisdom is comfortable and easy." He quoted theologians, professors, and world leaders, insisting that our nation's leaders must be prepared for all events during peacetime and wartime. It falls to us and our government, whether elected or career officials, to understand the world as it is, not as we might wish it to be."
Cotton also encouraged the audience to assure "your fellow citizens that your agencies conduct their missions in accordance with the law."
"I have this obligation as a senator, you all have this obligation as intelligence officers," he said.
He went on to explain some specific challenges that will be faced this year, "whether it is adequately funding our military and intelligence agencies," or, "reauthorizing section 702."
The work NSA does is not easy. But the NSA mission, "helps us understand the threats we face as a nation," which is essential said Cotton.
In order for this work to continue, the rule of law must be adhered to.
Cotton said US citizens are counting on their elected and career officials to act accordingly while protecting and defending the nation. "It's the most fundamental reason they hire us in the first place."
NSA also welcomed the former Office of the Director of National Intelligence General Counsel, Robert Litt, to the event. He was awarded the 2017 Intelligence Under the Law award for his exemplary service.
Upon receiving the award, Litt insisted that the rule of law resides, "at the core of America's identity." It is because of this principle that he was proud to serve alongside his IC partners.
He added, It was always clear to me that regardless of the troubles and criticism that NSA faced, this Agency remained fundamentally committed to operating within the law." Litt also reassured the workforce that he knows how committed NSA is to upholding this principle. "I don't think most of the world appreciates how deeply the rule of law is part of the culture here."
NSA General Counsel Glenn Gerstell shared how he is, "in awe of the extraordinary sense of mission and zeal for protecting our country that is displayed by really everyone in the agency."
"I have been especially pleased to see the level of commitment and dedication along with professional excellence daily evident among the attorneys in our own Office of General Counsel," Gerstell said.
At NSA, Law Day is a reflection, "of how important the law is to what the National Security Agency does every day," said NSA Director Admiral Mike Rogers.
"The strength of us as an organization not only is the capabilities of the motivated men and women who generate insights and knowledge that help ensure the security of this nation as well as our friends and allies, but the fact that that insight is always generated within a legal framework, and that we are totally committed to adhering to that legal framework. It goes to our very ethos, it goes to our very culture," said Admiral Rogers.
Watch our Law Day video playlist via the embedded video below, or launch our playlist on YouTube for access to all of the video clips from the 29th Annual Law Day Luncheon.