Law expert addresses NSA scandal, privacy, surveillance issues in America


Thursday night in the K-State Student Union’s Little Theater, Marjorie Cohn, a professor of law at Santa Clara University, spoke to an audience of students and Manhattan residents about the newly uncovered secrets of the National Security Agency (NSA). Her speech, titled “Edward Snowden, Whistleblowers and the culture of Surveillance” provided insight into the events surrounding the government and surveillance issues facing the nation.

Cohn lectures around the world giving speeches on human right issues and constitutional rights and is a frequent guest on BBC, MSNBC and Fox News. She is also former president of the National Lawyers Guild and is on the Board of Governors of the Society of American Law Teachers.

She talked specifically about Snowden, Bradley Manning and her concerns regarding the government keeping secrets from the American public. She was outspoken about her opposition to President Obama and his increased utilization of the Patriot Act, and she called attention to the faulty actions of the government in general.

“I think that the American people don’t understand what the government is doing and that soon we will have no privacy left…this gives new meaning to the term overkill, and it’s a tremendous invasion of privacy,” Cohn said.

Aram Kokuzian, freshman in history and pre-law, was drawn to the event because of his interest in the story surrounding Snowden and the NSA.

“I have always been interested in whistleblowers and have really been tied to the Snowden case,” Kokuzian said. “She brought to my attention many new sources of information, and I feel more resolute in what is going on.”

The event was sponsored by the Manhattan Alliance for Peace and Justice (MAPJ), which advocates for human rights and strives to educate the public about peace and social justice.

Brenda Mayberry, a coordinator for MAPJ, believes this event will bring awareness to students and members of the community. She was a fan of Cohn’s writing before Thursday night, and she said Cohn’s talk furthered her interest in human rights.

“I really liked her speech, and I have read a lot of her stuff,” Mayberry said. “She is well-written and does her research well.”

Cohn also shared her thoughts about how freedom of the press could be damaged by these unveiled secrets.

“Radical changes in media ownership, coupled with the Obama administration’s pension for secrecy and control of information, pose a threat to the free press,” Cohn said.

Cohn sounded a call to action to average American citizens to contribute their opinions openly about the actions of the government. Some examples of this, she noted, are gathering in outspoken groups, writing opinions in to newspapers and expressing thoughts through other social media outlets.

“Our politicians and president respond to one thing: oppression. And that means we all have to be working in our own individual way,” Cohn said. “It is the duty of citizens in a democracy to speak out.”