All posts by Elizabeth Rindskopf Parker

Dean Elizabeth Rindskopf Parker has served as dean of Pacific McGeorge since July 2002. A widely-published scholar and frequently-cited expert on matters of national security law and terrorism, she served in key federal government positions, most notably as general counsel for the National Security Agency, principal deputy legal adviser, Department of State, and general counsel for the CIA. Dean Parker currently serves on the National Academy of Sciences’ Roundtable on Scientific Communication and National Security, and the U.S. Public Interest Declassification Board.


For many of us, the cyber threat to U. S. national security is amorphous and not easy to comprehend. At the same time, in the last two years of the Bush administration and through the first year of the Obama presidency, cybersecurity has been characterized as “one of the most urgent national security problems facing the new administration.”1 Our cyber systems have increasingly been infiltrated in recent years by malefactors with widely ranging motivations and associations. Experts point to stunning amounts of sensitive material lost to cyber thieves.

Given the increasing dependence on cyber technology, the vulnerabilities within insecure cyber networks are hard to quantify and even harder to understand and protect against. We have devoted the current issue of the Journal of National Security Law & Policy (JNSLP) to cyber threats in an attempt to raise awareness and focus national debate on what should be done in a variety of contexts to improve cybersecurity.

Many have helped in this project, but particular thanks go to Gary Sharp, special editor for this issue, who conceived the idea and did much to shape its content. Thanks are also due to Richard Shiffrin, who graciously served as an unofficial editor of this special issue, reviewing and critiquing significant amounts of material.

For many reasons, the collection of views presented in this issue is especially timely. By any measure, developing and implementing a forward-looking cybersecurity policy is among the most compelling items on the Obama administration national security agenda. It may also be the most complex. Developing such a policy requires a sophisticated understanding of the technology, interests, and motivations involved in perpetrating cyber attacks, on the one hand, and an appreciation of the tradeoffs implicated in decisions to create new authorities and institutional arrangements for cyber defense, on the other. That the Administration has not yet implemented a blueprint for action, despite the issue’s priority, may simply reflect its understanding that, given the intricacies of the threat and its management, leadership means showing restraint, rather than acting precipitately.

Attached Files:

National Security Advice for a New Administration: Initial Thoughts

It was the best of times, it was the worst of times, it was the age of wisdom, it was the age of foolishness . . . in short, the period was so far like the present period, that some of its noisiest authorities insisted on being received, for good or for evil, in the superlative degree of comparison only.1


The opening phrase in Charles Dickens’s Tale of Two Cities nicely captures the national security challenges confronting the nation as a new administration takes office. After the stunning failures of the preceding Administration, Obama’s inauguration in November 2008 was greeted with euphoria. Obama’s bearing, approach and outlook seemed to offer a “just in time” rescue for national security policies run aground. Now, as the dayto- day reality of governing sets in, it is increasingly clear that the nation will need every bit of the new President’s heralded thoughtfulness and calm. Obama seems an excellent example of Ernest Hemingway’s definition of courage as “grace under pressure.” Even without considering the economic debacle confronting the world and its impact on global markets, the national security concerns confronting the United States as the world’s leading power are daunting.

The new President will need the best advisors. Time will tell if the national security team being assembled is suited for the job and capable of functioning well together. The team brings a diverse combination of expertise, backgrounds, and differing perspectives critical for forging new solutions in response to a dynamic environment.2 The team’s diversity offers hope that the new Administration can avoid the central problem of the Bush administration: narrow ideological focus with little tolerance for differences in opinion. Bush’s “Global War on Terror” led to an unproductive, one-dimensional approach to foreign policy. Hopefully, the Obama administration will have the vision needed for the most important task at hand: to design novel, fact-based responses to crucial national security issues at hand, rather than viewing them simply through the interpretive prism of the “Global War on Terror.”

And so, when answering V. I. Lenin’s classic question of “what is to be done”3 with our national security policy the answer is simple: systemredesign. For the United States to retain its position as the world’s superpower, “spot-welding” is not enough.


The Obama administration inherits a set of intractable national security issues that cannot be ignored. A course of action cannot be charted without an understanding of where we have been. Starting with a clean slate is not an option. Still, the Obama administration must do more than simply react to inherited crises. Rather than falling into a reactive mode, President Obama and his team must design a clear concept for the future into which current actions fit. This will not be an easy task. The following is my “Top-Ten List” of the national security concerns that the Obama administration inherits from its predecessor.

A. Russia

What should the United States relationship be with Russia, a giant power? Long the guarantor of stability in its region – albeit using means antithetical to Western values – Russia remains the dominant state among those of the former Soviet Union. With the end of the Cold War, Russia has become increasingly defensive and belligerent. These tendencies were exacerbated by the Bush administration’s policy of North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO) expansion and what Russia would describe, not without basis, as “U.S. meddling” among its former client states. In recent years, Russia’s foreign policy has become increasingly bold. Ironically, today Russia’s strength comes not from its military power, but from the economic power created by its vast energy resources. Economic downturn threatens this new strength, and Russian leadership will be challenged both domestically and internationally. How will Russia respond to growing instability as the economic downturn worsens? Will Russia respond with aggression or will it adopt the approach of a cooperative partner with shared concerns and needs? Our national security policy can influence this evolving relationship.


Why a Journal of National Security Law & Policy?

New periodicals and law journals, if not commonplace, are still far from unknown. The arrival of this inaugural issue of the Journal of National Security Law & Policy is particularly noteworthy, however, because of the circumstances that have produced it and the need it seeks to address: bringing national security practitioners, lawyers, and scholars into conversation about the evolving relationship between law and national security. It is worth reflecting on the circumstances that make the arrival of this new journal so timely and important.