In Defense of Stewart Baker

Thanks to a recent speech by Rep. Rahm Emanuel (D-Ill.) making fun of his (unofficial?) title at the Dept. of Homeland Security (“Director for Lessons Learned”) even my favorite bloggers are are piling on to attack Assistant Secretary for Policy Stewart Baker. I understand why it’s almost irresistible, but I think it’s wrong.

I am no close friend of Stewart Baker‘s, but I have had dealings with him over a period of years starting when he was the General Counsel of the NSA. I have a great respect for his intelligence, integrity and for his legal skill — three comments I would make about far too few members of the current administration. You want competence in government? This is your guy.

Stewart and I disagree on many many issues of substance, but unlike the man he currently serves, Stewart has always been willing to engage with his critics and indeed is a regular speaker at Computers, Freedom and Privacy — a place where his views regularly put him in a minority of little more than one.

There’s evidence for the proposition that the post-9/11 Baker is a lot more hard-line than the guy I got to know in the cryptography wars. I suspect our views today diverge even more than they did when I knew him better. Nevertheless, I would have far more confidence in this government, and sleep much better at night, if we had a government full of people of his caliber.

Leave off, guys.

UPDATE: Someone wrote in to say that the “director of lessons learned” is a Stuart Baker, who is not the Stewart Baker I know. Being in London with a very unreliable and slow wifi connection leeched off a nearby hotel, I lack the tools to verify/disprove this contention but thought I should mention it. Anyone who finds out more is invited to comment.

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3 Responses to In Defense of Stewart Baker

  1. dilbert dogbert says:

    Prof, This is somewhat off topic but what is your take that the NSA program has been used for domestic political inteligence gathering. My take is that if it has not already been used, it will be used in the future. Just as it is possible that some administration will bring the tanks to start shooting at the Supreme Court or the congress. Tis a very slippery slope we are on.
    You have some knowledge of the crypto now required by the political players to overcome the NSA systems so is it possible for our political players, press and all, to escape having all their mail read by their opponents?

  2. BroD says:

    Even if he’s the guy you think and as sterling as you suggest, you have to woner about his judgement: he is, shall we say, in the wrong place at the wrong time and a sitting duck.

  3. Fact Checker says:

    I know Stewart A. Baker, the assistant secretary of homeland security for policy, and am disturbed at how he is being confused with Stuart G. Baker, who — and this is part of the confusion — also worked at DHS, and who now works in the White House.

    I recently corrected an online Wiki entry on this subject:

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