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EthicsInTech Invites NSA Official Anne Neuberger to NSA Comedy Tour 2.0

Neuberger (L) and Razavi.

Neuberger (L) and Razavi.

The founder of a tech-based activist group has invited a high-ranking NSA official to participate in a comedy tour highlighting surveillance, privacy and Fourth Amendment issues.

EthicsInTech, a San Francisco-based activist organization founded by BizCloud CEO Vahid Razavi, invited Anne Neuberger, director of the NSA Commercial Solutions Center and special assistant to Director Mike Rogers, to participate in the group’s NSA Comedy Tour 2.0.

Neuberger appeared in San Francisco last week, where she delivered an “Inside the NSA” presentation sponsored by The Long Now Foundation at the SF Jazz Center.

Acknowledging the agency’s “long and challenging year,” especially regarding Edward Snowden and his ongoing leaks of classified intelligence documents, Neuberger defended NSA actions as vital to America’s security.

She also detailed family experiences which instilled in her the value of a robust intelligence sector. Seven of her eight great-grandparents died in the Nazi death camp at Auschwitz. In 1976, when she was just a baby, Neuberger’s parents were passengers aboard the Air France jet that was hijacked to Uganda by international terrorists in Athens, Greece while en route from Tel Aviv to Paris. A daring Israeli commando raid at Entebbe rescued all but one of the hostages.

“My life would have looked very different had a military operation not brought my parents home,” said Neuberger. “It gives me a perspective on the threats of organized terror and the role of intelligence and counterterrorism.”

“My family history,” she added, “instilled in me almost parallel value systems — fear of potential for overreach by government, and belief that sometimes only government, with its military and intelligence, can keep civilians safe. Those tensions shape the way I approach my work each day. I fully believe that the two seemingly contradictory factors can be held in balance.”

Following Neuberger’s presentation and a question-and-answer session, Razavi presented her with the following letter:

Dear Special Assistant Neuberger: 

This is Vahid Razavi, I am an Iranian-American San Francisco Bay Area business owner and founder of Ethics In Technology.

Thank you very much for coming to speak in San Francisco concerning the work of the National Security Agency and the ways in which the organization strives for balance among a variety of imperatives. I appreciate your time, thought and efforts and the information you had to share tonight. 

I am working with a variety of local organizations to put on a fun, informative and non-biased event to educate the public about the issues surrounding the NSA metadata collection program. Our annual ‘NSA Comedy Night’ will take place at the Internet Archive, the building housing the data from the past few decades of cached websites.

This space has become a venue for professional and intellectual events and we would like to provide space for a civilized, reasoned discussion of these issues with representatives from varying points of view. We make the night humorous and encourage our speakers to tell jokes and use a casual, entertaining tone to draw in an audience and keep people interested. 

We would be honored to have you join us as a guest speaker that evening, to educate people in a non-politicized forum about what the NSA is actually doing and the rationale behind it. We would like to see the NSA’s organizational point of view represented by someone well-informed on the matter. 

Please let us know if you are available the evening of Tuesday, September 30th to join our event and discussion. We would be glad to have you as a speaker and panel member! 

Thank you again for visiting San Francisco and sharing your thoughts. 

Sincerely,
Vahid Razavi

In the past, the NSA Comedy Tour has featured performances by satirist Will Durst, “America’s Funniest Political Comedian,” and other comics. Journalist and media critic Norman Solomon and Silicon Valley entrepreneur and Internet Archive creator Brewster Kahle have also participated as panelists.

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