Reports of NSA Spying on Mayer Brown Rattles Other Firms

February 18, 2014 – In The News

Scott L. Vernick was quoted in the Law360 article, "Reports of NSA Spying on Mayer Brown Rattles Other Firms." Full text can be found in the February 18, 2014, issue, but a synopsis is noted below.

Fears that the government is spying on law firms, prompted by a recent report of the National Security Agency (NSA) doing just that to one firm, could harm attorney-client relationships, forcing firms to complete costly security overhauls.

In a Saturday article, the New York Times reported a top-secret document leaked by Edward Snowden indicated the NSA’s Australian counterpart had monitored communications between Indonesian officials and the American law firm representing their government in a trade dispute with the U.S.

“The report confirms what attorneys have been scared about since Snowden began leaking information about U.S. government surveillance efforts in June, which is that their communications with clients abroad are being intercepted,” said Scott L. Vernick, a noted privacy attorney. “If lawyers weren't awake to the security concerns before, they will be now.”

Attorneys predicted that in the aftermath of the disclosure, many lawyers would likely be more cautious about email communications with overseas clients, perhaps opting to use letters or in-person meetings to disclose sensitive data instead.

“If the facts change and there is widespread evidence that the NSA is scooping up all emails that contain attorney-client privilege, then using email may not be a reasonable way to conduct client communications anymore,” Vernick said.