The Full Story
George W. Croner is a lawyer with over four decades’ experience in private practice and government service that embraced national security and defense matters.
Mr. Croner is recognized as a top expert on electronic surveillance collection for foreign intelligence purposes including, particularly, the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act (FISA). Though retired from active legal practice, he continues to write extensively on national security and foreign intelligence issues as a Senior Fellow at the nonpartisan Foreign Policy Research Institute (FPRI). Mr. Croner also serves as an advisor to the Center for Ethics and the Rule of Law (CERL) at the University of Pennsylvania, and lectures on FISA Section 702 at the Yale Jackson School of Global Affairs.
While serving as the principal litigation representative for the National Security Agency, Mr. Croner represented the NSA’s interests in multiple high-profile espionage prosecutions as well as a groundbreaking defamation lawsuit related to press reporting on U.S. intelligence collected during the Vietnam War.
Mr. Croner transitioned to private legal practice in 1988. From then until 2016, when he retired, he was a shareholder and director in the nationally recognized antitrust and class action law firm of Kohn, Swift & Graf. He continues in an “Of Counsel” role with the Kohn firm but is no longer involved in its day-to-day affairs.
George Croner: National Security Writing, Fellowships & Advisory Roles
After his retirement from active law practice in 2016, Mr. Croner renewed his interest in national security law and, particularly, FISA. His retirement coincided with the debate surrounding the congressional reauthorization of Section 702, the most controversial (and arguably the most important) intelligence collection provision of FISA.
Mr. Croner began writing on the 702 reauthorization debate and his first article, The Clock is Ticking: Why Congress Needs to Renew America’s Most Important Intelligence Collection Program was published in September 2017. He soon amassed an impressive collection of in-depth articles on Section 702 and related foreign intelligence issues. His byline has appeared in the Lawfare blog, Just Security (another widely read digital publication focused on matters of national security law), CERL’s blog and, recently, in Slate magazine.
In 2018, he was named a Senior Fellow at the Foreign Policy Research Institute (FPRI), cementing him as a key voice on national security issues. As a member of FPRI’s National Security Program, he produces original nonpartisan research and writing on FISA, signals intelligence, U.S. intelligence collection abroad, and the U.S. intelligence community’s role in the country’s broader national security policy. In addition to his other bylines, his work appears in FPRI’s house publications.
George Croner’s published work has covered:
The legislative effort to update and reauthorize Section 702 in 2017 and 2018. Congress approved the reauthorization in January 2018 and will revisit the issue again in 2023; Mr. Croner looks forward to another round of analysis.
The investigation by the U.S. Department of Justice into Russian interference in the 2016 elections.
Investigations by U.S. House and Senate committees into FISA warrants issued by DOJ during the Russian interference probe.
DOJ’s subsequent internal investigations into the FISA warrant process during the Russian interference investigation.
Various aspects of the alleged politicization of DOJ and the Intelligence Community during the Trump administration.
Issues related to the collection and seizure of journalistic materials by the U.S. government and general issues of press freedom in the age of electronic surveillance including, particularly, the legal issues surrounding the U.S. government’s efforts to extradite and prosecute Julian Assange.
Separating fact from fiction regarding the nature and extent of the government’s use of FISA surveillance authorities, including Section 702 collection, specifically in the context of the disclosures made by former NSA contractor Edward Snowden.
The nature and extent of the government’s invocation of the state secrets privilege to safeguard sensitive intelligence and national security information and protect against unauthorized disclosures.
He also has taught numerous continuing legal education (CLE) courses on FISA, Section 702, and the state secrets privilege.
Government Service & National Security Law Experience
George Croner’s career as a lawyer for the U.S. government included a four-year term of service in the Operations Division of the Office of General Counsel at the National Security Agency (NSA) (1984 to 1988). There, he supported oversight of NSA’s signals intelligence (SIGINT) operations and FISA compliance protocols compliance. He held the U.S. government’s highest security clearance (TS/SCI) during this period.
As NSA’s principal litigation representative, Mr. Croner represented the agency’s interests in four high-level espionage prosecutions:
U.S. v. John Walker
U.S. v. Jerry Whitworth
U.S. v. Wu-tai Chin
U.S. v. Ronald Pelton
He also represented the agency in Westmoreland v. CBS, a seminal defamation lawsuit brought by General William Westmoreland. Westmoreland v. CBS raised issues with critical national security implications around reporting of U.S. intelligence assessments of North Vietnamese troop strength at crucial points in the Vietnam War.
Finally, Mr. Croner was NSA’s designated representative for matters related to the Executive Branch’s review and declassification of intelligence related to the Iran-Contra investigation. Working closely with the White House, he supported the Tower Commission, the Office of Independent Counsel, and multiple congressional intelligence committees in their work on the affair. He earned a Defense Meritorious Service Medal (DMSM) and a personal letter of appreciation from then-President Reagan for his efforts in these matters.
Career in Private Practice
Mr. Croner left government service in 1988 and joined the Kohn firm, later becoming a director and shareholder of the firm. Over nearly 30 years in active practice there, he represented plaintiffs and defendants in complex litigation involving both individuals and classes.
Memberships, Education & Background
In retirement, Mr. Croner remains a member of the bars of:
The U.S. Supreme Court
The U.S. Court of Appeals for the Third Circuit
The U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of Pennsylvania
The Supreme Court of Pennsylvania
Mr. Croner has an “AV”® rating in the Martindale-Hubbell legal rating system (the system’s highest honor).
George Croner is a graduate of the U.S. Naval Academy (with distinction, 1975), the University of Pennsylvania Law School (J.D., cum laude, 1980), and the Naval Justice School (1980). He was a member of the Judge Advocate General's Corps of the U.S. Navy from 1981 to 1988, which included his service at NSA. He is currently a member of the Association of Former Intelligence Officers.