George W. Croner

Senior Fellow at the Foreign Policy Research Institute

George W. Croner is a Senior Fellow at the Foreign Policy Research Institute, where he conducts original research and produces nonpartisan security analysis. His specialties include U.S. national security law, electronic surveillance, and U.S. foreign intelligence collection practices.

Mr. Croner arrived at FPRI in 2018 after a distinguished career in private legal practice and government service.

During his tenure in government service during the 1980s, he held TS/SCI clearance — the U.S. government’s top security clearance — and served as lead counsel for the National Security Agency in several high-profile espionage prosecutions. Those included U.S. v. John Walker, U.S. v. Jerry Whitworth, U.S. v. Wu-tai Chin, and U.S. v. Ronald Pelton.

Mr. Croner represented NSA in an important civil matter as well: Westmoreland v. CBS, a defamation lawsuit that tested the limits of press freedom in active war zones.

While at NSA, George Croner also helped direct and oversee the agency’s FISA compliance processes and signals intelligence (SIGINT) operations. He also acted as the agency’s liaison to the White House and multiple Congressional committees on intelligence review and declassification matters related to the Iran-Contra affair. For his efforts, he earned two Defense Meritorious Service Medals and a personal letter of appreciation from President Ronald Reagan.

Mr. Croner’s tenure at NSA overlapped with his service in the Judge Advocate General (JAG) corps in the U.S. Navy, which ran from 1981 to 1988.

Croner left government service in 1988 to become a director and shareholder in the Kohn firm. Over the course of three decades with Kohn, he served as counsel for plaintiffs and defendants in several significant securities lawsuits. These included:

– Representing nearly 7,000 limited partners in a two-class action suit against Tele-Communications, Inc. in the U.S. District Court for the District of Colorado, securing a $6 million settlement in November 1995.
– Representing more than 500 municipal bondholders in a suit against the Duval County (Florida) Housing Finance Authority (November 1996).
– Representing plaintiffs in a class action suit against Marriott PLP Corp. and others, securing a settlement worth more than $22 million in January 1997.

George Croner retired from full-time practice in 2016 but remains ‘Of Counsel’ to the Kohn firm. Today, he spends most of his time working at FPRI, where he writes extensively on matters such as:

Section 702 of FISA, a vital but controversial intelligence collection program that Congress must periodically reauthorize
Investigations by DOJ and Congressional committees into Russian meddling in the 2016 U.S. elections
– DOJ and Congressional investigations into FISA warrants issued as part of DOJ’s Russian election interference investigation
– The tension between national security imperatives and legal protections for members of the press freedom in electronic surveillance activities
– The use of intelligence products obtained under FISA and general U.S. government intelligence collection capabilities
– The U.S. government’s use of state secrets privilege to restrict disclosure of information that could harm national security

George Croner remains a member of four bar associations, including the U.S. Supreme Court and the Supreme Court of Pennsylvania. He has the highest rating in the Martindale-Hubbell system (“AV”®).

Mr. Croner is a graduate of the U.S. Naval Academy (1975), the University of Pennsylvania Law School (cum laude, 1980), and the Naval Justice School (1981).

Where did the idea for your career come from?

My decades of experience working in private law practice, coupled with my role as principal litigation counsel at the National Security Agency (NSA), positioned me well for my current role. I now serve as Senior Fellow at the Foreign Policy Research Institute.

How do you bring ideas to life?

I bring my ideas to life by researching extensively and striving to express my views in the most appealing prose possible.

What is one habit of yours that makes you more productive?

For what I do, the key is exhaustive review and editing of what I write.

What advice would you give your younger self?

I would tell my younger self that working in any field without a frame of reference that captures your overarching values is not going to be satisfying.

Tell us something that’s true that almost nobody agrees with you on.

I believe that some form of compulsory national service would benefit both the individual and the civic health of the nation as a whole.

What is one strategy that has helped you grow your career?

What has helped me grow in my career is a constant effort to educate myself and broaden my expertise in those areas that are important to what I am trying to accomplish, whether as a lawyer or a commentator on national security and foreign intelligence matters.

What is one failure you had, and how did you overcome it?

I had a Navy duty assignment that simply did not appeal to my interests as a young lawyer. While the assignment wasn’t necessarily a “failure,” I “overcame” the situation by exhaustively searching the available Navy duty assignments until I found the job that actually completely reshaped my life — my work at the National Security Agency.

What is the best $100 you recently spent? What and why?

I purchased a pair of laceless golf shoes that can be tightened by a rotating dial on the shoe. This may not sound like much, but when you’re approaching 70 with a pair of replacement hips, it was a game changer.

What is one piece of software or a web service that helps you be productive?

I use generally available computer technology, both in terms of hardware and software.

What is the one book that you recommend our community should read and why?

I recommend “The Guns of August: The Outbreak of World War I” by Barbara Tuchman. A thorough history of the prelude to World War I, the book offers marvelous insights into the dangers of escalation that are quite relevant to the tensions existing in Europe today.

Key Learnings:

* working in any field without a frame of reference that captures your overarching values is not going to be satisfying

* To help grow your career, constantly educate yourself and broaden your expertise in those areas that are important to what you’re trying to accomplish.

* Bring your ideas to life by researching extensively and striving to express your views in the most appealing way possible.