The National Security Agency has tapped a senior official within the Homeland Security Department to serve as its inaugural civil-liberties and privacy officer, NSA chief Keith Alexander announced Wednesday.
Rebecca Richards worked as the director of privacy compliance at DHS and has been with the department since 2004, according to her LinkedIn page. In her role she will “serve as the primary adviser to the Director of NSA for ensuring that privacy is protected and civil liberties are maintained by all of NSA’s missions, programs, policies and technologies,” according to the agency’s official job listing posted in September.
“After a rigorous and lengthy interview process, I’ve selected an expert whose background will bring additional perspectives and insight to our foreign intelligence activities,” Alexander said in a statement. “She will report directly to me and will advise me and our senior leadership team to ensure privacy and civil-liberties considerations remain a vital driver for all our strategic decisions, particularly in the areas of technology and processes.”
Some privacy and civil-liberties groups lambasted the NSA when it first announced the position — billed as a “completely new role” within the agency — several months after former contractor Edward Snowden began leaking documents exposing intimate details of the agency’s surveillance capabilities. Some remain skeptical that an officer housed within the NSA will be able to provide much real oversight on privacy matters.
Jeramie Scott, an attorney with the Electronic Privacy Information Center, said filling the position was “a positive step” for those clamoring for NSA reforms.
But he cautioned that Richards must “provide as much transparency as possible to the public regarding her ability to perform oversight and implement effective privacy protections” at the NSA, Scott said.
“Obviously, it’ll be a very tough job,” added Lee Tien, a lawyer with the Electronic Frontier Foundation. “Imagine all the technology you’d need to be on top of in order to even understand how the NSA’s operations affect people’s privacy.”
What We're Following See More »
"Senate Democrats on Thursday failed in their first attempt to save the state and local tax deduction, which helps many residents of California and other high-cost states reduce their federal income tax bills. The Republican-controlled Senate voted 52-47 to reject an amendment that would have prevented the Senate from considering any bill that repeals or limits the deduction as part of a planned tax overhaul."
"President Donald Trump's former campaign manager Corey Lewandowski appeared on Capitol Hill for a closed-door interview with the Senate intelligence committee Wednesday, according to a source familiar with the matter. Lewandowski is the latest senior official in Trump's orbit who has met with the committee as part of its investigation into Russian election meddling and possible collusion with the Trump campaign."
"A growing number of key Republicans are sending this message to the leaders of the congressional committees investigating potential Trump campaign collusion with the Russians: Wrap it up soon. In the House and Senate, several Republicans who sit on key committees are starting to grumble that the investigations have spanned the better part of the past nine months, contending that the Democratic push to extend the investigation well into next year could amount to a fishing expedition."