NSA hires privacy officer

The National Security Agency (NSA) has hired its first ever privacy and civil liberties officer.

ADVERTISEMENT
The appointment comes in response to an order from President Obama last year, as revelations began to emerge about the extent of the NSA’s surveillance activities.

Rebecca Richards, the former senior director for privacy at the Department of Homeland Security, will start work next month, the NSA said.

“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," NSA Director Gen. Keith Alexander said in a statement on Wednesday.

“As rules and oversight evolve over time, adding a single official who is dedicated to these issues will help us stay on top of changes and bring new perspectives to how we can best consider civil liberties and privacy while conducting our mission. I also expect Ms. Richards will work closely with civil liberties and privacy experts outside of government to bring additional innovative practices to our existing civil liberties and privacy programs."

Civil liberties proponents have criticized the NSA for its collection of records on virtually all Americans’ phone calls, its efforts to crack online codes and its work to tap into Internet communications channels. Last week, the Privacy and Civil Liberties Oversight Board, a small federal agency, said that the agency’s bulk phone records collection was illegal and should be ended.

Since calling for a privacy officer at the NSA and convening panels to evaluate the NSA’s efforts, Obama has announced additional reforms to the agency.

His changes, many of which require congressional approval, would also add a civil liberties advocate to the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court, which authorizes agencies’ surveillance, and transfer the records of phone data out of government hands, among other measures.