NSA Gets Its Very First Privacy OfficerBy: Zach Walton - January 29, 2014
The NSA has always been a controversial government agency as its actions are deemed to go too far at times. Even before the Snowden leaks, people were skeptical of the agency after it was revealed that its powers were abused in the Watergate scandal. You’d think the agency would have somebody around to double check its privacy practices long before Snowden was around, but that was not the case.
Following an order from President Obama last year, the NSA this morning announced that it has appointed a new privacy and civil liberties officer – Rebecca Richards. Richards will be the first person to fill this role as it’s an entirely new position within the agency. Once again, you’d think the agency that collects the communications of nearly every American would have a privacy officer, but this appointment just makes it more apparent than ever that the NSA really thought its programs would remain classified forever.
So, who is this Rebecca Richards? All we really know is that she was the Deputy Chief Privacy Officer at the Department of Homeland Security. She has also served as the agency’s Senior Director of Privacy Compliance since 2004. In short, she knows her way around privacy issues.
NSA Chief General Keith Alexander released a statement saying that Richards’ background with the DHS should serve the agency well:
“NSA continues to take positive actions to ensure we protect both civil liberties and national security,” Gen. Alexander 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. I’m confident that Ms. Richards is the right person with the right experience for the job. 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.”
With its new privacy officer in tow, the NSA can now make strides towards restoring the nation’s trust in its operations since the Snowden leaks began. It probably won’t do much until Congress can get around to dismantling the bulk metadata collection program, but it’s a start.
Image via NSA.gov