NSA gets its first civil liberties and privacy officer

Former Homeland Security official Rebecca Richards is said to have new role

The National Security Agency has reportedly appointed Rebecca Richards, a former deputy privacy official at the Department of Homeland Security, as its first privacy officer.

Richards will start her new role next month, according to a blog post Tuesday by former deputy assistant secretary at the DHS Paul Rosenzweig.

An NSA spokeswoman would neither confirm nor deny Rosenzweig's report. Instead, she pointed to comments by President Obama last August about the NSA's taking steps to install a full-time civil liberties and privacy officer following NSA contractor Edward Snowden's leaks about the agency's surveillance practices.

The NSA spokeswoman confirmed that the appointee would start in the new role next month. Additional details would become available today, she said.

As the NSA's Civil Liberties and Privacy Officer, Richards will be responsible for ensuring that adequate controls are implemented at the agency to receive, investigate and respond to civil liberties and privacy complaints raised by individuals and entities against the NSA.

Richards will provide advice and guidance to the NSA sirector and senior leadership to ensure that the agency's activities are fully compliant with all privacy and legal requirements, according to a job description posted by the NSA last September.

She will also be responsible for overseeing and explaining the NSA's privacy controls to the public and to stakeholders within the U.S. government and the intelligence community.

The NSA advertised the job position last September. At that time, the agency said it was looking for someone who was both well known and highly regarded by privacy and civil liberties professionals in the U.S.

The position, described by the agency as a "completely new job" is based at the NSA's headquarters in Fort Meade, Md., and has a salary of up to $173,000 annually.

Richards' new job combines what until now have been two separate functions for privacy and civil liberties at the agency.

The job is the result of an effort by the Obama administration to provide greater transparency to the NSA's surveillance programs following Snowden's leaks about the agency's practices. Since the leaks began, the agency has declassified some of the information pertaining to its domestic data collection activities under Section 215 of the U.S. Patriot Act.

Earlier this month, the president announced a series of modest proposals aimed at further reforming the NSA's activities in the U.S. and abroad.

The proposals included one that would prohibit the NSA from collecting or storing phone metadata records on U.S. residents and another that would require the agency to get court approval to search through the records.

This article, NSA gets its first civil liberties and privacy officer, was originally published at Computerworld.com.

Jaikumar Vijayan covers data security and privacy issues, financial services security and e-voting for Computerworld. Follow Jaikumar on Twitter at @jaivijayan or subscribe to Jaikumar's RSS feed. His e-mail address is jvijayan@computerworld.com.

See more by Jaikumar Vijayan on Computerworld.com.

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