The National Security Agency (NSA) is recruiting a new head of civil liberties in the wake of the revelations by former employee Edward Snowden that it had been spying on US and European citizens with the help of Facebook, Google, Apple and Microsoft.
The intelligence agency has created the new role of civil liberties and privacy officer (CLPO) to ensure that “privacy is protected and civil liberties are maintained by all of NSA's missions, programs, policies and technologies."
The NSA asserts the new position is intended to ensure that protections continue to be baked into NSA's future operations, but some privacy advocates are questioning just how genuine the effort can be following disclosures that the agency intercepts and stores 1.7 billion emails, phone calls and other types of communications each day, according to the Washington Post.
The move was revealed by cyber security guru Bruce Schneier in his Schneier on Security blog. He told www.scmagazineuk.com that whether the role was meaningful or meaningless would depend on how much authority the CLPO had in reality. But other comments to the blog call the role “window dressing," “smoke and mirrors” and a “sinecure".
One commentator said: “This has to be the easiest job ever because nothing you would try to do would ever be implemented or indeed even matter.”
The move follows President Obama's promise last month, in the wake of Snowden's revelations, to reform the NSA and other US intelligence agencies to foster more openness.
Other initiatives include setting up a task force of high-level outside experts to review US surveillance technologies and strategies to maintain the public's trust. The NSA will present an interim report in October and a final report by the end of this year.
The CLPO will report directly to General Keith Alexander, the NSA director, and be charged with communicating with the public how the agency protects civil liberties and privacy.
The new role is high-level, commanding a salary of up to $173,000. Only US citizens need apply.