NSA Looking for New Top Lawyer
Looking for a change of career? Excited by the world of communications intercepts, network protection, cryptography, cryptanalysis and surveillance? Got legal training? The super-secret National Security Agency is hiring.
If you scour MSN CareerBuilder — in employee searches as in other endeavors, the agency casts a wide net — you’ll find the NSA advertising its need for a new top lawyer. Potential candidates will “Interpret all statutes, Presidential Directives, and Executive and Legislative Branch Regulations, and provide legal advice and counsel to the Director and Senior Leadership Team with respect to the authorities for NSA/CSS cryptologic activities and the conditions and restrictions thereon.” So it’s not just James Clapper, the undersecretary of defense for intelligence, who may get a new senior intelligence job shortly.
What this means for NSA operations is unclear. Just last week, Director Keith Alexander gave a rare speech at the Center for Strategic and International Studies that underscored the centrality of lawyers to the agency’s wide-ranging surveillance operations. “Every action that we take,” Alexander said, “we have legal reviews of it all the way up and down.” I’m awaiting formal comment from NSA on the vacancy and the circumstances behind it; presumably it has an acting general counsel in place.
And this is a delicate time for NSA to be without a senior legal adviser. Last month, the military officially created the first-ever military command to operate in cyberspace, U.S. Cyber Command, and it’s co-located with the NSA at Fort Meade in Maryland. (Alexander is also Cyber Command’s first leader.) In April, the former director of national intelligence, Dennis Blair, conceded that the legal and policy authorities distinguishing Cyber Command from the intelligence community have yet to be fleshed out.
“The absence of a general counsel introduces a shade of uncertainty into the process which needs to be correct,” said Steve Aftergood, an intelligence policy expert at the Federation of American Scientists. “NSA operations are law-intensive activities. They don’t make a move without clearing it with their legal people.”