Civil Liberties & Privacy Overview


Each day, NSA  reinforces public trust and confidence by leading the integration of civil liberties and privacy protections throughout the agency and strengthening initiatives to be more transparent with the public. In doing so, NSA upholds civil liberties and privacy values while protecting America and its allies through our Office of Civil Liberties, Privacy, and Transparency (CLPT) Office. Additionally, as an element of the U.S. Intelligence Community, NSA builds systematic and holistic civil liberties and privacy processes into agency activities, while ensuring NSA leaders are advised on civil liberties and privacy issues.

In support of the Office of the Director of National Intelligence’s (ODNI) Intelligence Community Transparency Principles, NSA communicates with the public, overseers, and stakeholders to ensure information is publicly available to enhance their understanding of the Agency’s civil liberties and privacy protections.

NSA collaborates with all three branches of the U.S. Government including elected officials, Members of Congress, the Privacy and Civil Liberties Oversight Board, and other federal agencies to ensure  it accomplishes key national security missions in defense of the nation while operating within its authorities. Equally important, NSA’s discussions with experts among civil liberties and privacy groups and with the public and private sector help the agency to better understand their concerns and to bring best privacy practices from government and industry to NSA, adapting them to meet unique mission needs.

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 Why did NSA create the Office of Civil Liberties, Privacy & Transparency (CLPT)?

As part of a presidential initiative for foreign intelligence reforms, NSA created a full-time Civil Liberties and Privacy Office in August 2013 to give the public greater confidence in the oversight of foreign intelligence programs. The office was created to help the Agency advance national security while protecting the freedoms, civil liberties, and privacy rights guaranteed by the U.S. Constitution and federal law. Several functions performed by CLPT already existed within NSA; however, this change brought various responsibilities together under a single office to ensure that privacy and civil liberties considerations remain a vital driver for the Agency’s strategic decisions, particularly in the areas of technology and processes.

 What does NSA’s Office of Civil Liberties, Privacy & Transparency do?

CLPT advises the NSA Director on how best to ensure senior leaders consider civil liberties and privacy protection requirements when making strategic decisions about operations, tradecraft, technology, policy, and resources. The office carries out its mission by pursuing five major goals:

1. Advise leadership - Independently advise the NSA Director and other senior leaders on civil liberties and privacy issues to inform strategic decisions.

2. Maintain a civil liberties and privacy framework – Ensure a systematic and holistic civil liberties and privacy framework that is fully integrated in agency processes and procedures governing mission planning and operations. This includes developing a civil liberties and privacy assessment process that is embedded as a foundational element to support NSA activities.

3. Continue professional development – Provide training and guidance to NSA affiliates that increases their understanding of CLPT’s mission while maintaining a civil liberties and privacy aware workforce.

4. Reinforce transparency - Enable a greater understanding of NSA missions, plans, programs, and operations by Executive and Legislative branch oversight organizations and by the public. Implement ODNI’s Intelligence Community Transparency Principles while working with NSA mission elements to ensure the protection of sources and methods.

5. Examine the use of technology - Improve the efficiency and effectiveness of civil liberties and privacy protection activities through research, technology, and best-practice analysis and implementation.