Privacy chief picked at Justice

As had been widely expected, Attorney General John Ashcroft named a chief privacy officer for the Justice Department.

Ashcroft announced July 24 that associate deputy attorney general Dan Collins will advise senior department officials on privacy issues. Ashcroft listed several specific matters that Collins will address:

* The privacy implications of technologies used by law enforcement agencies in the investigation of crime.

* The department's obligation to comply with laws protecting the privacy of the information it acquires in the course of its operations.

* The department's responsibility to enforce existing laws protecting personal privacy from unlawful invasion, whether in the public or private sector.

* Consideration of new legislation or regulations to address important privacy issues.

"As new technologies and scientific developments emerge, we are faced with new challenges to citizens' privacy rights," Ashcroft said. "I trust him to make certain we are taking precautions to protect the right to privacy that every American deserves."

During a meeting in April, Ashcroft told privacy advocates that he was going to name a department privacy czar.

"It is not surprising that he took this seriously and followed up on his commitment to get somebody in place," said Ari Schwartz, a policy analyst for the Center for Democracy and Technology, a Washington, D.C., privacy group. "In the Senate, Attorney General Ashcroft took the issue of privacy very seriously. It was one of the major things he focused on."

The FBI's e-mail surveillance system, Carnivore, will be among the issues facing Collins in his new job.

"We're going to be watching that very closely," said David Sobel, general counsel for the Washington, D.C.-based Electronic Privacy Information Center. "Many of us who have formed an opinion of Carnivore's legality and constitutionality will be interested to see where he comes down on that issue. It might be the first serious assessment within the Justice Department on the legal issues involving Carnivore."

Carnivore, which the FBI now calls DCS1000, enables authorities to intercept electronic transmissions, such as e-mail. Ashcroft said he has asked Collins to conduct a review of DCS1000 and to make recommendations concerning the need for further modifications to the system.

Collins graduated from Harvard University and Stanford University Law School. He clerked for Judge Dorothy Nelson of the U.S. Court of Appeals for the 9th Circuit and for Supreme Court Justice Antonin Scalia. He was a partner at Munger, Tolles & Olson LLP, a Los Angeles law firm. He also served as an assistant U.S. attorney in Los Angeles in the mid-1990s.

About the Author

Christopher J. Dorobek is the co-anchor of Federal News Radio’s afternoon drive program, The Daily Debrief with Chris Dorobek and Amy Morris, and the founder, publisher and editor of the DorobekInsider.com, a leading blog for the Federal IT community.

Dorobek joined Federal News Radio in 2008 with 16 years of experience covering government issues with an emphasis on government information technology. Prior to joining Federal News Radio, Dorobek was editor-in-chief of Federal Computer Week, the leading news magazine for government IT decision-makers and the flagship of the 1105 Government Information Group portfolio of publications. As editor-in-chief, Dorobek served as a member of the senior leadership team at 1105 Government Information Group, providing daily editorial direction and management for FCW magazine, FCW.com, Government Health IT and its other editorial products.

Dorobek joined FCW in 2001 as a senior reporter and assumed increasing responsibilities, becoming managing editor and executive editor before being named editor-in-chief in 2006. Prior to joining FCW, Dorobek was a technology reporter at PlanetGov.com, one of the first online community centers for current and former government employees. He also spent five years at Government Computer News, another leading industry publication, covering a variety of federal IT-related issues.

Dorobek is a frequent speaker on issues involving the government IT industry, and has appeared as a frequent contributor to NewsChannel 8’s Federal News Today program. He began his career as a reporter at the Foster’s Daily Democrat, a daily newspaper in Dover, N.H. He is a graduate of the University of Southern California. He lives in Washington, DC.


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