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    Interesting Profiles on Counterterror Officials, Privacy Advocate

    There were a few profiles of interesting people, with ties to privacy issues, published in recent weeks.

    National Public Radio: What Keeps The Counterterrorism Chief Up At Night

    NPR has a profile of Mike Leiter, director of the National Counterterrorism Center.

    Mike Leiter’s job is trying to protect the United States from another Sept. 11.

    He’s the director of the National Counterterrorism Center, which puts him right in the middle of the controversy over the attempted bombing of an airliner over Detroit on Christmas Day — and how the Nigerian student accused in the attack was apparently able to walk onto a U.S.-bound plane with a bomb sewn under his clothing.

    The incident illustrates something Leiter says — no matter how much safer the U.S. has become, it’s impossible to guarantee security. […]

    The NCTC was established in 2004, partly in attempt to coordinate the sharing of information between more than 16 U.S. intelligence agencies and departments. Before the Sept. 11 attacks, Leiter said, the U.S. government was fairly criticized for a lack of communication across those groups. […]

    Cases of radicalized Americans are on the rise. The last few months have seen arrests of alleged terror plotters Najibullah Zazi and David Headley, as well as the detainment of five young American men in Pakistan. Leiter thinks it’s entirely possible there will be an increase in similar incidents, at least in the short term.

    “Like any criminal act, there’s a tendency among terrorists to do copycat acts of violence,” he said. “I think that potential is absolutely there and we have to be really attuned to that.” […]

    However, he said, “I don’t actually want people running around all day being worried that their neighbor or their friend is a radical terrorist, because the likelihood of that is still incredibly small.”

    CNet: Keeping Uncle Sam from spying on citizens

    CNet profiled Greg Nojeim, senior counsel at the Center for Democracy and Technology who has worked to protect civil liberties for years.

    During the first Gulf War, Greg Nojeim went to Washington National Airport to observe Arab Americans being pulled out of lines and put through security checks that weren’t required of other passengers. The evidence he gathered was used by his employer, the American-Arab Anti-Discrimination Committee, to sue Pan Am World Airways on allegations of racial profiling.

    Now an attorney with the Center for Democracy and Technology (CDT), he’s still fighting attempts to use national security as a justification to violate people’s constitutional rights and invade their privacy.

    Specifically, he analyzes proposed legislation, lobbies and testifies before Congress, and provides advice to companies and the government on civil liberties issues that arise in the technology world to protect the privacy of consumer activities and communications.

    “For about the last 15 years, my career has focused on the intersection of privacy, law enforcement and national security,” Nojeim said. “When I started at the ACLU in 1995, it was just a few weeks after the Oklahoma City bombing. Wiretapping and government surveillance were at the center of my issue portfolio. And Congress has been focused on those issues for years.” […]

    “Who wants to live in a world where the government can listen in on every communication without any evidence of crime?” he said. “The consequences of that are that people won’t communicate freely and the country would be very different as a result. Imagine how your conversation with a close personal friend would change if you knew someone else was listening. That’s what is at stake. That’s what needs to be protected.”

    GovInfoSecurity: Philip Reitinger, Deputy Undersecretary, Homeland Security National Protection and Programs Directorate

    GovInfoSecurity interviewed Homeland Security Official Philip Reitinger about privacy, security and the Einstein system (a Bush-era surveillance program continued under Obama, which monitors federal Internet traffic for intrusions).

    Einstein is an intrusion detection – and soon an intrusion prevention – system the government is deploying to safeguard government IT systems. Some cybersecurity experts contend Einstein has the potential to intrude on the privacy of individual Americans, a concern Philip Reitinger dismisses.

    Reitinger, deputy undersecretary of the Department of Homeland Security’s National Protection and Programs Directorate and director of the National Cybersecurity Center, says the only purpose of Einstein is to protect government networks.

    “To that end, it is not our intention to go out and seek things like personally identifiable information,” Reitinger said in the second of a two-part interview with “Our intent is instead, say, what constitutes an attack? What is malicious traffic? And when we see something that is malicious traffic, that is an attempt to compromise a government system, and quite conceivably impair the privacy of Americans who data is held or the people who are working on those government systems, that we can detect that and stop it, and do a better job of actually protecting privacy.”

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