The Director of National Intelligence (DNI) “is committed to protecting civil liberties and privacy, which are foundational principles of our Nation’s democratic society, preserved in the Constitution of the United States, and guaranteed in Federal law,” says an August 31, 2012 Intelligence Community (IC) Directive on Civil Liberties and Privacy. Signed by DNI James R. Clapper, the directive also outlines the establishment of oversight mechanisms and procedures for redress of alleged violations.

The DNI directive does not include definitions for either privacy or civil liberties, and according Steven Aftergood at Secrecy News, the directive’s “practical meaning is somewhat elusive.”  He writes:

  • “’Intelligence activities shall be conducted in a manner that protects civil liberties and privacy,” the directive states. But that seemingly categorical statement is rendered ambiguous by the very next sentence:

  • “The IC shall protect civil liberties and privacy in a manner that enables proper intelligence integration and information sharing and safeguarding.’”

In 2004, Congress passed the Intelligence Reform and Terrorism Prevention Act (IRTPA), which was aimed at reforming the intelligence community after 9/11 and created the position of Director of National Intelligence (DNI). Under IRTPA, the DNI’s Civil Liberties and Privacy Office (CLPO) is responsible for ensuring that the protection of civil liberties and privacy is appropriately incorporated in the policies of the IC, and reviewing complaints about potential abuses of privacy and civil liberties in DNI programs and activities.  The law, privacy groups argue, grants the IC greater powers to wage war against terrorism at the expense of civil liberties.