Protecting Civil Liberties and the Nation

Thursday, Oct 22, 2015   |   12:15 PM - 1:30 PM   |  Sid Richardson Hall Room 3.122

The Civil Liberties Protection Officer for the Office of the Director of National Intelligence (ODNI) Alex Joel discussed protecting civil liberties at the University of Texas. 

During an October 22, 2015 presentation to UT students and faculty, the Civil Liberties Protection Officer for the Office of the Director of National Intelligence (ODNI), Alex Joel, explained his unique position in the intelligence community (IC), the DNI’s new transparency initiative, and the nature of modern intelligence oversight.  Mr. Joel stressed that the DNI’s plans to increase transparency in the IC will be balanced against the need for IC agencies to protect certain secrets to accomplish their missions.


Mr. Joel enumerated four principles that will guide IC transparency efforts: 1) describe the intelligence mission, the rules the IC follows, and the system of oversight in place; 2) explain in straightforward terms how the IC goes about conducting its mission; 3) defend the IC’s continuing need to protect its sources and methods of operation; and 4) apply these principles evenly over time to institutionalize transparency in US intelligence practice.

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Mr. Joel, the first official to hold the post of ODNI Civil Liberties Protection Officer, also described the laws, executive orders and internal guidelines that govern U.S. intelligence activities and that serve to safeguard Americans’ privacy rights and other civil liberties.  During a question and answer session, Mr. Joel defended the independence and rigor of the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court in reviewing government applications to conduct electronic surveillance.


Hosted by Brumley Fellow Eric Manpearl (joint JD/MPAFF), Mr. Joel participated in a breakfast colloquium with program fellows and faculty sponsors, and shared his background, education, and the path that led to a career in public service.  The same afternoon, Mr. Joel met with students in the ISP-sponsored Professional Research Program on “Intelligence in American Society”.  ODNI serves as the policy “client” for this year-long research and writing seminar.


 Full video of the session can be accessed here:





Reporting directly to the Director of National Intelligence, Mr. Joel's responsibilities include ensuring that the protection of privacy and civil liberties is appropriately incorporated in Intelligence Community policies and procedures, overseeing compliance by the ODNI with privacy and civil liberties laws, reviewing complaints of possible abuses of privacy and civil liberties in programs and operations administered by the ODNI, and ensuring that the use of technology sustains, and does not erode, privacy.

Mr. Joel has more than a decade of experience with privacy, technology, and national security law. Mr. Joel was motivated to enter public service following 9/11. He joined the Central Intelligence Agency's Office of General Counsel in October 2002, where he provided legal advice relating to intelligence activities.

Prior to joining the government, Mr. Joel served as the privacy, technology, and e-commerce attorney for Marriott International, Inc., where he helped establish and implement Marriott's global privacy compliance program, including the creation of Marriott's first privacy officer position. Before that, he worked as a technology attorney at the law firm of Shaw, Pittman, Potts & Trowbridge in Washington, D.C. (now Pillsbury Winthrop Shaw Pittman), and as a U.S. Army Judge Advocate General Corps officer, with assignments that included prosecutor and criminal defense counsel.