Watson Institute for International and Public Affairs
Timothy Edgar

Timothy Edgar

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Timothy Edgar

Visiting Fellow in International and Public Affairs


Timothy H. Edgar is a visiting fellow at the Institute.  His work focuses on the unique policy challenges posed by growing global cyber conflict, particularly in reconciling security interests with fundamental values, including privacy and Internet freedom. He is also a contributing editor to "Lawfare: Hard National Security Choices," published in cooperation with the Brookings Institution.

Mr. Edgar served under President Obama from 2009 to 2010 as the first director of privacy and civil liberties for the White House National Security Staff, focusing on cybersecurity, open government, and data privacy initiatives. From 2006 to 2009, he was the first deputy for civil liberties for the director of national intelligence, reviewing new surveillance authorities, the terrorist watchlist, and other sensitive programs. From 2010 to 2012, he was counsel for the information sharing environment, which facilitates the secure sharing of terrorism-related information.

Prior to his government service, Mr. Edgar was the national security and immigration counsel for the American Civil Liberties Union from 2001 to 2006, where he spearheaded the organization's innovative left- right coalition advocating for safeguards for a number of post-9/11 counterterrorism initiatives, including the USA Patriot Act. He frequently testified before Congress and appeared in major television, radio, and print media.

Recent publications include “The Good News About Spying: Obama, the NSA and the Future of Intelligence,” Foreign Affairs (April 13, 2015), “Obama’s Former Privacy Director Decries America’s Data Security,” Wired (Jan. 21, 2015), “Big Transparency for the NSA” (op-ed), Wall Street Journal (Aug. 1, 2013), and a chapter in The ABA Cybersecurity Handbook (Rhodes and Polley, eds., American Bar Association 2013).

Mr. Edgar was a law clerk to Judge Sandra Lynch, United States Court of Appeals for the First Circuit. He has a JD from Harvard Law School, where he served on the Harvard Law Review, and an AB from Dartmouth College.


News|Recent News

With Friends Like These (by Timothy Edgar)

May 22, 2015 Lawfare Blog

Tim Edgar, visiting fellow in international studies, shares his take on the opposition to the USA Freedom Act, which many view as a workable compromise to the Patriot Act that preserves essential capabilities.


Surveillance Reform: Privacy Board Turns to E.O. 12,333 (by Timothy Edgar)

May 14, 2015 Lawfare Blog

Visting Fellow Timothy Edgar on Lawfare, "The job of lawyers and privacy officials is the intelligence community is to administer the two basic systems of oversight first established by the Church Committee reforms of the 1970s: the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act and E.O. 12,333."


The Good News About Spying (by Timothy Edgar)

April 14, 2015 Foreign Affairs

Timothy Edgar, visiting professor at the Watson Institute, explains that despite citizens' disapproval of the United States' surveillance programs, President Barack Obama has done much to protect civil liberties by way of transparency reforms.


Fishing Expedition (by Timothy Edgar)

March 2, 2015 Lawfare Blog

Visting Fellow Timothy Edgar in Lawfare: "It may be tempting for lawmakers to avoid hard decisions by extending the provision unchanged and letting the courts resolve the issue."