Presidential Memorandum — Delegating Authority under the National Defense Authorization Act for Fiscal Year 2017

At first reading I was scratching my head over this memorandum. It is so brief, with much of the language perfunctory legal stuff citing code and law as authority for the action, that it was impossible to figure out what it is about without more digging. Here is the primary operative paragraph of the memorandum:

“I hereby delegate to the Secretary of State the authority vested in the President by section 1287(c)(2) of the National Defense Authorization Act for Fiscal Year 2017 (Public Law 114-328) (the “Act”), to designate a senior official to develop guidance for the Global Engagement Center relating to relevant privacy and civil liberties laws, and to ensure compliance with such guidance.”

After doing a little online searching, I discovered the State Department announcement of the new Global Engagement Center just about a year ago. Then in July last year the State Department issued a fact sheet with more information about the center. Its purpose according to that statement: “The Global Engagement Center is an interagency entity, housed at the State Department, which is charged with coordinating U.S. counterterrorism messaging to foreign audiences.” It also states the Center was officially created by an executive order in March 2016.

After finding those details, it is a bit more clear that the memorandum is articulating the need to pay attention to privacy and civil liberty laws in the work of the Global Engagement Center.

The next paragraph of the memorandum is interesting.

“Any reference in this memorandum to the Act shall be deemed to be a reference to any future Act that is the same or substantially the same as such provision.”

Perhaps I just don’t have enough experience following these memoranda and the above sentence may be somewhat routine, but it does not seem to be so. It appears to be a preemptive action to guard against future changes to the law that might weaken this concern for privacy and civil liberty in these communication efforts.

Memorandum posted January 17, 2017

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