Washington Life Magazine
Washington Life Magazine


In the aftermath of 9/11, there has been great concern about the privacy of individuals in terms of how the U.S. Government uses, collects and discloses information in the name of national security. At just 36, Nuala O'Connor Kelly serves as the country 's first chief privacy officer for the Department of Homeland Security (DHS). Insiders claim that she has proven herself effective in handling complex privacy issues. She is known to be sensitive about profiling and unnecessary harassment or questioning of people based on religion or ethnicity, while still being tough on terrorism. Last year, she found that the TSA (Transportation Security Administration) and DHS were in violation of federal privacy law when they compelled JetBlue Airlines to turn over all customer data. She holds an undergraduate degree from Princeton, a Master's from Harvard, and a J.D. from Georgetown University.

You grew up in Ireland, where terrorism is an issue. How do you think that affected your response in this country?
I saw first hand as a child in Northern Ireland how governments respond to terrorism and to people who fall into the category of suspected terrorists. It can be demeaning and debilitating. This is our chance, and I want to make sure we get it right.

In terms of privacy, do you think George Orwell was right in “1984”? Is Big Brother watching?
We should all want to guard against a world in which government (or anyone) knows everything about us.

Why are you a Republican?
I believe in a smaller, limited government. I think we should give people the tools to make themselves successful.

What is your favorite restaurant?

What do you for fun?
Travel, scuba dive, get my nails done, meet with friends for coffee and spend time with my ten-month old baby, Nora.


Styling and makeup by Patricia Martinez
Photo by Douglas Sonders


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