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Former NSA inspector general joins MIT Center for International Studies

Headshot of Joel Brenner
Joel Brenner

Joel Brenner, former inspector general and senior counsel at the National Security Agency (NSA), has joined the MIT Center for International Studies (CIS) as a 2014-2015 Robert E. Wilhelm Fellow.

Brenner specializes in cyber- and physical security, data protection and privacy, intelligence law, the administration of classified information and facilities, and the regulation of sensitive cross-border transactions. He is the author of "America the Vulnerable: Inside the New Threat Matrix of Digital Espionage, Crime, and Warfare," available in paperback as "Glass Houses: Privacy, Secrecy, and Cyber Insecurity in a Transparent World."

While at MIT, Brenner will be working on intelligence and security issues related to foreign affairs. He is particularly interested in intelligence collection, privacy, and secrecy as emerging issues in international relations and in the potential for curbing state-sponsored theft of intellectual property.

“Dr. Brenner is a thoughtful and deeply engaging policy intellectual, and we are delighted he has joined our community,” says Richard Samuels, the Ford International Professor of Political Science and director of CIS. “Our faculty and graduate students look forward to engaging with him as we study the challenges of intelligence, secrecy, and privacy in contemporary international affairs.”

Brenner was at MIT last year as a guest speaker for a Starr Forum: “The ‘Snowden Affair’: Intelligence and Privacy in Wired World.” The public event, hosted by CIS, attracted a capacity audience of about 200 people. Other speakers included former U.S. ambassador Chas Freeman and Susan Chira of The New York Times. Admiral William Fallon, former head of CENTCOM and a former CIS Robert E. Wilhelm Fellow, moderated the event.

As NSA’s senior counsel, Brenner advised agency leadership on the public-private effort to create better security for the Internet. Prior to that, from 2006 until mid-2009, he was the head of U.S. counterintelligence under the director of national intelligence and was responsible for integrating the counterintelligence activities of the 17 departments and agencies with intelligence authorities, including the FBI and CIA and elements of the departments of Defense, Energy, and Homeland Security. From 2002-2006, Brenner was NSA’s inspector general, responsible for that agency’s top-secret internal audits and investigations. He has also served as a prosecutor in the Justice Department’s antitrust division and has extensive trial and arbitration experience in private practice.

Brenner holds a JD from the Harvard Law School, a PhD from the London School of Economics, and a BA from the University of Wisconsin at Madison.

A generous gift from Robert E. Wilhelm supports the Center's Wilhelm fellowship. The fellowship is awarded to individuals who have held senior positions in public life and is open, for example, to heads of non-profit agencies; senior officials at the State Department or other government agencies, including ambassadors; and senior officials from the UN or other multilateral agencies. Previous Wilhelm fellows include: ambassadors Barbara Bodine and Frances Deng, U.S. Admiral William Fallon, and Yukio Okamoto, a former special advisor to the prime minister of Japan.

MIT's Center for International Studies, a dynamic international affairs research center, is home to a variety of research, education, and outreach programs. It seeks to bridge the worlds of the scholar and the policymaker by offering each a place to exchange perspectives, and by encouraging academics to work on policy-relevant problems. Center scholars, and the students they help educate, have served at senior levels in every presidential administration since the Kennedy years. They are today among the nation's most distinguished analysts and executives in government and the private sector.

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