The White House has nominated Matt Olsen to run the Justice Department’s National Security Division, a move that would put the Uber security executive and former civil servant at the helm of some of the most sensitive cases in the U.S.
Olsen, who now works as Uber’s chief trust and security officer, previously worked as the director of the National Counterterrorism Center during the Obama administration and served as the general counsel of the National Security Agency. The Biden administration announced his nomination on Wednesday.
If confirmed by the Senate, Olsen will take over a key division of the Justice Department focused on counterintelligence, terrorism, foreign interference in U.S. elections and, increasingly, cybersecurity matters. He would replace John Demers, an assistant attorney general who has focused heavily on countering alleged Chinese espionage and theft of intellectual property in the U.S.
The Biden administration tapped Olsen as national security officials reckon with what the White House said was a suspected Russian cyber-espionage operation that leveraged software from a federal contractor, SolarWinds, to gather information from nine federal agencies and roughly 100 companies. Meanwhile law enforcement continues to react to ransomware attacks, in which hackers breach government agencies and American companies, like Colonial Pipeline, to demand an extortion fee.
The Wall Street Journal first reported the news that the White House planned to nominate Olsen.
Uber CEO Dara Khosrowshahi hired Olsen in 2018, when the company was reeling from a scandal in which the prior chief security officer, Joe Sullivan, reportedly helped cover up a data breach in which hackers accessed information about some 57 million customers. Uber paid the thieves a reported $100,000 to keep quiet on the matter.
During a 2019 appearance at CyberTalks, a Scoop News Group event, Olsen acknowledged a lingering mistrust between Silicon Valley and Washington over the issue of information sharing, an issue he traced back to the leaks by former NSA contractor Edward Snowden.
“I think the government has made some strong steps forward in regaining the trust of the American people on intelligence collection,” he said at the time.
“I think it’s done a good job rebuilding our relationships with our allies, but it has not done enough,” Olsen said. “We have not gone far enough as a country in regaining that trust between Washington, D.C., and the technology community where so much of this innovation takes place.”
Former President George W. Bush appointed Olsen to deputy assistant attorney general for the National Security Division in 2006.
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