DHS Office for Civil Rights and Civil Liberties

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The Office for Civil Rights and Civil Liberties (CRCL) within the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) is charged with advising DHS on civil rights and civil liberties issues and investigating complaints.

The Office of Civil Liberties and Civil Rights has an annual budget of $1.2 million, which constitutes less than one 10-thousandths (.000003) of DHS' $55 billion budget for 2011.[1] Although DHS is one of the largest federal civilian employers, with 200,000 employees and over 200,000 private contractors, [2] the Department only allocates six employees to this Office. [1]

Civil Rights and Civil Liberties

Many of the new technologies researched and implemented by DHS have raised serious concerns about their impact on Americans' civil rights and liberties. For example, the full-body airport scanner technology implemented after the Christmas 2009 bombing attempt have been criticized as severely invading privacy without necessarily being effective, [3] leading to lawsuits.[4] Despite such concerns, reports indicate that DHS still ignores CRCL advice.[5]


According to its website, "CRCL is involved in all of the Department's missions and performs four key functions to integrate civil rights and civil liberties into Department activities: [6]

  • Advising Department leadership, personnel, and partners about civil rights and civil liberties issues, ensuring respect for civil rights and civil liberties in policy decisions and implementation of those decisions.
  • Communicating with individuals and communities whose civil rights and civil liberties may be affected by Department activities, informing them about policies and avenues of redress, and promoting appropriate attention within the Department to their experiences and concerns.
  • Investigating and resolving civil rights and civil liberties complaints filed by the public.
  • Leading the Department's equal employment opportunity programs and promoting personnel diversity and merit system principles.


Margo Schlanger has been the Officer for Civil Rights and Civil Liberties since January 25, 2010.

6 U.S.C. § 345 defines the Officer's roles and responsibilities within the Department, and the DHS Organizational Chart (PDF, 1 page - 159 KB) shows how the Office fits within DHS.


  1. 1.0 1.1 DHS, FY 2011 Budget in Brief
  2. Ed O'Keefe, "Homeland Security has More Contractors than Feds,", "Washington Post," February 24, 2010.
  3. Jeanne Meserve and Mike Ahlers, "Body Scanners can Store, Send Images, group says,", "CNN," January 11, 2010.
  4. EPIC v. Department of Homeland Security, Electronic Privacy Information Center website, accessed September 4, 2010.
  5. DHS Ignored Civil Liberties Lawyers' Warnings on Report, Breitbart.Com, April 17, 2009, accessed September 4, 2010.
  6. About the Office of Civil Rights and Civil Liberties, DHS website, accessed September 4, 2010.