From spying on domestic-based international phone calls without a court warrant to reportedly obtaining the phone records of tens of millions of customers of AT&T, BellSouth and Verizon, the federal government appears to have made safeguarding Americans’ privacy a low priority.

So it may come as a surprise to learn that the Justice Department — the agency responsible for defending such programs — has a top official charged with making sure the agency doesn’t violate Americans’ rights while pursuing terrorists. Jane Horvath became the department’s first full-time chief privacy and civil liberties officer in February.