Homeland Security to Open Office in Silicon Valley

SAN FRANCISCO — The Department of Homeland Security is finalizing plans to open a "satellite office" in Silicon Valley that will work with tech companies to improve cyber security and recruit people to work for the government, Security Secretary Jeh Johnson announced Tuesday.

"We want to strengthen critical relationships in Silicon Valley and ensure that the government and the private sector benefit from each other’s research and development," Johnson said in a keynote speech to the RSA Conference, a major annual gathering in San Francisco of cyber security companies, hackers, journalists, and government officials. "And we want to convince some of the talented workforce here in Silicon Valley to come to Washington."

Relations between the technology industry and the U.S. government have been strained in the past two years following revelations by Edward Snowden of global surveillance, particularly by the National Security Agency. U.S. tech giants have accused the government of pushing them to weaken security and of spying aggressively on their customers. In response, some companies, most notably Apple, have stepped up the use of encryption to foil government snooping. At the same time he encouraged tech employees to "consider a tour of service for your country," Johnson stepped back into the encryption debate.

"Our inability to access encrypted information poses public safety challenges. In fact, encryption is making it harder for your government to find criminal activity, and potential terrorist activity," Johnson said. He asked companies to work with the government to find "a solution to this dilemma" that would "take full account of the privacy rights and expectations of the American public, the state of the technology, and the cybersecurity of American businesses." — Shane Harris