Researcher on National Security, Surveillance, and Domestic Law Enforcement
Human Rights Watch


The US Program of Human Rights Watch (“HRW”) is seeking a highly qualified Researcher on National Security, Surveillance, and Domestic Law Enforcement to investigate, analyze, and advocate against human rights abuses related to the rights abuses occurring at the intersection between national security policies, US mass surveillance, and domestic law enforcement policies and practices. The role of the Researcher may include documenting and assessing the rights implications of involving domestic law enforcement in national security operations, prosecutors’ use of information derived from US mass surveillance in preparing criminal cases, or the rights implications of the use of new tools of surveillance by local police or immigration enforcement agencies. The position reports to the Director of the US Program. The position will be preferably based in Washington DC, but other locations may be considered.


1. Identify issues or reform opportunities in US national security, surveillance, and domestic law enforcement  policy, by conducting research and communicating with a wide range of participants in and observers of the US national security apparatus;

2. Research, document and analyze policies and practices of state and federal national security and law enforcement systems that raise human rights concerns by filing public records requests, accessing public documents, and interviewing persons directly affected (e.g. persons targeted by surveillance and their families, prisoners) as well as professionals and experts (e.g. defense attorneys, prosecutors, law enforcement and national security officials, and national security, surveillance, and criminal justice policy experts);

3. Make recommendations to the US Program regarding the issues that it should undertake; Develop a plan for strategic research and advocacy projects (other than litigation) to maximize pressure for US national security, surveillance, and  law enforcement policies that respect internationally recognized rights;

4. Implement the plan, as agreed with the Director of the US Program, and lead advocacy efforts with US officials in Washington, DC, including by engaging with existing coalitions, and building new alliances (this includes frequent travel to Washington, DC if based elsewhere);

5. Develop and implement advocacy strategies (in collaboration with the Advocacy Director) to change abusive federal and state laws, policies, and practices. As a part of those strategies, directly present human rights concerns to government officials, opinion leaders, inter-governmental agencies, and the media;

6. Write accurate, unbiased, comprehensive, and timely reports and other advocacy documents (often including images, audio, video, data analysis, and/or online tools) that include policy recommendations intended to contribute to ending human rights abuses experienced by persons as a result of surveillance, national security, and criminal justice policies;

7. Write op-eds, press releases, briefing memos, statements, testimony and other materials in order to disseminate our research findings and policy recommendations for change;

8. Take initiative to project concerns about surveillance and criminal justice issues in public debate through prompt responses to queries from the media, public, and colleagues in the national security, criminal justice, and human rights community;

9. Work closely with partner organizations to develop opportunities for our work to enhance and complement their own work;

10. Be prepared and willing to work flexible hours to accommodate developing and urgent events; and

11. Travel domestically and internationally, as required, to conduct research and advocacy.


Education:  A US law degree (J.D.) or an advanced degree in US national security, criminal law/policy, journalism, or a related field is required. .

Experience:  Minimum four years of relevant experience is required. Relevant experience may include among other things, work as an investigative reporter or attorney on issues related to privacy, surveillance, national security and domestic law enforcement; analysis and advocacy on for nonprofit advocacy or impact litigation organizations; or work in government on policies relating to national security, privacy, surveillance, and/or criminal law.

Related Skills and Knowledge:

1. Extensive knowledge of national security, privacy, surveillance, and criminal law in the US is required;

2. Deep commitment to human rights is required;

3. Proven track record of producing timely first-rate written products and editing experience is required.

4. Exceptionally strong research, analytical, writing, and editing skills are required.

5. Experience conducting challenging investigative research inside the United States is highly desirable.

6. Expertise or familiarity with relevant technology is highly desirable.

7. Excellent oral and written communication skills in English, and strong public speaking skills, are required; proficiency in other languages, such as Spanish or Arabic, is highly desirable; experience with TV, radio, print, and social media is highly desirable.

8. Strong interpersonal skills in order to work collaboratively within HRW and in a diverse environment, as well as with partners, are required.

9. Capacity to appropriately plan and prioritize and to manage multiple, sometimes competing demands efficiently in a challenging, fast-paced environment are required.

Salary and Benefits: HRW seeks exceptional applicants and offers competitive compensation and employer-paid benefits.  HRW will pay reasonable relocation expenses and will assist employees in obtaining necessary work authorization, if required; citizens of all nationalities are encouraged to apply.

Other: Applicants for this position must be willing to travel frequently and be prepared to spend extensive time outside the office doing research or advocacy.

How to Apply

Please submit a cover letter, curriculum vitae, salary requirements, a brief non-legal writing sample (no briefs or legal memos and unedited by others) and three references to Please use “National Security Researcher Application Ref: USP-15-1078” as the subject of your email.

Only complete applications will be reviewed and only shortlisted candidates will be contacted.

Equal Opportunity Employer

Human Rights Watch is an equal opportunity employer that does not discriminate in its hiring practices and, in order to build the strongest possible workforce, actively seeks a diverse applicant pool.

About Human Rights Watch

Human Rights Watch is an international human rights monitoring and advocacy organization known for its in-depth investigations, its incisive and timely reporting, its innovative and high-profile advocacy campaigns, and its success in changing the human rights-related policies and practices of influential governments and international institutions.

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