Ex-Big Law Partner Nabs NSA Legal Post After Russia Probe Role

The US National Security Agency has a new general counsel in April Falcon Doss, a past lawyer at the NSA and former chair of the cybersecurity and privacy practice at Saul Ewing Arnstein & Lehr.

She spent over a dozen years at the NSA before leaving in 2016 to join Saul Ewing. Doss was also special counsel to the US Senate Intelligence Committee when it was investigating allegations of Russian interference in the 2016 presidential election.

Doss started her new job May 23, an NSA spokesperson said. She took over from acting general counsel Ariane Cerlenko, who held the role since January 2021.

The NSA, based in Fort Meade, Md., is a spy agency known for its secrecy and technical expertise. Part of the Department of Defense, the agency provides intelligence support to military operations around the world, according to the NSA website.

Cerlenko has returned to her prior position as principal deputy general counsel at the NSA. She was temporarily elevated to general counsel after Michael Ellis vacated the role more than a year ago after President Joe Biden placed him on administrative leave.

Former President Donald Trump appointed Ellis following his loss in the 2020 presidential election. A one-time aide to former Rep. Devin Nunes (R-Calif.), who is now CEO of Trump’s new media company, Ellis drew scrutiny over his alleged partisan ties.

The Department of Defense’s inspector general released a report in October that found the NSA’s leadership acted appropriately in suspending Ellis over two alleged “security incidents” involving classified documents. The report found no wrongdoing related to Ellis’ appointment as general counsel.

Rumble Inc., a video sharing and streaming platform that has a partnership with Trump’s social media service Truth Social, named Ellis general counsel in December.

Prior to Ellis, Glenn Gerstell led NSA legal efforts for more than five years. A retired Milbank partner and former head of the law firm’s Washington office, Gerstell retired from the NSA in 2020. He and Doss briefly worked together there.

Doss spent almost 13 years at the NSA, most recently as an associate general counsel for intelligence law, before joining Saul Ewing, according to her new profile page on the agency website.

She took her Senate post the year after she joined the firm. After a year in that role working for the Intelligence Committee’s Democratic members, Doss returned to Saul Ewing in May 2018 as a partner in Baltimore and Washington.

In March 2021, Doss left Saul Ewing again to become executive director of the Georgetown University Law Center’s Institute for Technology Law and Policy.

Doss has now left the school due to her new role at the NSA, Julie Cohen, a law and technology professor at Georgetown, said in an email.

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