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U.S. Justice Department names first artificial intelligence officer as new technology challenges law enforcement

photo of artificial intelligence officer
U.S. Attorney General Merrick Garland speaks as he meets with U.S. Attorney Damian Williams (not pictured), federal, state, and local law enforcement leaders in New York City, U.S., Nov. 27, 2023. (REUTERS/Eduardo Munoz/Pool)
By Andrew Goudsward | REUTERS

The U.S. Justice Department on Thursday named its first official artificial intelligence officer as the department grapples with the potentially transformative affects of artificial intelligence on federal law enforcement and the criminal justice system.

Jonathan Mayer, a professor at Princeton University who researches technology and law, will serve as chief science and technology adviser and chief AI officer, the department said.

“The Justice Department must keep pace with rapidly evolving scientific and technological developments in order to fulfill our mission to uphold the rule of law, keep our country safe and protect civil rights,” Attorney General Merrick Garland said in a statement.

Mayer will advise Garland and the department leadership on issues related to emerging technologies, including how to responsibly integrate AI into the department’s investigations and criminal prosecutions.

U.S. officials have been wrestling with how to minimize the dangers posed by a loosely regulated and rapidly expanding technology while also seeking to exploit its potential benefits.

The Justice Department has already used AI to trace the source of opioids and other illegal drugs, analyze tips submitted to the FBI, and organize evidence collected in its probe of the Jan. 6, 2021 attack on the U.S. Capitol, Deputy Attorney General Lisa Monaco said during a speech in Britain last week.

Monaco said the technology could help the United States detect and disrupt terror plots and hostile actions from U.S. adversaries. But she said the department is also concerned about its potential to amplify existing biases, tamper with elections and create new opportunities for cyber criminals.
“Every new technology is a double-edged sword, but AI may be the sharpest blade yet,” Monaco said during the speech at Oxford University.

Mayer is set to lead a newly formed board of law enforcement and civil rights officials that will advise Garland and others at the Justice Department on the ethics and efficacy of AI systems. He will also seek to recruit more technological experts to the department.

Mayer served as the technology adviser to now-Vice President Kamala Harris when she was a U.S. senator and also worked for the Federal Communications Commission.

Editor’s Note: Reporting by Andrew Goudsward; Editing by Scott Malone and Bill Berkrot

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