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Briefing: New Justice Department National Security Division

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Background on the new National Security Division in the Justice Department, created under the reauthorized USA Patriot Act.



MONDAY, MARCH 13, 2006 (202) 514-2008

TDD (202) 514-1888



ATTORNEY GENERAL GONZALES: Good morning. As you know, last week the President
signed legislation to reauthorize all of the expiring provisions of the USA
Patriot Act and add dozens of additional safeguards to protect America's privacy
and civil liberties.

In addition to the many provisions that will help us better protect the American
people, the legislation authorizes the Justice Department to establish a new
National Security Division. Today the President has announced that he intends
to nominate Kenneth Wainstein to serve as Assistant Attorney General for
National Security.

In addition, the Justice Department has requested reprogramming funds from
Congress to move forward in standing up the National Security Division. That's
in addition to the $67 million that we've requested for the next fiscal year. I
am respectfully requesting that Congress move quickly both on Ken's confirmation
and on our reprogrammed request so that we can establish this important new
division as soon as possible.

Since the attacks of September 11th, the federal government has taken a number
of steps to reorganize and improve our resources to better fight terrorism. Our
enemy is always changing and adapting, and so are we.

The National Security Division will bring under one umbrella the Department's
primary national security elements, fulfilling a key recommendation of the WMD
Commission. We will bring together attorneys from the counterterrorism and
counter-espionage sections of the Criminal Division, as well as those from the
Office of Intelligence Policy and Review who specialize in the Foreign
Intelligence Surveillance Act. It is another step in eliminating the infamous
wall between our intelligence and law enforcement teams.

These dedicated public servants who will make up the NSD have been on the front
lines of the war on terror, working around the clock since September 11th, to
prosecute suspected terrorists and prevent another attack. Their successes have
been numerous and noteworthy: The Portland Seven, the Lackawanna Six, Richard
Reid and others.

They have made many sacrifices for the safety of the American people. And our
new National Security Division will provide them with additional capacity to do
their important job even better, through increased coordination and cooperation.

As I mentioned, once he is confirmed by the Senate, Kenneth Wainstein will lead
the NSD. He will also serve as the Department's liaison to the Director of
National Intelligence.

Ken is the right man for the job. As U.S. Attorney for the District of
Columbia, he already plays an important role in our ongoing efforts to protect
America and preserve our cherished values and liberties. And his past work with
law enforcement as a senior official at the FBI, and with federal prosecutors as
Director of the Executive Office of U.S. Attorneys, and as a long-time career
prosecutor, gives him a unique perspective on this new role.

As Al Qaeda promises new attacks, we must never tire from our effort to adapt
and improve our ability to protect the American people. The National Security
Division will help us continue to make America safer.

Thank you, and I'm happy to take any questions you might have.

QUESTION: Good morning.


QUESTION: How will the new National Security Division impact the -- if at all,
the nature of the dealings that you have with the FISA Court? The way that you
go about and the timeliness with which you apply for FISA warrants?

ATTORNEY GENERAL GONZALES: Well, we certainly believe that the process will be
improved. We will become more efficient in terms of the use of the FISA
process. But the standards relating to FISA are not affected in any way by this
reorganization. And questions relating to specific details about -- further
details about the reorganization, I will have to defer to a different time.

We have been working for quite some time on getting ready for this moment, so
we've done a lot of work in thinking about how the reorganization should go.
But it is still premature at this time to talk more specifically about
additional details regarding the reorganization.

QUESTION: To follow up on that, as I understand it, the Patriot Act legislation
authorizes, at your discretion, you to give the FISA signing authority to the
Assistant Attorney General for the new division. Is that something that you
plan on doing?

ATTORNEY GENERAL GONZALES: Again, questions relating to the reorganization and
responsibilities I will defer to a different time. We obviously -- the
President obviously has a great deal of confidence in Ken Wainstein to perform
this job. The person who actually makes the decision about the authorization of
FISA, that's a very important decision. It rightly has been in the hands of the
Attorney General or the Deputy Attorney General. And whether or not there
should be additional changes to that is something that we'll simply have to

But I want to reemphasize to the American people that, again, that decision is
one that's weighed very, very carefully, and one that will be made by someone in
a responsible position within the Department of Justice.

QUESTION: General, what's your reaction to Judge Brinkema's admonition this
morning? And will the Justice Department fight a ruling by her to take the
death penalty off the table? And would you seek a new trial if she declares a

ATTORNEY GENERAL GONZALES: I'm not going to speculate on what the judge may or
may not do. And given where we are and the state of this trial, it would be
inappropriate for me to comment at all.

QUESTION: Any general comments, though, about the notion of coaching witnesses?

ATTORNEY GENERAL GONZALES: I'm not going to -- I'm not going to get into any
kind of discussion relating to what may -- relating to the Moussaoui trial.

QUESTION: What is your reaction to Senator Feingold's move to censure the

ATTORNEY GENERAL GONZALES: Well, you know, my understanding is that it's
premised upon his belief that the President has acted outside of the law.

It has been the position of this Administration, the Department of Justice, from
the outset, that the President does have the authority as commander-in-chief
during a time of war, supplemented

-- under the Constitution -- supplemented by the authorization to use military
force passed by Congress shortly after the attacks of September 11th.

And so, obviously, we believe strongly that the President does have the
authority. We have provided a lot of information supporting our legal
rationale, our legal analysis to the Congress, and I spent eight hours before
the Senate Judiciary Committee. And so we are very, very comfortable with our

QUESTION: In 1994, Congress passed a law against torture in other lands by
foreign nationals who come to this country, but that law has never been
enforced. Do you foresee a chance of ever enforcing that, given the estimates
of hundreds and hundreds of former torturers in this country?

ATTORNEY GENERAL GONZALES: Well, I certainly hope that to the extent that there
are laws on the books and there are cases that can be brought, that we will in
fact pursue those cases. That's the only way I know how to answer that


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Lynn Sweet

Lynn Sweet is a columnist and the Washington Bureau Chief for the Chicago Sun-Times.

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This page contains a single entry by Lynn Sweet published on March 13, 2006 4:27 PM.

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In wake of Dem Bush censure bid: Hastert reminds Dems--including from Illinois Bean, Lipinski and Emanuel--that 66 of them backed Patriot Act is the next entry in this blog.

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