WASHINGTON, D.C. – Patrick Rowan, Acting Assistant Attorney General for National Security, today announced the formal launch of the Office of Intelligence within the Justice Department’s National Security Division (NSD). The reorganization creates three new sections within the Office of Intelligence dedicated to the NSD’s three primary intelligence related functions – operations, oversight and litigation.
The Department of Justice has played a critical role in the nation’s effort to prevent acts of terrorism and to thwart hostile foreign intelligence activities. Since the 9/11 terrorist attacks, the Department’s Office of Intelligence Policy and Review (OIPR) has grown dramatically because of the steady increase in the number of applications it has handled under the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act (FISA) in an effort to ensure that Intelligence Community agencies have the authority necessary to conduct intelligence operations.
The creation of NSD in September 2006 brought OIPR under the umbrella of NSD and presented an opportunity to review the office’s structure and expanding mission. Based on this review, the NSD decided to modify the structure of the office, given that its intelligence staff has grown from fewer than 20 lawyers in 2000 to almost 100 today, and that its intelligence operations have increased with the rise in FISA caseload. Moreover, the office has assumed an expanded role in conducting intelligence oversight and in coordinating FISA-related litigation.
To meet the needs of multi-faceted intelligence mission, the NSD developed a new structure called the Office of Intelligence, which is the successor to OIPR and consists of three specific sections aligned with the division’s core functions: operations, oversight and litigation. Each section is supervised by a chief who reports directly to Matt Olsen, the Deputy Assistant Attorney General for the Office of Intelligence. A description of each new section is below:
The Operations Section handles NSD’s intelligence operations workload, including representing the government before the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court. The mission of the section is to ensure that the FBI and other intelligence community agencies have the legal tools necessary to conduct intelligence operations in adherence to the requirements and safeguards of the law.
The Justice Department is handling more requests for FISA authority than ever before. From 2001 through 2007, the annual number of FISA applications approved by the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court rose from 934 to 2,370. Even with this increased workload, NSD has increased its efficiency in preparing and submitting applications to the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court, while ensuring that these applications are accurate and comply with the privacy protections in the FISA statute. The formation of the Operations Section is necessary to ensure that the National Security Division enhances its capacity to meet the demands of this critical mission.
The NSD also faces increased responsibilities in its mission to conduct oversight of the intelligence and counterintelligence activities of the FBI, as well as those of other intelligence agencies, as appropriate, to ensure adherence to the Constitution and applicable laws of the United States. In July 2007, the Department announced that a significant new national security and oversight effort would be implemented by the NSD. To meet this mandate, Justice Department attorneys for the first time have been given comprehensive authority to examine the FBI’s national security program for adherence to all applicable laws, regulations, and guidelines.
In conjunction with the FBI’s office of general counsel, NSD attorneys now review national security investigation files at the FBI to identify and provide guidance on a range of issues. Among other things, the reviews examine FBI compliance with Attorney General national security guidelines, use of national security letters, predication for national security investigations, and referrals to the Intelligence Oversight Board. NSD conducted 15 national security reviews at FBI offices in 2007 and plans to complete another 15 reviews in 2008. The mandate to perform these new oversight responsibilities, in addition to NSD’s traditional FISA oversight functions, required the formation of a new Oversight Section dedicated to this mission.
With the lowering of the “wall” between intelligence and law enforcement investigations, and the enhanced coordination between intelligence and law enforcement personnel, NSD has seen a steady increase in the number of requests to use information from FISA-authorized activities as evidence in criminal prosecutions of terrorists and spies. As a result, the NSD has created a separate Litigation Section to ensure sufficient resources are devoted to FISA-related litigation and to help prosecutors handle evidentiary and discovery issues in such matters.
The Litigation Section reviews and prepares requests for Attorney General authorization to use FISA information in criminal and non-criminal proceedings. The section also drafts motions and briefs and responds to defense motions to disclose FISA applications and to suppress the fruits of FISA collection. Finally, the section works to ensure the consistent application of FISA in trial and appellate courts nationwide. To support this effort, the NSD in January 2008 developed a new policy, approved by the Attorney General, for investigators and prosecutors on the use of information obtained or derived from FISA collections.