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National Security

Gregg Maisel, Chief
Ken Kohl, Deputy Chief
Denise Cheung, Deputy Chief

The mission of the National Security Section (NSS) is to investigate and prosecute criminal activity that threatens our nation's security. We are responsible for investigating and prosecuting international and domestic terrorism, export control violations, espionage, unlawful disclosure of classified information, threats against high-ranking public officials, non-terrorist extraterritorial violent crimes against American citizens, immigration violations, and other sensitive matters that implicate national security. We also have primary responsibility in the U.S. Attorney's Office for crisis response and management. The Section's focus on national security cases enables us to dedicate the efforts of experienced prosecutors to matters that the Department of Justice has designated as our top national priority and underscores our Office's commitment to give these cases the highest level of attention.

Our Office, through the NSS, performs a unique role in combating international terrorism and other extraterritorial violent crimes against American citizens abroad. Based on the extraterritorial venue provision, 18 U.S.C. § 3238, the District of Columbia is the proper venue for the prosecution of terrorist and other criminal acts committed outside the United States when the crime is committed by a person with no connection to another district. Accordingly, the NSS investigates and prosecutes violations of federal criminal statutes committed in foreign countries by foreign nationals, including the murder of a U.S. national outside of the United States (18 U.S.C. § 2332), air piracy and destruction of aircraft (18 U.S.C. § 32), and hostage taking of U.S. nationals abroad (18 U.S.C. § 1203).
The NSS also handles violations of export control laws, including the Arms Export Control Act (AECA) and the International Trafficking in Arms Regulations (ITAR). These matters directly implicate our national security interests because they involve the illegal proliferation of military-related products and sensitive technology outside the United States. Other export matters involve unlicensed exports of “dual-use” items or exports of goods to sanctioned or embargoed countries in violation of the International Emergency Economic Powers Act (IEEPA). We have prosecuted export enforcement cases referred to us from law enforcement agencies around the country and have developed substantial expertise in this specialized and growing area. Most of these matters are properly filed in this district because the Department of State, the Department of the Treasury and the Department of Commerce, which have authority over export license requirements, are located in Washington, D.C.
Because the District of Columbia is the nation’s capital, the NSS has special responsibility for handling threats against the President, the Vice President, Members of Congress, and other high-ranking public officials. Our prosecutors all carry appropriate national security clearances, and we frequently handle matters involving acts of espionage or unlawful disclosures of classified information. Our nation’s immigration laws are an important aspect of our national security, and we prosecute matters involving alien smuggling, visa and passport fraud, and other immigration violations.
Assistants in the National Security Section work closely with virtually all federal law enforcement agencies, including the Federal Bureau of Investigation, the Department of Homeland Security, the Department of Commerce, the Defense Criminal Investigative Service, the Secret Service, the Capital Police, the U.S. Marshals Service, and the Diplomatic Security Service. We also coordinate our efforts with the Intelligence Community, the Department of Defense, the Department of State, various U.S. Embassies overseas, and our foreign counterparts in law enforcement and prosecution. NSS attorneys typically work on matters in coordination with attorneys from the Department of Justice National Security Division’s Counterterrorism Section and Counterespionage Section and attorneys from the Department’s Office of International Affairs.
Updated January 23, 2020

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