Evaluation of Justice Department’s National Security Division

In 2006 the Justice Departement created a National Security Division, which demolished the wall between intelligence and law enforcement investigations. The Washington Post reports that after 4 years say “the division is performing as promised, melding counterintelligence and law enforcement, and helping to prevent attacks.”

Intelligence lawyers and criminal prosecutors now work together when a threat is identified – in partnership with U.S. attorneys’ offices and the FBI – in what are considered broad national security investigations. Toscas and Tashina Gauhar, the deputy assistant attorney general for intelligence, have offices next to each other and say they are in constant communication. The division is the liaison between Justice Department headquarters and the intelligence community.

“It’s terribly significant that we created a division, because it affects the way people think of themselves,” Kris said. “A division creates a fundamental sense of identity, which is ‘I’m a national security division lawyer, my job is to protect national security.’ ”

The unit’s leaders, most of whom are career Justice Department employees who have worked under several administrations, say they will use criminal prosecutions or intelligence methods, whichever is best. Intelligence investigations sometimes never lead to charges and can result, for example, in terrorism or espionage suspects being recruited as double agents.

“It’s not necessarily our job just to prosecute people,” Toscas said. “We could work on an investigation for years and be perfectly happy with the fact that we are gaining intelligence. . . . That is a cultural change.”

The new structure, officials said, contributed to the rapid resolution of the recent cases of 10 Russian spy suspects, who pleaded guilty and were swapped for four jailed Russians.

And officials cited last September’s breakup of the subway plot allegedly led by Colorado airport shuttle driver Najibullah Zazi. They said the investigation started as an intelligence probe but led to criminal charges against nine people, including a senior al-Qaeda leader, and to useful intelligence about that organization.

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