Justice Department to get a national security chief

The Justice Department offices that oversee issues involving terrorism, spying, and the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act will get a new chief after Congress clears the USA PATRIOT Act reauthorization in the next few weeks.

The bill includes a provision creating a national security division at Justice headed by an assistant attorney general. The 11th assistant attorney general will oversee the department's counter-terrorism section -- now headed by acting chief Mike Mullaney -- and the counter-espionage section -- led by John Dion.

The new division will also house the Office of Intelligence Policy Review, the currently independent FISA-warrant-seeking shop led by General Counsel James Baker.

Attorney General Alberto Gonzales told Congress on Feb. 6 that the new division would streamline the FISA process, which the Bush administration has criticized as too slow-moving to use in the National Security Agency's wiretapping of calls between suspected Qaeda operatives overseas and people within the United States.

In an interview with National Journal, Gonzales said that the new assistant attorney general, whose identity will be announced by the White House, will "make the department a much more effective player in the war on terror."

"It's good to have someone at that level who will have the expertise and the experience, and the gravitas, to represent the department's interest in these kinds of discussions," Gonzales said.

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