Senate Confirms Kris To Lead National Security Division

WASHINGTON (Wednesday, March 25, 2009) – The Senate Wednesday unanimously confirmed David Kris to be the Assistant Attorney General in the National Security Division at the Department of Justice.  Kris is the fifth nominee to be confirmed for a leadership post at the Justice Department.   The Senate has confirmed nominees to four of the Department’s top leadership posts:  Attorney General Eric H. Holder Jr., Deputy Attorney General David W. Ogden, Associate Attorney General Thomas J. Perrelli, and Elena Kagan to be the Solicitor General of the United States.

Kris testified before the Senate Judiciary Committee on February 25, and his nomination was reported to on March 5

The full text of Senate Judiciary Committee Chairman Patrick Leahy’s statement on the confirmation of David Kris follows.

Statement Of Senator Patrick Leahy (D-Vt.),
Chairman, Senate Judiciary Committee,
On The Nomination Of David Kris
To Be Assistant Attorney General For The National Security Division
March 25, 2009

The Senate has confirmed four nominees to fill top leadership positions at the Justice Department officials, and today we take another step forward to put in place Attorney General Holder’s leadership team.  Today, the Senate turns to the nomination of David Kris to lead the National Security Division.

I thank the Democratic and Republican Members of the Judiciary Committee for working with me to expedite this nomination when it was in Committee.  Senator Feinstein chaired our Judiciary Committee hearing on his nomination on February 25.  We were able to report his nomination out of the Committee by a voice vote on March 5. The Senate Select Committee on Intelligence worked quickly to consider and report his nomination as well.  Finally, the Senate today considers his nomination to this critical national security post.

The Judiciary Committee’s renewed oversight efforts in the last two years brought into sharper focus what for years had been clear— that during the last eight years, the Bush administration repeatedly ignored the checks and balances wisely placed on executive power by the Founders.   The Bush administration chose to enhance the power of the President and to turn the Office of Legal Counsel at the Department of Justice into an apologist for White House orders—from the warrantless wiretapping of Americans to torture. 

Attorney General Holder has already taken steps toward restoring the rule of law.  With the confirmation of David Kris to lead the National Security Division, we fill another key national security position in the Department. 

David Kris is a highly-regarded veteran of the Department of Justice.  He is former Federal prosecutor who spent eight years as a career attorney in the Criminal Division at the Department, handling complex cases in Federal trial and appellate courts, including the Supreme Court.  Mr. Kris was then a political appointee under both President Clinton and President Bush, serving as Associate Deputy Attorney General from 2000-2003, supervising the government's use of the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act (FISA), representing the Justice Department at the National Security Council and in other inter-agency settings, briefing and testifying before Congress, and assisting the Attorney General in conducting oversight of the U.S. intelligence community.

Mr. Kris understands the role the Bush administration’s excesses have played in undermining the Department of Justice and the rule of law.   In 2006, Mr. Kris released a 23-page legal memorandum critical of the legal rationale offered by the Bush administration, and in support of the legality of the National Security Agency’s warrantless wiretapping program.  Mr. Kris was an early advocate for the creation of the National Security Division he has now been confirmed to lead, leaving a lucrative practice as an in-house counsel for a major corporation to return to government service. 

Mr. Kris’ nomination has also earned support from both sides of the aisle.  Former Bush administration Solicitor General Ted Olson, who worked with Mr. Kris at the Department, describes Mr. Kris as “a very sound lawyer,” who “is committed to the defense of the United States and its citizens, and respects the rule of law and civil rights.”  Former Deputy Attorney General Larry Thompson, who asked Mr. Kris to remain in his post during the Bush administration, writes that he asked Mr. Kris to stay after finding that “he had a passion for national security issues but also a deep respect and appreciation for the related civil liberties concerns.”  Former Bush administration Homeland Security Secretary Michael Chertoff and former Attorneys General Janet Reno and John Ashcroft have all written in support of Mr. Kris’ nomination.

President Obama has reminded Americans and the world that, “to overcome extremism, we must also be vigilant in upholding the values our troops defend - because there is no force in the world more powerful than the example of America.”  The President reminded us that “living our values doesn't make us weaker, it makes us safer and it makes us stronger.”  

David Kris understands the moral and legal obligations we have to protect the fundamental rights of all Americans and to respect the human rights of all.  He knows, as do the President and the Attorney General, that we must ensure that the rule of law is restored as the guiding light for the work of the Department of Justice. 

I congratulate Mr. Kris and his family on his confirmation today.

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