WASHINGTON, D.C. – LAWFUEL – The Legal Newswire – Attorney General Alberto R. Gonzales, Assistant Attorney General for National Security Kenneth L. Wainstein and FBI Director Robert S. Mueller, III today announced a series of comprehensive measures to significantly enhance national security oversight and compliance at the Justice Department and FBI.
Among the primary components of this oversight effort, which has been in the works for months, are the proposed launch of two offices to conduct reviews, compliance activities, and training. The first is a dedicated Oversight Section within the Justice Department’s National Security Division. The second is a proposed Office of Integrity and Compliance at the FBI.
The oversight and compliance programs run by these offices will be at the forefront of the Justice Department’s ongoing efforts to ensure that national security investigations are conducted in a manner consistent with the nation’s laws, regulations, and policies, including those designed to protect the privacy interests and civil liberties of U.S. citizens.
“The top priority of the Department is to protect the nation from terrorist attack. At the same time, we have an important obligation to make sure the tools we use to prevent terrorism also protect the civil liberties of our citizens,” said Attorney General Gonzales. “This effort helps us achieve these objectives by enhancing internal controls over the Department’s national security activities.”
“The changes we announcing today are historic in nature. The FBI is instituting one of the first, agency-wide internal compliance programs in the federal government, and, for the first time, Justice Department attorneys will have a comprehensive mandate to examine all aspects of the FBI’s national security program for compliance with laws, regulations, and guidelines,” said Assistant Attorney General Wainstein.
“The FBI is charged with the mission to protect and defend the United States against terrorist and foreign intelligence threats and to enforce the nation’s criminal laws, while upholding the fundamental protections provided by the Constitution,” said FBI Director Robert S. Mueller, III. “That requires striking a sometimes delicate balance, and the establishment of a compliance program marks another important step toward ensuring we fulfill our mission with an unswerving commitment to the rule of law.”
These measures build upon past Department improvements in national security oversight as counter-terrorism efforts have expanded. Last September, for instance, the Department created a National Security Division, in part, to enhance oversight of FBI and Department national security activities. In 2005, the FBI created a National Security Branch to centralize and coordinate FBI national security programs. Over the past several years, the Department has also expanded its reviews of FBI use of Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act (FISA) authorities.
Oversight Program within DOJ’s National Security Division
The National Security Division plans to broaden the scope of its national security oversight well beyond the Department’s traditional oversight role, which was primarily focused on the FBI’s use of FISA authorities. For the first time, Justice Department attorneys will have the clear mandate to examine all aspects of the FBI’ national security program for compliance with laws, regulations, and policies.
Dedicated Oversight Section — To accomplish the expanded mandate spelled out above, the Department is standing up a dedicated Oversight Section within the National Security Division. This section will consist of attorneys and staff members specifically dedicated to ensuring that the Department fulfills its national security oversight responsibilities. Until recently, the Department’s national security oversight largely focused on the FBI’s use of FISA authorities, with the Department conducting accuracy reviews to ensure the accuracy of FBI declarations to the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court (FISC) and minimization audits to ensure FISA information is handled appropriately. The Oversight Section will expand this focus beyond FISA to include all aspects of the FBI’s national security program and its use of national security tools.
Comprehensive National Security Reviews – The Oversight Section will exercise its oversight functions by conducting regular reviews of national security activities at FBI field offices and FBI Headquarters national security units. These reviews, which have already begun, are staffed by career Department attorneys with years of law enforcement and intelligence experience from the National Security Division and the FBI’s Office of General Counsel, along with officials from the Department’s Privacy and Civil Liberties Office. These reviews are not limited to the FBI’s use of FISA or National Security Letters, but examine all national security activities to ensure compliance with all applicable laws, guidelines and policies. Since establishing this review process in April 2007, the Division has completed national security reviews in four FBI field offices and plans to complete a total of 15 such reviews by the end of the year.
Reviews of Intelligence Oversight Board Referrals – As directed by the Attorney General in March 2007, the National Security Division will also be responsible for reviewing all referrals by the FBI to the Intelligence Oversight Board (IOB). This review process will focus on whether these referrals indicate that a change in policy, training, or oversight mechanisms is required. The Oversight Section will report to the Attorney General twice a year on such referrals and inform the Department’s Chief Privacy and Civil Liberties Officer of any referrals that raise serious civil liberties or privacy issues.
Training and Outreach — In addition, the National Security Division will provide training on legal and regulatory compliance issues for its lawyers and FBI agents and analysts, as well as conduct outreach to the rest of the intelligence community.
Office of Internal Compliance and Oversight at the FBI
The second key portion of this oversight and compliance initiative will be the FBI’s Office of Integrity and Compliance, which was recently proposed by the FBI Director. While compliance programs have long been a staple of private corporations, this effort would represent one of the first times a federal agency established an agency-wide compliance program. The creation of this office and the implementation of a new FBI-wide compliance program would represent a substantial innovation in the way the FBI does business. The office will work to ensure compliance not only in national security activities, but in all FBI activities.
Mission — The mission of the FBI’s proposed Office of Integrity and Compliance is to develop, implement, and oversee a program that ensures there are processes and programs in place that promote FBI compliance with both the letter and spirit of all applicable laws, regulations, and policies. The office would cultivate an environment committed to these principles and assist FBI management at all levels foster and maintain a culture where ethics and compliance are paramount considerations in decision making.
Structure — The proposed Office of Integrity and Compliance would be headed by a career Assistant Director who will report directly to the FBI’s Deputy Director, providing direct access to the top decision makers within the FBI. The management structure would include a Steering Committee, chaired by the FBI Director, and five Executive Management Committees, which would examine compliance in different of portions of the FBI, including the National Security Branch, Criminal Investigations, investigative support, administrative and information technology.
New Policies and Risk Assessments — The Office of Integrity and Compliance would begin establishing policies on compliance standards, training, communications, and risk assessments for the FBI. The office would support the implementation of the FBI’s overall compliance policies and standards within FBI Divisions, monitor the FBI-wide compliance program, ensure that necessary audits are performed, and deliver an annual report to key stakeholders. The office would also work closely with the FBI Inspections Division to identify high-risk areas, amend inspection protocols to include compliance risk, and ensure that compliance monitoring is carefully planned and executed.