Obama Chooses Top Justice National Security Official

U.S. President Barack Obama nominated John P. Carlin as the top national security official at the Justice Department, the White House said.

Carlin, if confirmed, would become the permanent replacement for Lisa Monaco, who in March became Obama’s top homeland security adviser. He has been serving as the acting assistant attorney general in charge of the national security division since Monaco’s departure.

A Harvard Law School graduate, Carlin has run the department’s national security operation on an acting basis at a time of unprecedented volatility, starting with the Boston Marathon bombing in April and continuing with the disclosures by former government contractor Edward Snowden of classified intelligence and defense information.

Carlin, in a June speech, outlined an “increasingly diverse and decentralized” terrorism threat, the growing threat of cyber terrorism and the increasing debate over the trade-off between intelligence collection and civil liberties as primary issues faced by the division.

The national security division is “in many respects on the front lines of these efforts,” Carlin said during his remarks at the American Bar Association’s Homeland Security Law Institute.

The nomination marks the latest elevation for Carlin, a career federal prosecutor who has risen through the national security ranks in positions that included chief of staff and senior counsel to then-FBI Director Robert Mueller, as well as Monaco’s top deputy before she left for the White House.

230 Attorneys

Created in 2006 to consolidate the Justice Department’s national security operations, the division has more than 230 attorneys and contains the department’s counterterrorism and counterespionage sections, as well as its intelligence office. Carlin’s attorneys also represent the U.S. government in front of the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court, or FISC.

The interaction between the FISC and Justice Department attorneys has become a central part of the debate over intelligence collection in the wake of Snowden’s disclosures, which included details of court orders that authorized federal programs that collect in bulk millions of U.S. phone records, as well as the operations of an Internet surveillance program that targets foreign citizens outside the U.S. suspected of being connected to terrorism.

Lawmakers and technology companies have pushed for more disclosure in the way the government and the court interact, including the declassification of certain orders. Facebook Inc. and Yahoo! Inc. joined Microsoft Corp. and Google Inc. yesterday in asking the court for permission to publish more specifics about orders they receive from the federal government.

Carlin has defended the court’s independence, as well as the checks and balances in place to oversee the government’s intelligence collection apparatus.

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