- The Washington Times - Thursday, March 20, 2008

President Bush yesterday appointed a top Justice Department official involved in updating the administration’s surveillance programs to head the White House homeland security office.

Kenneth L. Wainstein, assistant attorney general for national security, will fill the position vacated by Frances F. Townsend at the beginning of January.

Mr. Bush called Mr. Wainstein “a proven leader and a dedicated public servant with nearly two decades of law-enforcement experience.”

He noted Mr. Wainstein’s experience as a U.S. attorney for the Southern District of New York and the District of Columbia, and as general counsel and chief of staff at the FBI.

Mr. Wainstein, 46, helped create the Justice Department’s national security division.

Attorney General Michael B. Mukasey said Mr. Wainstein’s leadership “has helped make the American people safer.”

While at Justice, Mr. Wainstein worked closely with the White House on a permanent update to the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act (FISA). Mr. Wainstein briefed reporters last month on the administration’s position on the issue.

Congressional Democrats have opposed the administration’s efforts to spy on targets outside the United States without a judge’s approval and to grant retroactive immunity to telecommunication companies that cooperated with government surveillance after the September 11 terrorist attacks.

White House spokeswoman Dana Perino said Mr. Wainstein worked on legal compliance of warrantless wiretapping for terrorist surveillance after top Justice officials raised concerns about the secret domestic-spying program in 2004.

He also helped create oversight for FBI investigations using national security letters to gather information about suspects or persons of interest.

Mr. Wainstein will fill a position that has been open since Ms. Townsend’s resignation.

Joel Bagnal, Ms. Townsend’s deputy, ran the office in the interim but was passed over for promotion.

Mr. Bush said at a press conference last month that he had confidence in Mr. Bagnal, whom he called “a fine man.”

“He knows what he’s doing,” Mr. Bush said.

David Heyman, director of the homeland security program at the Center for Strategic and International Studies, said Mr. Wainstein’s appointment was a surprise, given Mr. Bagnal’s level of expertise.

Mr. Bagnal, he said, is “probably one of the longest serving aides to the president. He knows the process, the policy and the people.”

“To bring somebody in with eight months left, who’s a newcomer, creates some challenges,” Mr. Heyman said. “In the last few months of the administration you want somebody who doesn’t have to come up to speed.”

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