The Justice Department prosecutor who led government efforts to prevent a number of serious security threats to the nation, including the attempted bombing of Times Square, the al Qaeda plot to bomb the New York subway system and the attempted detonation of a bomb aboard an airliner on Christmas Day 2009, announced his resignation Thursday.
David Kris, assistant attorney general for national security, will leave his post in March. Considered a national security expert, particularly relating to the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act, he joined the department in March 2009 after being confirmed 97-0 by the U.S. Senate. He previously worked at the Justice Department during both the Clinton and Bush administrations.
“David Kris led the National Security Division with great distinction through a period when the department confronted a number of threats to the nation’s security, and there is no doubt that his tireless work helped keep the American people safe,” Attorney General Eric H. Holder Jr. said in a statement. “I will miss his leadership.”
Under Mr. Kris’ leadership, the Justice Department’s National Security Division played a pivotal role in a number of high-profile cases, which included the arrest and prosecution of Mumbai plotter David Headley, who made several trips to Pakistan for terrorism training and was actively involved in the scouting of targets for the Mumbai attacks on behalf of Lashkar-e-Taiba and Pakistani ex-military officers, which killed 166 people in November 2008.
The division was also involved in the deportation in July of 10 Russian agents in exchange for the release of four convicted Western spies held in Russia in their biggest spy swap since the Cold War
Mr. Kris, 44, was also involved in the prosecution of a number of significant espionage cases, including Kendall and Gwendolyn Myers, who were caught and prosecuted after decades of spying for the government of Cuba.
The division also continued and expanded its enforcement in the areas of export control and counterproliferation. As the Obama administration’s top anti-terrorism official, he is credited with strengthening the National Security Division’s partnerships with the intelligence community and other national security elements, including the Defense Department and the National Security Council.
Mr. Kris oversaw the criminal investigations of:
• Faisal Shahzad, the Pakistani immigrant who tried to set off a car bomb in Times Square and was sentenced in October to life in prison.
• An unsuccessful plan to detonate homemade bombs in the New York subway system that was orchestrated by senior al Qaeda leaders.
• The arrest of Umar Farouk Abdulmutallab, a Nigerian who sought to blow up a commercial airliner with explosives sewn into his underwear, but which failed to detonate.
“I am grateful for my two years of service as assistant attorney general for national security,” Mr. Kris said. “I started my legal career at the Department of Justice, and it has been a tremendous privilege to work with the department’s leadership and the dedicated professionals in the National Security Division.”
No successor has yet been named.
Mr. Kris has appeared before Congress numerous times as an advocate for the government’s positions regarding the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act (FISA) and the USA PATRIOT Act. As a former associate deputy attorney general in the Justice Department’s Criminal Division, he was critical of the legal rationalizations for President Bush’s domestic terrorist-surveillance program, which authorized warrantless domestic surveillance and wiretapping.
His resignation is effective March 4. He will become general counsel at Intellectual Ventures, a technology firm based in Bellevue, Wash. He previously served as senior vice president and deputy general counsel at Time Warner, taught at Georgetown University and was a senior fellow at the Brookings Institution.