WASHINGTON , July 31 /PRNewswire-USNewswire/ -- One year ago, the Justice Department's National Security Division (NSD) announced the launch of a significant new national security oversight initiative to meet its increasing responsibilities in conducting oversight of the intelligence activities of the FBI and, as appropriate, other intelligence agencies.
Since the launch of the initiative, the Department has dramatically broadened the scope of its national security oversight role. In the past, the Department's oversight efforts were primarily focused on overseeing the FBI's use of authorities under the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act (FISA). Now, Justice Department attorneys, in conjunction with FBI attorneys, are examining all aspects of the FBI's national security investigations for adherence to applicable laws, regulations, and guidelines. This initiative builds on prior Departmental improvements in national security oversight, including the September 2006 creation of the NSD itself.
One of the key components of this initiative is a new Oversight Section within the NSD's Office of Intelligence that is specifically dedicated to ensuring that national security investigations comply with the nation's laws, regulations and policies, including those designed to protect privacy interests and civil liberties. This section is fully staffed and operational. It is supervised by an experienced leadership team, which reports directly to the Deputy Assistant Attorney General for the Office of Intelligence within NSD.
"The National Security Division plays a vital role in ensuring that national security investigations are conducted properly and with respect for the civil liberties and privacy interests of Americans," said Matt Olsen , Deputy Assistant Attorney General for the Office of Intelligence. "Our enhanced oversight efforts over the past year represent a solid foundation from which we will continue to build as we work with the FBI and other intelligence agencies to achieve this goal."
Some of the oversight activities undertaken by the NSD in the past year, as well as those to be undertaken in the future, include:
Comprehensive National Security Reviews
Last year, the Department for the first time began conducting regular, comprehensive reviews of national security activities at FBI field offices around the country and at FBI Headquarters national security units.
These National Security Reviews, which started in April 2007 , are staffed by career attorneys from the NSD and the FBI's Office of General Counsel, and the findings are reviewed by officials from the Department's Privacy and Civil Liberties Office.
These reviews examine, among other things, the FBI's use of National Security Letters to ensure compliance with applicable laws, guidelines and policies. They also examine FBI national security investigation case files to ensure, among other things, that there is sufficient predication to support the investigations; that the cases are authorized by appropriate personnel; and that notices of the investigations are properly provided to the National Security Division.
During 2007, the Department conducted 15 National Security Reviews at FBI offices around the country, as well as at FBI headquarters. Thus far this year, the Department has completed another eight National Security Reviews, and plans to complete a total of 17 reviews by the end of 2008.
Earlier this year, the Justice Department's Office of Inspector General (OIG) concluded that the Justice Department and FBI had made "significant progress" in improving oversight of the FBI's use of National Security Letters since problems in the use of these letters were first reported by the OIG in March 2007 . Among other oversight actions, the OIG noted the new National Security Reviews undertaken by the Department.