David Kris Resigns from DOJ

The U.S. Department of Justice just announced that Assistant Attorney General David Kris just resigned, effective March 4.

“David Kris led the National Security Division (NSD) 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,” said Attorney General Eric Holder. “I will miss his leadership.”

“I am grateful for my two years of service as Assistant Attorney General for National Security,” 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.”

As Assistant Attorney General for National Security, Kris helped lead the department’s response to a number of serious threats to the nation, including the attempted bombing of Times Square, the al-Qaeda plot to bomb the New York subway system, the attempted detonation of a bomb onboard an airliner on Christmas Day 2009, and the arrest and prosecution of Mumbai plotter David Headley.

Under Kris’ leadership, the National Security Division also played a pivotal role in the investigation, arrest and swap of Russian illegal agents during the summer of 2010, and prosecuted a number of other 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 counter-proliferation.

During Kris’ tenure, the National Security Division also strengthened its partnerships with the intelligence community and other national security elements, including the Department of Defense and the National Security Council, and advanced significantly in establishing the processes, policies, and procedures necessary to make NSD a highly effective and fully functioning division.

No reason for his departure was given, though Kris did mention his two year tenure; that might explain the March departure, two years after he was confirmed.

DOJ didn’t list it among Kris’ accomplishments, but two other things he is noted for are:

  • Making it clear that the Bush Admin justification for illegal wiretapping — which Holder’s DOJ has never withdrawn — didn’t make any sense
  • Testifying that we probably couldn’t charge material support for terrorism in military commissions

That is, he was willing to admit, on occasion, when DOJ was pushing the limits of its legal authority. Which means he will be missed.

      • Cujo359 says:

        I’d never thought about DC in terms of metal forming before, but that’s a great metaphor. It seems to push even the strongest people into the same basic shape. And if they happen to not be ductile enough, they end up in the rejects bin.

        • mzchief says:

          More efficient than that … immediate component reuse unless it really is part of a waste stream. Then it’s turned to slag and metal filings (ceramics is a more 21st century paradigm than straight metallurgy IMHO).

  1. tammanytiger says:

    This administration has consolidated the Bush administration’s executive power grab, and is working to expand the national-security exception to the Bill of Rights.

    Elections have consequences, but not when Democrats win them.

    • tanbark says:

      “Elections have consequences, but not when democrats win them.”

      Not even when they win them BIG… :o(

      • Mary says:

        There have been consequences. GITMO is enshrined now, as is forever detention. Torture statutes of limitation have been sat on and allowed to run, while investigations into torture and torture lawyers have been stifled, scripted, and microfocused to deliberately prevent focus on easily proven lapses. Torture has become openly and thoroughly bipartisan – there is no party of opposition to Exec branch power to use any excuse, or no excuse, to engage in the kind of lawbreaking that leaves teenage girls in Afghanistan dead and mutliated. As a consequence to Obama’s election, the shipping car killings by Dostum have been allowed to have all evidence removed and destroyed. As a consequence of Obama’s election and other dems, unconstitutional surveillance has been enshrined as bipartisan. The dems have pushed the envelop on Exec power and have now openly endorsed Exec branch assassination – with “liberals” like Panetta and Koh leading the charge and delivering, without the twitches and faints of a Mukasey, glib rhetoric to support the unconscionable.

        More are impoverished. The last best chance of reinstituting Glass Stegall protections failed. The political bounds on the DOJ have been notched tighter. Whistleblowers and the truth have been attacked with a viciousness not possess by the Bushies, as have journalists. The public option has been killed more thoroughly than any Republicans could have pulled off. Ditto drug reimportation. All so that Obama and the Dems could hand over a public mandate.

        Someone like Elena Kagan has a lifetime “friend of Obama” appointment to the highest court in the nation while Obama hasn’t had time to worry over lower courts that won’t end up giving him his ultimate get out of jail free cards.

        On the pro side, there has been some progress on education fronts.

        There have been consequences.

        • mzchief says:

          So, I’m seeing more hardened system and it appears to be hardening further with the at least a 3-pronged sweep of dissidents/weak links within the WH (e.g. the overt bankster staffing changes), military command and subsidiaries (2011 assassination #1 and #2 events), and military-controlled core operating infrastructure staff changes here and abroad (e.g. why yesterday’s news from Roger Schuler re Sweden and Bodström’s whereabouts is an important data point). Since December ComCast is cracking down in my area to dramatically reduce the number of people accessing the ‘Net and taper the user bandwidth by threatening small business and it’s working. As end users are squeezed out and bandwidth tapered, it’s harder to detect/predict when the digital plexiglass window might become more opaque or by how much which is groovy for “now you see them, now you don’t” and “now you see it, now you don’t” activities. Meanwhile, yet another MIC data center but this time inside a National Guard Post which looks to me like a pretty distributed and granular command and control infrastructure. These folks really, really love technology.

        • bobschacht says:

          Is there a chance that Kris is leaving because he lost some of these battles, and is tired of losing the internal fights?

          I see that other commenters are voicing that point. I’m just wondering if he’s resigning in anticipation of battles lost over the Patriot Act.

          Bob in AZ

          • Mary says:

            Could be.

            As Mikesacola indicated @15 above, it’s a sad and sorry state of affairs that Holder is wistfully sniffing over Kris’ lost leadership (rather than providing any himself).

            All the battles have been lost. The thing is, before you take the gig, you should have an idea where the battles are going. It’s certainly a better thing to bail now than to keep working through the refusals to prosecute the Spec Forces soldiers who carved up pregnant girls – because they had the full force of the WH behind them. It’s a better thing to bail now than to hang in their for the passage of the detention forever legislation that’s on its way.

            He’s cerainly not the scum at the bottom – just one more huge disappointment.

            I’m over disappointment, though. You just don’t expect anything other than the worst, and you’re not disappointed. Obama has solidified things in a way that Bush or McCain could never have pulled off and his lawyers are just more successful Bush lawyers. None of them have bothered with Justice as an appellation, and their careers are all the better for it.

  2. Mary says:

    You know, at one point I was really impressed at his appointment and hoped for a few things. IMO, he’d definitely be the cream of the crop if you tossed him in with lawyers like Bellinger, Wainstein, Comey, Gonzales, Ashcroft, etc. but his service has been, in many ways, followed in the Obama track of discouraging disappointment that now and then dipped into sad disbelief.

    I guess for my part, I’d just as soon the torturers lose their halfway decent lawyers. The downside is that he’s probably one of the few who likely wouldn’t have lied to or outright misrepresented and deliberately mis-framed information to Congress and the Courts, so if you were looking for a little crediblity left in the dept – this is a big chipaway. Given that the dept is very good at compartmentalizing to avoid involving lawyers with ethics and crediblity when it needs and wants, it’s not such a big deal.

    I’m not nearly as sad that he’s leaving as I initially was glad that he was getting the gig. Not quite a Mukasey, but not exactly a … Well, I guess I can’t really think of a good example to use for comparison purposes over the last decade. That’s something to be sad about.

      • Mary says:

        Someone like LHP would have a better take on that. All I know of him is his workproduct, which is vastly different than the workproduct of most of the Bush/Obama lawyers who get to engage in issuing their bosses philosophies of Exec grandeur as legal doctrine; and some of his reported actions like the exchanges he had with the Dept over the massive fourth amendment violations operating under the approvals of the Dept.

        Based on the workproduct, which reflects a professionalism that I assumed a decade ago would have been pretty prevalent in the Dept (proving up the ASS part of the old saying) I’d be very surprised if he engaged in anything like that. OTOH, I’ve been way more surprised over this last decade than I would be to hear that, so I won’t speculate. Based on the quantity and quality of my surprises this last decade, I wouldn’t blink at hearing that he’s got a secret clown fetish and a collection of thousands of honkable noses.

  3. ThingsComeUndone says:

    Reward the truth tellers especially when what they say is unpopular but later turns out to be right and any bureaucracy will see that being right and taking a stand will be rewarded and is the way to get ahead.
    American bureaucracy Government and Corporate is currently just Yes Men.

  4. tanbark says:

    “No reason for his departure was given…”

    With two years left of Obama’s captaincy no one wants to be the one to shreik “Into the lifeboats!”

  5. mikesacola says:

    said Attorney General Eric Holder. “I will miss his leadership.”

    So will I. It’s amazing that Rip Van Holder even mumbled that in his sleep while avoiding even any pretense of leading for justice.

  6. powwow says:

    I see this as a very bad sign for the charted course inside Eric Holder’s Department of Justice, and in the Obama White House as a whole, particularly coming so soon after the departures of David Barron and Marty Lederman (and the withdrawal of Dawn Johnsen) from the DOJ’s Office of Legal Counsel. [Although I’d probably revise this assessment if, say, Patrick Fitzgerald were nominated to take the place of Kris (who, as I recall, the Senate unanimously confirmed by something like 97-0).]

    Until shown otherwise, however, I also take it as a very good sign for the personal integrity of David Kris, himself, who seems to be declining to continue to participate in implementing Bush-era policies he has been unsuccessful in reforming in the Obama era [including, as emptywheel highlights, and per his 2009 testimony to Congress, the “material support for terrorism” alleged “war crime” that remains in the Military Commissions Act today, despite his efforts; David Glazier, among others, has only been further hammering home the truth of Kris’s assessment, since (see Glazier’s comprehensive, impressive new critique of the Guantanamo Military Commissions here)].

    The evidently-increasing deference of Attorney General Holder to political operatives in the White House may also be a major factor in Kris’s resignation, with the trial of the 9/11 Five in seemingly perpetual suspension. Perhaps Obama’s whistleblower witchhunts, and Holder’s specious public threats to prosecute Assange/WikiLeaks under the Espionage Act, have also played a role.

    But the timing of Kris’s departure is pretty dreadful news for hopes of a more honorable course for our government, I think – with major decisions needed in Congress soon on extended, sunsetting PATRIOT Act spying provisions and, in particular, a long-overdue pending review in the House, at least, of the 2001 AUMF. Here’s hoping that Kris won’t be afraid to speak publicly about these and other issues after he’s left the government.

    • Mary says:

      I usually agree with you a lot, but on this:

      But the timing of Kris’s departure is pretty dreadful news for hopes of a more honorable course for our government, I think – with major decisions needed in Congress soon on extended, sunsetting PATRIOT Act spying provisions and, in particular, a long-overdue pending review in the House, at least, of the 2001 AUMF.

      I don’t see the departure as dreadful news or as coming at a particularly worse point in time than any other. The impact he could have had, he had early on. All the Kabuki notwithsanding, course was set within a few months of Obama getting in office for things like the WH approach on the AUMF and Patriot Act. It’s not like there is some substantive, serious discussion going on at DOJ an there hasn’t been for a long time, based on the actions that have been locked in early from the WH.

      The Democrats aren’t sitting, poised to do something positive about the AUMF or the Patriot Act, and just in need of a swifty nifty testifying witness like Kris (who would be bound by the requirement to sell Obama’s take on what Obama wants done in any event, and as we’ve seen, Obama is Brennan’s placeholder for a lot of things, and is something and someone even less substantial than that on others).

      Maybe he’ll offer up an opinion as a “freeman” and maybe not. There are a lot of ethical landmines that he wouldn’t/didn’t have when the wiretapping came out and he could comment as someone who had not worked on or been briefed on the WH criminal acts while working there.

      We’re way beyond someone like Kris, after the commitment he made to the Obama path, having an impact for the better. imo, fwiw

  7. Archie1954 says:

    Mr. Kris may have left because he gave himself two years at the job but I’ll bet the injustices of “justice” may have had a big part in his decision.