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Reports that the British government had thwarted a planned attack on trans-Atlantic flights last week sent U.S. officials scrambling to tighten domestic security. But one Justice Department official left out of the mix was Kenneth Wainstein, the nominee to head the DOJ’s planned National Security Division. The new division would unite the Criminal Division’s counterterrorism and counterintelligence sections with the independent Office of Intelligence Policy and Review. Earlier this year, Congress provided statutory authorization for the new division, but its creation has been blocked by Sen. Carl Levin (D-Mich.), who has placed a hold on Wainstein’s nomination. Levin’s obstruction doesn’t appear to be based on any question about Wainstein’s credentials; rather it stems from the senator’s long-running quarrel with the Defense Department over access to FBI documents concerning abusive interrogation techniques used at the U.S. prison in Guant�namo Bay, Cuba. A spokesman for Levin says a request for seven documents relevant to Wainstein’s nomination has been “outstanding for over a month.” The Justice Department is running out of patience. “He is single-handedly preventing the National Security Division from being implemented,” says DOJ spokeswoman Tasia Scolinos. “It is unfair for him to exercise oversight over [the Defense Department] by holding up DOJ nominations.” If he is confirmed, one of the first issues Wainstein, currently U.S. attorney for the District of Columbia, will have to tackle is a lengthy backlog for processing Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act wiretap warrants. A Justice official and an FBI official say last week’s terror threats generated a huge spike in the number of FISA applications from the FBI. Though details of the backlog remain classified, Attorney General Alberto Gonzales has acknowledged the problem, and Sen. Mike DeWine (R-Ohio) has repeatedly expressed frustration that, five years after Sept. 11, the Justice Department can’t seem to process FISA applications from the FBI in a timely manner.
Jason McLure can be contacted at [email protected].

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