Holland & Knight partner Jason Klitenic, a former deputy general counsel at the U.S. Department of Homeland Security, is the Trump administration’s pick to serve as the top lawyer at the Office of the Director of National Intelligence.
Klitenic, who served on the Trump transition team, leads the national security team at Holland & Knight in Washington. He’s worked with Homeland Security, and with the U.S. Department of Defense and U.S. Department of State, to address security concerns arising out of travel and trade activities. He joined the firm in 2010 as a partner in the government contracts practice group.
Klitenic could not be reached for comment Tuesday.
He had previously served as a deputy associate attorney general in the early years of President George W. Bush’s administration before becoming the first deputy general counsel at the Department of Homeland Security in 2003.
Announcing Klitenic’s hiring in 2010, Holland & Knight partner Richard Duvall said: “In this era of heightened security we are proud to have such a highly experienced and talented individual joining our team. Jason’s extensive knowledge of federal and state homeland security programs, enforcement efforts and regulatory issues will enhance our ability to advocate on behalf of our clients.”
On the transition team, he was the point person for the Government Printing Office and for the National Archives and Records Administration. Klitenic’s background in government contracts work would be central to his role as ODNI’s general counsel.
The office of the national intelligence director has a statutory responsibility to set contracting policies for the intelligence community, making it a place contractors turn to when they have disputes with other agencies. The office plays a coordinating role that will put Klitenic in regular contact with his peers at other intelligence agencies, along with lawyers at the Justice Department and Department of State.
“You’re not the general counsel for the whole intelligence community, but you do play a coordinating function. If there are differences between agencies, you can mediate those,” said Robert Litt, of counsel at Morrison & Foerster, who served as the director of national intelligence’s general counsel from 2009 until President Donald Trump took office in January.
Klitenic’s duties will include serving on the national security “lawyers group,” a collection of attorneys from those agencies who provide legal advice on some of the day’s most pressing national security issues. “I would anticipate that before the president made any significant national security decision, the national security lawyers group would be asked to offer views on its legality,” Litt said Tuesday.
Klitenic would serve under Director of National Intelligence Dan Coats, a former U.S. senator who served as ambassador to Germany in Bush’s first term. But he will have a close relationship with another key player in the enforcement community: FBI Director Christopher Wray.
At his confirmation hearing in July, Wray, a former partner at King & Spalding, gave a shout-out to his “brother-in-law and sister-in-law Jason and Kate Klitenic,” who were both in attendance along with his wife, parents and other family members.
“A commitment like this affects the whole family, and I have no words to adequately express my gratitude to all of them,” Wray said then.