Submitted Written Testimony
Chairman Thompson, Ranking Member Katko, and members of the committee, thank you for the opportunity to appear before you today on the important topic of reforming the Department of Homeland Security (DHS or the department). For the past two years, I have led a project at the Center for a New American Security (CNAS) focused on reforming DHS, with a specific emphasis on selected law enforcement, intelligence, and border security and immigration aspects of the department’s work. I am grateful for the opportunity to share the insights developed through this project, and to work with this committee going forward in connection with its important oversight and legislative responsibilities.
Since this is my first appearance before this committee, I thought it might be useful to provide some additional information about my background and experience to give you a better sense of the perspective I bring to these issues. My grounding is as a 9/11-era operational counterterrorism and counterintelligence lawyer. I worked in the national security components of the Justice Department pre- and post-9/11 and was sent over to the FBI’s Strategic Information Operations Center the morning of 9/11 after the second tower was struck, where I continued to work over the days, weeks, and months thereafter, supporting the Justice Department’s national security operations. Most of my government experience from 2000–2010 was at the intersection of national security, foreign intelligence collection, and protecting civil liberties and privacy, including matters handled under the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act. As the first Justice Department National Security Division (NSD) detailee to the Office of General Counsel in the Office of the Director of National Intelligence from 2007–2009, I served as the primary legal advisor to the intelligence community’s Civil Liberties Protection Officer, and routinely provided advice to intelligence community executive leaders on what we then referred to as the “domestic intelligence” or, domestic security and intelligence portfolio. I was integrally involved in developing guidelines and interagency oversight processes related to national security investigations. Upon returning to the NSD front office in 2009, I co-chaired an interagency task force focused on improving processes related to intelligence, surveillance, and compliance. Since leaving government service in 2010, I have taught graduate-level law seminars at Georgetown Law on intelligence community reform and cybersecurity law and policy. Accordingly, I approach national and homeland security legislative and policy issues with the eye of both a practitioner and an academic.
As a result of these formative professional experiences, I have zero interest in going backward, and undoing nearly 20 years of changes to the laws and institutions that kept the country safe from an act of international terrorism on the scale of September 11, 2001. However—and this is important—2021 is not 2001. The threats to security and safety the country faces today are not the same. While some threats of the past have receded, they have not disappeared. Instead, threats to American security, safety, and health appear to have compounded. And our national and homeland security institutions which are designed to protect Americans from the threats they actually face need to keep pace. In short, I don’t just want us to develop a DHS that can meet today’s threats, I want to see a DHS that has the legislative framework, organizational capability, and trained, resourced, and expert workforce that is ready to meet tomorrow’s threats.
Download the full testimony.
More from CNAS
ReportsFrom Mardi Gras to the Philippines: A Review of DHS Homeland Security Investigations
Introduction As it approaches 20 years since its creation, the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) is due for substantial updates in order to improve its ability to adapt t...
By Carrie Cordero & Katie Galgano
ReportsReassessing Homeland Security Intelligence
Introduction The discipline of intelligence has been a central element of the homeland security enterprise over the past two decades since the terrorist attacks of September 1...
By Christian Beckner
ReportsThe Department of Homeland Security: Priorities for Reform
There is an opportunity to reform the Department of Homeland Security in a way that best protects the country from homeland security threats, consistent with law, security and...
By Carrie Cordero & Katie Galgano
VideoAlexis Collins on Domestic Terrorism Threats
Alexis Collins talked about the heightened domestic terrorism threat in the U.S. with The Washington Journal on C-SPAN....
By Alexis Collins