Bush Picks Security Aide With Wiretap Background

U.S. President George W. Bush named a Justice Department official with experience in terrorism wiretap programs as his White House homeland security adviser on Wednesday.

Bush chose Kenneth Wainstein, the department’s first assistant attorney general for national security and a former FBI general counsel, to succeed Frances Townsend as assistant to the president for homeland security and counterterrorism. Townsend stepped down in November.

“He [Wainstein] helped improve our ability to confront the threats of a new era,” Bush said in a statement.

Wainstein, in his Justice Department post, oversaw efforts to bring Bush’s controversial warrantless domestic wiretapping program under the auspices of the secret Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court. Critics have charged the wiretap program launched by Bush after the September 11 attacks was illegal because it lacked court oversight.

Wainstein has also helped lead the administration’s effort to pass new surveillance legislation that would grant legal immunity to telecommunications companies that took part in Bush’s surveillance program. On Friday, the Democratic-led U.S. House of Representatives defied Bush’s telecom immunity push, by passing an antiterrorism spy bill that permits lawsuits against phone companies.

Bush established the White House homeland security job in the weeks after the Sept. 11 attacks, with the intention that the person would coordinate the administration’s domestic security activities and advise the president. The post does not require congressional confirmation.

A year later, Congress created the Cabinet-level Department of Homeland Security to consolidate and manage 22 government agencies that deal with domestic security issues.

In another security move, the White House said Bush intends to nominate Michael Leiter, acting director of the National Counterterrorism Center, to serve as director. The agency oversees the government’s operational planning and intelligence efforts against terrorism.

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