Biden Taps Bush Official to Lead Homeland Intelligence Branch

  • Intelligence and Analysis Office faced turbulence under Trump
  • Office plays key role in analyzing, alerting extremist threats

President Joe Biden intends to nominate Ken Wainstein, who served in George W. Bush’s administration, to lead a Department of Homeland Security office that plays a key role in combating domestic extremism.

Wainstein was the Justice Department’s first assistant attorney general for national security and served as a White House adviser. He is currently a partner in the white-collar defense and investigations practice at the law firm Davis Polk & Wardell LLP.

Photo: Ellen M. Gilmer/Bloomberg Government
Department of Homeland Security headquarters in Washington, D.C.

The White House announced the nomination Friday.

The Office of Intelligence and Analysis, part of the federal intelligence community, analyzes security threats to the U.S. and issues alerts to state and local governments and the private sector.

The intelligence office faced scrutiny for failing to issue a threat assessment ahead of the Jan. 6 attack on the U.S. Capitol. I&A’s then-acting under secretary appeared on Capitol Hill in March to answer questions about the office’s role.

I&A was also at the center of earlier inquiries during the Trump administration. A whistleblower last year said he was ordered to play down intelligence on domestic extremists and Russian interference in the 2020 election. The office was also scrutinized after producing intelligence reports on U.S. journalists covering Black Lives Matter protests in Portland, Ore.

Whistle-Blower Says Trump Aids Suppressed Russian Evidence

“I&A clearly has a lot of work to do as a number of internal reviews have shown, and Ken is an ideal leader to bring integrity and broad experience to what I&A needs to do,” Atlantic Council senior fellow Tom Warrick, a career official at DHS from 2008 to 2019, said. He added that Wainstein is likely to receive broad support from Congress and the larger national security policy community.

Gary Peters (D-Mich.), leader of the Senate Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Committee, on Thursday stressed the importance of getting the role filled as the Biden administration works to combat domestic terrorism. “We need nominees for these positions in the Department of Homeland Security, that’s one of the most critical federal agencies,” he said.

Counterterrorism coordinator John D. Cohen has served as the office’s temporary head since July.

To contact the reporter on this story: Ellen M. Gilmer in Washington at egilmer@bloombergindustry.com

To contact the editors responsible for this story: Sarah Babbage at sbabbage@bgov.com; Robin Meszoly at rmeszoly@bgov.com

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