David Kris, the head of the U.S. Justice Department's National Security Division, is resigning in March after about two years on the job, the department announced today.
As an assistant attorney general, Kris has been one of the Obama administration’s top anti-terrorism officials. His tenure has included the response to an attempted bombing in Times Square, for which a man pleaded guilty in June 2010, and the attempted “underwear” bombing of a commercial airliner on Christmas Day 2009.
In a written statement, Attorney General Eric Holder Jr. said that Kris led the division with “great distinction through a period when the department confronted a number of threats to the nation’s security, and there is no doubt that his tireless work helped keep the American people safe.”
Kris, in his own statement, called his tenure a “tremendous privilege.” His resignation is effective March 4, and he is taking a job as general counsel at Intellectual Ventures, a technology company based in Bellevue, Wash., a department official said.
President Barack Obama will have to nominate a successor for Kris, who breezed through Senate confirmation unanimously and with relative ease in March 2009. Republicans praised his qualifications at the time, noting his co-authorship of a textbook on the subject, “National Security Investigations and Prosecutions.” Though Republicans have at times been critical of the Obama administration’s handling of terrorism cases, the subjects of their criticism have not included Kris.
Prior to his confirmation, Kris was senior vice president and deputy general counsel at Time Warner. He has also taught at Georgetown University and been a senior fellow at the Brookings Institution. He spent 11 years in the DOJ Criminal Division.
“I think he’s served his country very well and helped the department through some serious threats, and the country is safer for his service,” said Kenneth Wainstein, a former assistant attorney general for national security who’s now a partner at O’Melveny & Myers.
Arnold & Porter partner John Bellinger III, who has known Kris since they both worked in DOJ’s Criminal Division, wrote in an e-mail that Kris has managed the National Security Division extremely well. “David himself is non-ideological and largely apolitical, and he assembled an outstanding team to work with him, who I hope will remain. I slept better at night knowing David Kris was in charge of the National Security Division,” Bellinger wrote.
Updated at 3:25 p.m. with additional reporting.