Power Wars Blog by Charlie Savage

Bipartisan support for C.I.A. general counsel nominee Courtney Simmons Elwood from some national security legal policy veterans

Last night, President Trump announced nominees for two key posts on the national security interagency lawyers group: John J. Sullivan of Mayer Brown to be general counsel of the Department of Defense and Courtney Simmons Elwood of Kellogg Hansen to be general counsel of the Central Intelligence Agency. This post is about the latter.

Elwood was a White House lawyer in the first term of the Bush administration, including as a deputy to Vice President Cheney’s counsel David Addington. In Bush’s second term, she was a counselor to Attorney General Alberto Gonzales. (She is also one half of a D.C. legal power couple — her husband is John Elwood of Vinson & Elkins, who was the top deputy the Office of Legal Counsel in the second term of the Bush administration.)

When the warrantless wiretapping component of Stellarwind came to light in December 2005, she had an exchange of e-mails about whether it was legal with David Kris, who later became assistant attorney general for national security in the Obama administration. That exchange, which came to light in a FOIA case, is rather famous among surveillance nerds.

So it is especially notable that Kris, along with Caroline Krass, who was C.I.A. general counsel in the second term of the Obama administration, is now vouching for Elwood in various quotes compiled by the C.I.A.’s public affairs office. Here are those quotes; I’ve added which administration the speaker worked for in brackets.

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Quotes of Support for Courtney Elwood, Nominee for CIA General Counsel

 

C.I.A. Director Mike Pompeo [Trump administration]

  • “Ms. Elwood understands the CIA’s mission and critical role of the rule of law in achieving that mission,” said CIA Director Mike Pompeo.  “The warriors at CIA look forward to her joining in our mission to be the premier espionage agency in the world.”

Wan Kim, former Assistant Attorney General for the Justice Department’s Civil Rights Division [Bush administration]

  • “Courtney Elwood is a careful, brilliant, and highly accomplished lawyer.  I have known Courtney for more than 20 years, and worked with her in both private practice and the government.  She has proved time and time again that she is dedicated to the rule of law, and I have no doubt that she will serve the country exceptionally well as General Counsel for the CIA,” said Wan Kim, former Assistant Attorney General for the Justice Department’s Civil Rights Division.

David Kris, former Assistant Attorney General for National Security [Obama administration]

  • “Courtney Elwood and I worked together during the administration of President George W. Bush, including in the immediate aftermath of the September 11attacks.  I know her to be a first-class lawyer with tremendous acumen, judgment, and respect for the rule of law.  I am delighted that she has been nominated for General Counsel of the CIA.  The agency and the country will both benefit immensely from her service,” said David Kris, former Assistant Attorney General for National Security.

Caroline Krass, former CIA General Counsel [Obama administration]

  • “Courtney is an excellent choice for this demanding position. She is intelligent and level-headed and will be inheriting a highly experienced and dedicated team,” said Caroline Krass, former CIA General Counsel.

Ben Powell, former General Counsel to the Director of National Intelligence and Former Associate Counsel and Special Assistant to the President  [Bush administration]

  • “I have been a colleague of Courtney Simmons Elwood for almost two decades during both government service and in the private sector.  She is one of the finest lawyers of her generation, known for her intellect, integrity, and judgment.  Her broad legal experience at the highest levels of the government and private sector provides an excellent foundation for service as General Counsel of the CIA.  The men and women of the CIA will be well-served by having a General Counsel with the wisdom, experience, dedication, and judgment of Ms. Elwood,” said Ben Powell, Former General Counsel to the Director of National Intelligence and Former Associate Counsel and Special Assistant to the President.

Ken Wainstein, former Homeland Security Advisor to the President and former Assistant Attorney General for National Security [Bush administration]

  • “Courtney Elwood is an outstanding choice for CIA General Counsel.  An exceptional lawyer with extensive experience in the private sector and government, she has a well-deserved reputation for professionalism, integrity and commitment to the rule of law.  The Agency could not ask for a better lawyer and counselor to help guide it through the many national security challenges facing our country today,” said Kenneth L. Wainstein, former Homeland Security