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Government lawyer outlines security risks from foreign adversaries

Feb. 10, 2020

Jason Klitenic, general counsel of the Office of the Director of National Intelligence (ODNI), tells people that the past 18 months he’s been in the job have been “the greatest 10 years of my life.” We operate at warp speed,” he said at a Feb. 5 lunch hosted by the ABA Standing Committee on Law and National Security.

Office of the Director of National Security General Counsel Jason Klitenic speaks at an ABA Law and National Security luncheon on Feb. 5.

Office of the Director of National Security General Counsel Jason Klitenic speaks at an ABA Law and National Security luncheon on Feb. 5.

American Bar Association photo

Klitenic, a former partner at Holland & Knight, discussed reformed procedures to the Committee on Foreign Investment in the U.S. (CIFIUS), changes to the security clearance process and supply chain risk management, a priority for ODNI.

“The U.S. has always welcomed foreign investment, and it’s critical that we maintain open investment,” Klitenic said. The U.S. Department of the Treasury recently released two new CIFIUS rules, taking effect Feb. 13, which are an attempt to balance security with economic impact.

 “What we know now is that investments that pose the greatest potential threats to national security are no longer limited to just transactions resulting in foreign control of a U.S. business,” but also to some non-controlling investments, Klitenic said.

 “We know there are foreign adversaries who are quietly attacking our nation’s public and private sectors, and they’re using the channels of trade and investment as their vehicle to do so.”

Klitenic also discussed Trusted Workforce 2.0, which revamps the security clearance process for federal civilian workers, federal contractors and military personnel, as well as state, local, tribal and private sector personnel subject to Executive Order 13549. One important feature of Trusted Workforce 2.0 is a uniform clearance process across the federal government with “continuous evaluations” of security clearance holders, so that “someone can take their security clearance from one agency and move into a position at another agency without having to go through a new, time-consuming background check,” he said.

He also said that managing risks in the supply chain is critical as government agencies, businesses and IT providers become more dependent on supply chains to function. “From our perspective as lawyers, the supply-chain threat also raises some novel and complex legal issues with which we are grappling,” such as how much intelligence information can we lawfully share between departments and agencies? What is the obligation of the intelligence community to engage with industry on mitigation measures of insider threats?

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