Exclusive: Top Intel Panel Staffer to Join Department of Homeland Security

Exclusive: Top Intel Panel Staffer to Join Department of Homeland Security

A top congressional aide at the center of the bruising battle between the CIA and the Senate Intelligence Committee over the government’s use of torture has been hired to take a senior position at the Department of Homeland Security (DHS), charged with funneling threat information to law enforcement agencies, state and local governments, and large corporations across the United States.

David Grannis, the intelligence panel’s Democratic staff director, will become principal deputy undersecretary at DHS’s Office of Intelligence and Analysis, Foreign Policy has learned. He will make the move after a lengthy tenure as a top staffer for Sen. Dianne Feinstein of California.

“David Grannis will be missed. He not only has a keen knowledge of the intelligence community, he also has the steady judgment on which I have come to rely,” said Feinstein in a statement to FP

Serving in the position of staff director since 2009, Grannis has played an influential role in a string of high-profile and contentious national security debates, ranging from the disclosures of widespread government spying by former National Security Agency (NSA) contractor Edward Snowden to efforts to close the terrorist detention center in Guantánamo Bay, Cuba.

During Grannis’s tenure, the Intelligence Committee became embroiled in a heated standoff with the CIA in 2014 over Senate Democrats’ widely anticipated report on torture practices used under former President George W. Bush. Intelligence officials dismissed it as a one-sided report that cherry-picked extreme cases and decried the committee’s attempts to use aliases for a number of spies who were cited. Advocates of the report have championed it as a historic and virtuous oversight effort into one of the darkest chapters of the CIA’s counterterrorism legacy.

Beyond the corridors of the Senate, Grannis is perhaps best known for his statements to the press during the heated NSA spying debates as reporters, privacy advocates, and intelligence officials feverishly disputed the extent of the government’s expansive spying program. Feinstein, a staunch defender of the NSA, came under frequent criticism from privacy advocates for supporting the intelligence community’s ability to sweep up vast amounts of data on Americans and foreigners.

Before joining the Intelligence Committee, Grannis worked for the House Homeland Security Committee from 2003 to 2005 and held the title of senior policy advisor to former Rep. Jane Harman (D-Calif.) from 2001 to 2003.

With his exit, Feinstein has tapped Michael Casey, a top aide at the House Armed Services Committee for the last eight years, to replace Grannis. “Mike has extensive experience covering many of the same issues the Intelligence Committee oversees, most notably the many global hotspots the intelligence frequently monitors,” Feinstein told FP. “I look forward to working closely with Mike on the many vital issues the committee covers.”

In another senior Homeland Security Department personnel move, acting Assistant Secretary for Public Affairs Todd Breasseale is expected to be formally nominated for that post. Breasseale is a retired Army officer and formerly was a spokesman at the Defense Department focusing on detainee issues.

Deputy Managing Editor Lara Jakes contributed to this report.