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White House homeland security adviser named

March 19, 2008 11:48:57 AM PDT
President Bush has chosen veteran prosecutor Ken Wainstein to be his new White House-based homeland security adviser. "In his new role, Ken will coordinate our nation's homeland security efforts to ensure that we continue to make progress on combating terrorism, securing our borders, and strengthening our emergency preparedness," Bush said in a statement Wednesday.

Wainstein declined to comment when AP asked him about the new job, which was formerly held by Frances Fragos Townsend.

He currently heads the Justice Department's anti-terror efforts. He has also been the top federal prosecutor for the District of Columbia, and the top lawyer at the FBI.

"He's uniquely qualified," said David Kelley, once a senior terrorism prosecutor now in private practice in New York, where he and Wainstein worked together years ago.

"He has served the role of counselor - Certainly with the FBI director he served in that role. The nature of the role is not new to him, and the subject matter is not new either," said Kelley.

Wainstein's nomination to his current job at the Justice Department became a political football last year, when Sen. Carl Levin, D-Mich., for a time held up the confirmation trying to force the department to supply more information from FBI agents who reported witnessing aggressive, at times abusive, interrogations of detainees at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba, a Defense Department facility.

Attorney General Michael Mukasey said he was sorry to see Wainstein leave the department where he has worked for 20 years, but added: "I can think of no better choice to serve as the president's homeland security adviser."

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Associated Press Writers Lara Jakes Jordan and Ben Feller contributed to this report.

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