James A. Baker (government attorney)

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For other people named James Baker, see James Baker (disambiguation).

James A. Baker is an American government official at the Department of Justice, serving as General Counsel for the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI).[1] He also teaches at Harvard Law School.


James A. Baker is a graduate of the University of Notre Dame and received a J.D. and M.A. from the University of Michigan. Mr. Baker has taught National Security Law at Harvard University Law School since 2009.

Government service[edit]

He joined the Criminal Division of the Department of Justice as a federal prosecutor during the Clinton administration. In 1996 he joined Office of Intelligence Policy and Review (OIPR). This government agency handles all Justice Department requests for surveillance authorizations under the terms of the 1978 Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act, advises the Attorney General and all major intelligence-gathering agencies on legal issues relating to national security and surveillance, and "coordinates" the views of the intelligence community regarding intelligence legislation.[2] Baker has often testified before Congress on behalf of Clinton and Bush administration intelligence policies, including defending The Patriot Act before the House Judiciary Committee.[3][4]

In 1998 was promoted to Deputy Counsel for Intelligence Operations. From May 2001 he served as Acting Counsel, and in January 2002 was appointed Counsel. In January 2014, he was appointed General Counsel of the FBI


In 2004, according to The Washington Post, Baker was responsible for the discovery that "the government's failure to share information" regarding the NSA electronic surveillance program had "rendered useless a federal screening system" insisted upon by the United States Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court to prevent "tainted information"—in U.S. case law, fruit of the poisonous tree—from being used before the court. Baker was reported to have informed presiding federal judge Colleen Kollar-Kotelly of the FISC, whose complaints to the Justice Department led to the temporary suspension of the NSA program.[5]

In 2007, according to The Washington Post, Baker revealed that he had informed Attorney General Alberto Gonzales "about mistakes the FBI has made or problems or violations or compliance incidents" prior to Gonzales' April 2005 testimony before the Senate Judiciary Committee that ""There has not been one verified case of civil liberties abuse" after 2001.[6]


External links[edit]