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Legal Careers at Homeland Security

Law students and lawyers from the public sector and private practice are urged to explore employment opportunities with the Office of the General Counsel. These opportunities include career positions for attorneys at headquarters and at component agencies, an Honors Attorney Program for enrty level attorneys, and legal internships and externships for law students.
View Office of the General Counsel career opportunities at headquarters and component agencies.

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Laws and Regulations

Office of the General Counsel


The Office of the General Counsel comprises all lawyers within the Department of Homeland Security—over 1,750 dedicated attorneys at headquarters and at operating components.

The Homeland Security Act defines the general counsel as the "chief legal officer of the Department." In this role, he is ultimately responsible for all of the Department's legal determinations and for overseeing all of its attorneys. The general counsel is also the Department's regulatory policy officer, managing the rulemaking program and ensuring that all Department of Homeland Security regulatory actions comply with relevant statutes and executive orders.

The Office of the General Counsel’s central tasks include:

  • providing complete, accurate, and timely legal advice on possible courses of action for the Department;
  • ensuring that Homeland Security policies are implemented lawfully, quickly, and efficiently;
  • protecting the rights and liberties of any Americans who come into contact with the Department;
  • facilitating quick responses to congressional requests for information; and
  • representing the Department in venues across the country, including in the immigration courts of the United States.

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Gus P. Coldebella has been the Department's acting general counsel since February 2007. He is assisted in managing the Office of the General Counsel by two deputy general counsel, Andrew Levy and Joseph Maher, and chief of staff Mark Klaassen. The assistant and associate general counsel provide leadership and help the general counsel manage Department legal operations at headquarters, and the chief counsel perform the same role at component agencies.

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The Office of the General Counsel is made up of lawyers at headquarters on the general counsel's immediate staff, and lawyers working in the operating components.

View the Office of the General Counsel's current organizational chart.

Headquarters. Each headquarters division is headed by an associate general counsel. Subdivisions within each headquarters division are headed by assistant general counsel. The headquarters divisions are:

  • General Law. Provides legal advice and support on acquisition and procurement activities; labor and employment matters; appropriations and fiscal law issues; general tort and related claims; and environmental issues; and oversees the activities of the Board of Correction of Military Records.
  • Immigration. Expertise in U.S. immigration laws, including deportation and removal, arrest and detention, national security, asylum applications and other remedies, refugee issues, benefit processing and adjudications, inspection and admissibility issues, visa adjudication and issuance, and immigration and federal court litigation.
  • Intelligence. Expertise in authorities related to intelligence collection, analysis, dissemination; engagement with state, local, tribal and private sector entities; information sharing.
  • Legal Counsel. Provides legal review, guidance and support on:

    • significant litigation matters, including coordination with Department of Justice, providing strategic guidance for component counsel offices, and coordinating departmental litigation management;
    • the Department's statutory authorities, including analysis of existing powers, assessing the impact of pending legislation, and leading development of the Department's legislative agenda;
    • privacy, civil rights and civil liberties issues, including review of Department policies and activities to assess compliance with privacy and civil rights laws,  and review of complaints alleging civil rights violations;
    • significant inquiries from Congress and GAO, including representation of the Department during various oversight investigations, audits, and reviews conducted by Congressional committees, Government Accountability Office, and other reviewing bodies.

  • National Protection and Programs. Provides legal support to the National Protection and Programs Directorate on infrastructure protection, emergency communications, and cyber security issues.
  • Operations and Enforcement. Expertise in operations, law enforcement, and emergency/incident management activities, including international information exchange, screening and watchlist issues, international agreements and arrangements, foreign investment and national security reviews.
  • Regulatory Affairs. Leads the Department's rulemaking activities, coordinates review of proposed regulations, and ensures that all regulatory actions presented to the Secretary comply with constitutional and statutory restrictions and mandates.
  • Technology Programs. Provides legal support for the Science and Technology Directorate, Domestic Nuclear Detection Office, and Office of Health Affairs.

Components. Operating components have a chief counsel or equivalent, each of whom reports to the general counsel. They are:

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  • By mail or phone:
    Office of the General Counsel
    Department of Homeland Security
    Mail Stop 3650
    Washington, DC 20528

    Phone: (202) 282-9822
    Fax: (202) 282-9186

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This page was last reviewed/modified on September 9, 2008.