Nora Ellingsen

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Nora Ellingsen is a third-year student at Harvard Law School. Prior to graduate school, she spent five years working for the FBI's Counterterrorism Division. She graduated cum laude from Northwestern University with a B.A. in Psychology and Political Science.

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Federal Law Enforcement

Anatomy of a Presidential Untruth: What Data Did the Justice Department Really Provide the White House?

On Feb. 10 of last year, a Justice Department lawyer in the department’s National Security Division (NSD) assembled some data on international terrorism convictions for transmission to the White House. The lawyer, a man named George Toscas, included in his email to his superiors what he described as “some general statements that are supported by [the data] and can be used publicly.”

They included such anodyne claims as these:

Federal Law Enforcement

'I Hope This Is an Instance of Fake News': FBI Messages Show the Bureau's Real Reaction to Trump Firing James Comey

When President Trump fired James Comey as FBI director last May, the special agent in charge of the Detroit field office, David Gelios, wrote an email to his staff:


Trump Repeats His Lies About Terrorism, Immigration and Justice Department Data

The Departments of Justice and Homeland Security issued a report Tuesday that inspired a presidential tweet: “New report from DOJ & DHS shows that nearly 3 in 4 individuals convicted of terrorism-related charges are foreign-born. We have submitted to Congress a list of resources and reforms,” Trump said. “[W]e need to keep America safe, including moving away from a random chain migration and lottery system, to one that is merit-based.”

Terrorism Trials & Investigations

Four Recent International Terrorism Prosecutions Include Benghazi Mastermind Khatallah and Chelsea Bomber

Four international terrorism trials began, continued, or wrapped up in the past few weeks. In the Eastern District of New York, a U.S. citizen and al Qaeda operative who had been deported from Pakistan to the United States, was convicted of terrorism charges by a federal jury. Across the bridge in the Southern District, the Chelsea bomber’s trial began last Monday. On the same day in D.C. federal district court, the mastermind behind the 2012 Benghazi attacks also stepped into the courtroom.


International Terrorism Prosecutions: September Update

As September comes to a close, it has been a relatively quiet month for international terrorism arrests and prosecutions in the United States. All of the action—with the exception of one arrest—took place in New York City in the Southern and Eastern Districts. Next week, the attention will likely shift to Washington, D.C. when the trial of Abu Khatallah, the alleged perpetrator of the 2012 Benghazi attack, begins on October 2 in D.C. federal district court.


What Are ‘Juggalos’ and Why Are They Marching Against the FBI?

On Saturday, the Juggalos marched on Washington. According to their website, they would “take our fight to the streets” this weekend to protest the FBI’s treatment of them. Which led a lot of people to ask, “What the heck is a Juggalo? And what’s their beef with the FBI?” The answer to these questions involves some interesting litigation over the FBI’s authority to identify gangs domestically.


International Terrorism Prosecutions: Spring and Summer Wrap-Up

Since President Trump fired Jim Comey as FBI director, the FBI has received quite a bit of attention. More than 19.5 million people tuned in to watch former director Comey testify before the Senate Intelligence Committee, and shortly thereafter, Etsy shops began to stock “Lordy, I hope there are tapes” apparel. But while the bureau grabs people’s attention, arrests of international terrorism subjects generally don’t make headlines.