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For Immediate Release


Frank Campbell was Architect of Brady Act’s Gun Background Check System

Washington, D.C., July 1, 2008 One of the leading experts in government on background checks and the use of information to enhance security and public safety has left the United States Department of Justice (DOJ) to enter the private sector.  Frank A. S. Campbell, a former Deputy Assistant Attorney General and Senior Counsel in DOJ’s Office of Legal Policy during both the Clinton and Bush Administrations, has launched a Washington, D.C.-based strategic consulting firm named Highland Strategies, LLC. 

Campbell served in the DOJ legal policy office from 1998 until June 2008.  He began his government service in 1994 as an Assistant General Counsel for the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI).  Throughout his 14 years in government, Campbell played a key role in developing policy initiatives and programs relating to background screening and risk assessments, identity management using biometrics, counterterrorism and information sharing, and the development and use of enhanced forensic technologies by law enforcement.  He appeared before congressional committees as the DOJ expert on the subject of background checks.  He also was one of DOJ’s key advisors on issues relating to firearms and explosives regulation and enforcement.

Gun Buyer Background Checks

Campbell is regarded as the architect of the National Instant Check System (NICS), the background check system for gun buyers established by the Attorney General and implemented by the FBI under the 1993 Brady Act.  He helped guide the NICS through legal and policy challenges in the politically sensitive field of firearm regulation to its success as a national background check program.   “The NICS is an excellent example of firearm regulation that respects the Second Amendment while making a difference in public safety every day,” said Campbell.  “In the ten years since it began serving federally licensed gun dealers in 1998, the NICS has processed nearly 100 million background checks and prevented over 1 million transfers of firearms to persons prohibited by law from receiving a gun.  The system also met the requirement of doing the checks quickly – ninety-one percent of NICS checks are completed while the gun dealer is still on the phone.”  Campbell was one of the original designers of the NICS, wrote the regulations governing the system, and developed the protocols for handling gun checks that hit on records in the terrorist watch list.  Campbell also spearheaded the Department’s initial efforts to implement the NICS Improvement Act, a law recently passed in the wake of the Virginia Tech tragedy that aims to improve the completeness of automated information needed by the NICS to successfully keep guns out of the hands of prohibited persons, including individuals with disqualifying mental health adjudications or commitments.


Criminal History Background Checks

Campbell also provided legal and policy guidance on the security, privacy, and dissemination of information in the FBI’s national criminal history record system.  He authored the June 2006 Attorney General’s Report on Criminal History Background Checks, a comprehensive review of the legal and policy issues in this area with detailed recommendations to Congress for changes in the law to make FBI criminal history data more broadly available to private sector employers.  The report also made recommendations for improving the completeness of records in the national criminal history system, some of which are reflected in the NICS Improvement Act.  Based on the report, Campbell developed the DOJ position on recent proposed amendments to the National Child Protection Act that seek to establish a national background check system for providers of care to children.  Required by the Intelligence Reform and Terrorism Prevention Act of 2004, the report was submitted to Congress in June 2006 and has been the subject of two congressional hearings on background checks, including one relating to the private security guard industry, at which Campbell was the DOJ witness.  The report is available at www.usdoj.gov/olp/ag_bgchecks_report.pdf.

Campbell also served as the principal DOJ advisor to the Compact Council, a body of state and federal officials appointed by the Attorney General to govern the implementation of the National Crime Prevention and Privacy Compact, an interstate compact adopted by Congress in 1998 that now has 28 state members.  Campbell helped guide the Council in carrying out its role of developing policies and establishing rules relating to the interstate exchange of criminal history data for non-criminal justice purposes, including background checks for employment or licensing.

Counterterrorism and Information Sharing

In the area of counterterrorism, Campbell led the effort to develop the implementation guidelines for the information sharing provisions of the USA PATRIOT Act, including guidelines for the sharing with the intelligence community and homeland security officials of foreign intelligence acquired in the course of criminal investigations.  He also provided legal and policy advice on DOJ’s joint effort with DHS on the interoperability of each department’s fingerprint identification system so that criminal justice and immigration information can be shared between DOJ, DHS, the State Department, and other appropriate government agencies.

Advanced Identification, Biometric, and Forensic Technologies

Campbell spearheaded the initiative by several federal departments, including DOJ, DHS, State, and DOD, that led to R&D grants by the National Institute of Justice and DHS for the development of a fingerprint fast-capture device for use in government identity enrollment and background screening applications.  He assisted in efforts to define government-wide approaches to using biometrics to enhance identification in law enforcement and national security applications.  He also worked on legislation, regulations, and research and grant initiatives supporting the further development and expansion of the FBI’s Combined DNA Index System (CODIS) and the use of technologies for integrated ballistics identification systems (IBIS) by ATF.

Firearms and Explosives

Campbell’s responsibilities also included general firearms and explosives regulation and enforcement issues, including the integration of ATF into DOJ from the Treasury Department, increases in federal sentencing guidelines for offenses involving firearm trafficking or destructive devices, and drafting legislation enacted as part of the Intelligence Reform and Terrorism Prevention Act of 2004 that substantially increased the penalties for private possession of MANPADS (shoulder-fired missiles intended to destroy aircraft) and other weapons of mass destruction.


Thomas E. Bush, III, Assistant Director In Charge of the FBI’s Criminal Justice Information Services Division, praised Campbell as “a foundation in the initiation and success of the NICS program and a sought-after resource for many other FBI programs.  Frank’s expert policy and legal guidance on security, privacy, and dissemination of criminal history record information through the years has been invaluable to the FBI’s Criminal Justice Information Services Division.  His exemplary work on The Attorney General’s Report on Criminal History Background Checks will serve as a benchmark for future changes to federal law authorizing national background checks.”

Donna M. Uzzell, Compact Council Chair and Director of Criminal Justice Information Services for the Florida Department of Law Enforcement, praised Campbell as “a tireless advocate of balancing the need for access to criminal histories with the principles of privacy and individual rights.  The perspective Frank brought to Council deliberations was unique and valued.  He broadened our horizons.  As the primary author of The Attorney General’s Report on Criminal History Background Checks, Frank created a comprehensive guide for future legislation in this important area of public policy,” stated Uzzell.

“Ronald P. Hawley, Executive Director of SEARCH, the National Consortium for Criminal Justice Information and Statistics, an organization with representatives from all 50 states, also praised Campbell’s work on the Attorney General’s report, stating “No one has done a better job of putting in one place all the details and complexities of the national system for managing and sharing criminal justice information, explaining the interests of various stakeholders in how that information is accessed and used, and crafting balanced policy recommendations that account for the competing interests involved with broader access to criminal history data for background checks.  Frank’s work will serve for many years to come as a platform upon which decisions can be made about improving that record system and establishing clear and fair rules governing access to and use of the information.”


Before his service in government, Campbell practiced law for 14 years in Washington, D.C., engaging in a wide range of civil litigation and in white collar defense.  His white collar work involved the defense of public officials, including Members of the United States House of Representatives in federal criminal investigations and prosecutions and House ethics and disciplinary proceedings.  Campbell received his B.A. from Lafayette College in 1977 and his law degree from the George Washington University in 1980.

About Highland Strategies, LLC

Campbell’s new firm, Highland Strategies, LLC, will provide strategic consulting services in law, public policy, and government relations, with an emphasis on helping businesses and government agencies find effective, balanced, and secure ways to use information to enhance security and public safety.  The firm also will consult on legislation and regulatory compliance matters, particularly as it relates to law enforcement, homeland security, and national security issues.

“Meeting today’s public and private security needs requires developing efficient technological solutions for accessing and sharing information from many public and private sources,” said Campbell.  “The greater challenge, however, often lies in finding solutions that policy-makers can adopt with the public, political, or market acceptance that comes when individual privacy interests are protected and fair information practices are followed.  Highland Strategies will help businesses and government agencies meet that challenge.”

Contact:  Frank A. S. Campbell

                  Founding Principal and CEO

                  Highland Strategies, LLC

                  (202) 441-6525