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Externship: National Security Division of the DOJ

April 27, 2022

A timely externship provided Peter Neal L’22 with an opportunity to explore the topic of international influence on domestic matters outside of traditional classroom study.

In his 2L year, Peter Neal L’22 took a deep dive into the topic of foreign influence on domestic affairs with an externship in the National Security Division of the Department of Justice (DOJ), working within its Counterintelligence and Export Control Section (CES).

The CES is responsible for investigating and prosecuting cases affecting national security, foreign relations, and the export of military and strategic commodities and technology. This section has “executive responsibility” to authorize the prosecution of cases relating to espionage, sabotage, neutrality, and atomic energy under criminal statutes.

Neal spent his time at the CES working primarily on matters that fell under the Foreign Agents Registration Act.

“The opportunity to work on efforts to root out actors that sought to influence our government at the behest of foreign interests was very meaningful,” Neal said, “and it felt responsive to some of the largest concerns of the moment.”

While at CES, Neal wrote a memorandum on prosecutions using the charge of seditious conspiracy. This is a serious — and difficult — charge that has since been successfully brought in several of the January 6th prosecutions.

“I can’t say whether or not it made an impression,” Neal said, “but I am particularly proud of that work.”

CES is only one of several active sections within the National Security Division of the Office of the DOJ. Other responsibilities of the division include representing the U.S. before the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court, monitoring national security activities to ensure individual privacy and civil liberties are protected, advising on national security issues arising from bilateral/multilateral engagements with foreign governments, and assisting U.S. victims of overseas terrorism to navigate foreign criminal justice systems.

Neal’s experience at the DOJ led him to seek out another experiential offering during his 3L spring semester. This time he enrolled in the Legislative Clinic and was placed at the U.S. House General Counsel’s Office, which serves as the chief, nonpartisan legal counsel for House of Representatives members and committees.

“Being a part of historic filings and seeing my work pop up in even just a sentence of a brief brings a sense of meaning. … I know that the quality of the job I do on a particular assignment could actually matter.”

The University of Pennsylvania Carey Law School’s Externship Program is designed to supplement the Law School’s offerings by providing external opportunities for students to observe and participate meaningfully in lawyering at government agencies and nonprofit organizations as well as with judges.

Learn more about externship opportunities at the Law School.