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Attorney General Eric Holder Testifies Before the Senate Committee on Appropriations Subcommittee on Commerce, Justice, Science, and Related Agencies
Washington, D.C. ~ Thursday, May 6, 2010

Good morning Chairwoman Mikulski, Ranking Member Shelby, and distinguished members of the subcommittee. Thank you for this opportunity to discuss the President’s Fiscal Year 2011 Budget for the Department of Justice and to provide an update on the department’s progress, key priorities and future plans. I appreciate your recognition of the department’s critical mission, and I look forward to your continued partnership and support.

When I appeared before this subcommittee last May, I set forth several goals for the department: to protect our nation’s security, to reinvigorate the department’s traditional missions, and to restore integrity and transparency at every level of the department’s work. I also pledged that, under my leadership, all decisions and policies would be based on the facts, the law and the best interests of the American people, regardless of political pressures or political consequences.

Almost one year later, I’m pleased to report that the department has made historic progress in meeting these goals. Although new challenges and demands have emerged, the thousands of men and women who serve the department have advanced efforts to protect our country, to enforce our laws in a non-partisan manner, to defend our interests in court, and to ensure the strength and fairness of our justice system.

The President’s FY 2011 Budget request for the Department of Justice, which totals $29 billion and includes $2 billion in program enhancements, will enable the department to build on the progress that’s been achieved over the last 15 months. During this time, we’ve enhanced our national security programs and capabilities. We’ve strengthened efforts to support our most vulnerable communities, to safeguard civil rights in our workplaces, housing markets, voting booths, and border areas, and to protect our environment. In light of last week’s oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico, I want to note that the Justice Department stands ready to vigorously enforce the laws that protect the people who work and reside near the Gulf, the local wildlife, the environment and the American taxpayers. I recently dispatched a team of attorneys to New Orleans to monitor the oil spill, and the department will continue to provide critical legal advice and support to the agencies involved in the federal response.

As part of our focus on securing our economy and combating mortgage and financial fraud, the department is now spearheading the Financial Fraud Enforcement Task Force that President Obama launched last year. And, in collaboration with the Department of Health and Human Services, we’ve made meaningful progress in combating and deterring health care fraud through the Health Care Fraud Prevention and Enforcement Action Team. Through this initiative, we have brought the full resources of our agencies to bear against individuals and corporations who illegally divert taxpayer resources for their own profit. Just last week, this work resulted in a $520 million settlement – the largest amount ever paid by a company in a civil-only settlement of off-label pharmaceutical marketing claims. And, over the past 15 months, the Justice Department has recouped more than $2.8 billion in health care fraud cases through use of the False Claims Act, money that will be fed back into federal coffers.

The President’s budget request will enable the department to build on these achievements and to continue making progress in meeting its responsibilities. Let me assure you that, in distributing and using these funds, we will think carefully and strategically. And we will act to ensure accountability and transparency, just as we have in managing the billions of dollars that have recently been recovered.

The investments requested in the President’s Budget would allow us to continue aggressively pursuing and prosecuting financial and health care fraud, to expand the Community Oriented Policing Services (COPS) hiring program, to reduce violent crime and drug trafficking, to assist our state, local and tribal law enforcement partners, to ensure that detention programs are adequately funded and that effective prison and jail re-entry programs are available, to protect civil rights, to combat international organized crime, and to enforce immigration laws. As you all know, the Department is currently working with agencies across the federal government, and with Congress, to support comprehensive immigration reform in a way that "keeps faith," as President Obama has said, "with our heritage as both a nation of immigrants and a nation of laws."

The budget would also allow the department to strengthen its critical national security work. As you’ve seen, $300 million in program increases have been requested to help strengthen national security and to counter the threat of terrorism. These resources will enable us to expand on the progress we’ve made in the last year. Due to the vigilance of our law enforcement and intelligence agencies, we’ve succeeded – repeatedly – in identifying and averting nascent plots.

On Monday, Faisal Shahzad, a naturalized U.S. citizen born in Pakistan, was arrested in connection with his alleged role in last Saturday’s attempted car bombing in Times Square. On Tuesday, he was charged with acts of terrorism transcending national boundaries, attempted use of a weapon of mass destruction, and other federal crimes. If convicted, he faces a potential life sentence in prison.

During ongoing questioning by federal agents, Shahzad has provided useful information, and we will continue to pursue a number of leads as we gather intelligence relating to this attempted attack. Although this car bomb failed to properly detonate, this plot was yet another reminder that terrorists are still plotting to kill Americans. In February, Najibullah Zazi, a key participant in the plot to bomb New York City’s subway system, pleaded guilty to terrorism violations. Less than two weeks ago, we secured another guilty plea from one of Zazi’s co-conspirators and revealed the role of senior al-Qaeda leaders in ordering the plot. Three others also have been charged as a result of our investigation.

These attempted attacks are stark reminders of the threats that we, as a nation, confront. For the Department of Justice and our partners in the national security community, there is simply no higher priority than disrupting potential attacks and bringing those who plot them to justice. In the Shahzad and Zazi cases, that is exactly what the dedicated federal agents, law enforcement officers and Justice Department prosecutors achieved through exemplary investigative efforts. It is in every American’s best interest to ensure that these public servants have the resources necessary to continue their outstanding work.

In this time of unprecedented challenges, new threats, and ongoing war, your support will continue to be critical in helping the department meet its goals and obligations. As we move forward, I look forward to working with you as all. Once again, thank you for inviting me here today. I am now happy to answer any questions you may have.

Thank you.

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