Good morning, Chairman Conyers, Representative Smith, and distinguished members of the Committee. I am pleased to appear before you today to discuss the accomplishments of the Department of Justice in the past year. But, first, let me thank you for your ongoing support of the department’s work and your recognition of its essential role in defending our nation and its highest principles.
Throughout my confirmation process, and since becoming Attorney General last February, I have worked to establish and articulate a clear set of goals for the Department: protecting the American people against both foreign and domestic threats; ensuring the fair and impartial administration of justice; assisting state and local law enforcement; and defending the interests of the United States. I have repeatedly pledged, just as I did when I appeared before this Committee last May, to pursue these goals in service of the cause of justice and in a way that honors the department’s commitment to integrity, transparency and the rule of law.
The thousands of men and women who serve the Justice Department have made meaningful progress in meeting these goals, whether in the pursuit and prosecution of terrorists, in the fight against crime, or in protecting our civil rights, preserving our environment, ensuring fairness in our markets, seeking justice in our Tribal Communities, promoting transparency in our government, and enforcing our tax laws.
Despite the unprecedented challenges and new demands that have emerged, we are on the right path to fulfilling our obligations and achieving our goals. Protecting Americans against terrorism remains the highest priority of the Department of Justice. The Administration will continue to use all lawful means to protect our national security, including, where appropriate, military, intelligence, law enforcement, diplomatic, and economic tools and authorities. We will aggressively defend our nation from attack by terrorist groups, consistent with our Constitution, our laws and our values as well as our international obligations.
As one of the counterterrorism tools available to us, the criminal justice system has proven its strength in both incapacitating terrorists and gathering valuable intelligence – most recently in the case of Faisal Shahzad. Twelve days ago, we believe he attempted to detonate a car bomb in Times Square. Less than 53 hours later, thanks to the outstanding work of the FBI, the department’s National Security Division, U.S. Attorneys’ Offices, and our partners at the NYPD and the Department of Homeland Security, Shahzad had been identified, located and arrested. When questioned by federal agents, he provided useful information. We now believe that the Pakistan Taliban was responsible for the attempted attack. We are currently working with the authorities in Pakistan on this investigation, and we will use every resource available to make sure that anyone found responsible, whether they be in the United States or overseas, is held accountable.
This attempted attack is a sober reminder that we face aggressive and determined enemies. For example, since January 2009, 14 individuals have been indicted in Minnesota in connection with travel to Somalia to train or fight with the terrorist group al Shabaab; David Headley was indicted in Chicago and pleaded guilty in connection with a plot to bomb a Danish newspaper and for his involvement in the November 2008 terror attacks in Mumbai; and Umar Farouk Abdulmutallab was charged with federal crimes in connection with the attempted bombing of Northwest Airlines Flight 253 near Detroit last Christmas.
In addition, in February 2010, Najibullah Zazi pleaded guilty in the Eastern District of New York to conspiracy to use weapons of mass destruction, specifically explosives, against persons or property in the United States, conspiracy to commit murder in a foreign country, and providing material support to al-Qaeda. Zazi admitted that he brought explosives to New York as part of plan to attack its subway system. This was one of the most serious terrorist threats to our nation since September 11th, 2001, and, but for the combined efforts of the law enforcement and intelligence communities, it could have been devastating. Several associates of Zazi have also been charged with participating in the plot and related crimes, including Zarein Ahmedzay, who has also pleaded guilty to terrorism charges and faces a sentence of up to life in prison.
The department’s work to combat terrorism includes civil as well as criminal proceedings. For example, the department successfully defended the Treasury Department’s designation and attendant asset freeze of a Saudi Arabia-based charity engaged in the widespread financial support of terrorist groups around the world, including al-Qaeda.
In addition to these efforts to protect our nation from terrorism and other threats, over the last year we have reinvigorated the traditional missions of the department. We have strengthened efforts to protect our environment, combat health care fraud, and enforce our antitrust laws. We have worked to safeguard civil rights in our workplaces and our neighborhoods. We have made strides in ensuring that prisons and jails are secure and rehabilitative, and we have worked to make federal criminal laws more fair and effective. And, as part of our focus on securing our economy and combating mortgage and financial fraud, the department is leading the Financial Fraud Enforcement Task Force that President Obama established last year, using new legal tools provided by Congress.
Once again, I thank you for your support of the department’s most urgent, and most essential, work. I look forward to continuing to work with this Committee and with the Congress. And, now, I am happy to answer any questions you may have.