Department of Justice Seal

Prepared Remarks of Attorney General Alberto R. Gonzales
at Press Conference Announcing Release of
Comprehensive Strategic Plan to Combat Identity Theft

Washington, D.C.
April 23, 2007

Good afternoon. I am pleased to be here with Deborah Platt Majoras, Chairman of the Federal Trade Commission, for this announcement.

On April 11, the Identity Theft Task Force, which Deborah and I co-chair, delivered to the President its comprehensive plan to fight identity theft. This crime affects millions of Americans every year, costing them billions of dollars. But it goes far beyond the loss of money or property -- it is a personal invasion, done in secret, that can rob innocent men and women of their good names. A victim can spend months or years rebuilding a damaged credit history and cleaning up the bewildering damage caused by the thief.

We have acknowledged that this is not a new problem, and our report builds upon many years of effort by our federal, state and local partners – as well as the private sector and non-profit organizations. Much has been accomplished and there are more protections in place now than ever before; but the President and the Task Force recognized that we need to do more. This new plan represents an important step forward in America’s efforts to fight back against identity theft.

The recently reported public exposure of Social Security numbers by a federal agency is problematic, and serves as a timely reminder that all of us -- including the government -- must be careful when handling people's personal information. This is exactly the kind of vulnerability that the Task Force's recommendations are designed to help identify and to prevent.

The recommendations are a strategic effort to fight this crime, protect consumers, and help victims put their lives back together. Several of these points were announced last September as interim recommendations, and I am pleased that all of those have already been implemented or are in the process of being implemented.

Preventing identity theft is about more than just protecting businesses and consumers, it is about national security. One of the Task Force’s primary recommendations is that the federal government establish a National Identity Theft Law Enforcement Center. This effort will increase our ability to analyze ID theft complaint data and other intelligence from the public and private sectors, and to make that information available to our law enforcement partners at all levels.

Identity thieves do not respect jurisdictional boundaries, and allowing agents and officers across the country to share information will help them connect the dots between seemingly unrelated investigations. That same level of cooperation is necessary with our foreign law enforcement partners as well. A National Identity Theft Law Enforcement Center will make a real difference in our ability to investigate, prosecute, and punish identity thieves.

The Task Force also recognized that many of our current criminal statutes have not been updated to allow law enforcement to keep pace with new and developing methods used by identity thieves. We therefore are recommending a variety of legislative proposals aimed at strengthening identity theft enforcement, including ways to close loopholes in existing laws, so that prosecutors have the appropriate tools for charging these crimes. These legislative proposals include amendments to the restitution statutes -- to enable victims to recover the value of time spent attempting to make themselves whole. And they include important measures to assure federal authority to prosecute the use of malicious spyware; to broaden the statutes that criminalize the theft of electronic data; and to permit prosecutors to charge aggravated identity theft – which carries a mandatory two-year prison term -- in a larger number of cases.

When the President established this Task Force last May, he met with victims of identity theft. He heard their voices -- and he asked the Task Force to step up and make a difference. With this report we have made good on that promise.

I would like to thank the many law enforcement and victims' rights groups here today who will be instrumental in implementing the plan, including the National District Attorneys Association, the National Association of Attorneys General, the Fraternal Order of Police, the International Association of Chiefs of Police, the National Center for Victims of Crime, and the Police Executive Research Forum.

Now we will hear from Chairman Majoras before taking your questions. X