9:28 A.M. EDT




MR. HOLDER: Good morning. I'm joined this morning by Jan Chaiken, who is the director of the Bureau of Justice Statistics at the Office of Justice Programs. He's the guy with the jacket on.

For the past six years, this administration has worked to strengthen the relationship between police departments and the communities that these departments serve. This effort involves making sure that police departments understand the concerns and experiences of their community residents, and it involves making sure that police departments understand the way they're viewed in the community.

I'm happy to note that police executives are increasingly seeking this type of information. They know that community perceptions directly affect their ability to be effective.

The president, the attorney general, and I have spoken out at great length about the issue of police integrity, and this administration has fought hard to implement a style of policing that gets officers into and engaged with the neighborhoods that they serve.

Next week the attorney general will bring together community and civil rights leaders, police chiefs, and members of the academic and faith communities to examine ways to strengthen the relations between law enforcement and the communities that they serve. Building trust between law enforcement officers and communities is one of the most challenging tasks facing our nation today. Next week's conference is aimed at exploring ways to break the barriers of misunderstanding and distrust that are still far too common among many of our nation's police agencies and the residents, and facilitate the process of building trust.

Today we are releasing a report, compiled by the Bureau of Justice Statistics and the Community-Oriented Policing Services Office, on citizen perceptions of crime and policing in 12 American cities. Today's report comes from surveys conducted last year and are the first neighborhood surveys sponsored by the department in 20 years.

The views expressed in these surveys are revealing. For instance, approximately 85 percent of the residents in the 12 cities thought that their local police were doing a good job. While only 10 percent of white residents were dissatisfied with their local police, on average, 24 percent of black residents and 22 percent of other people of color were dissatisfied. Residents who had been a victim of violent crime were less satisfied than those who were not.

The 12 cities, I believe, can learn from these numbers. A city might learn, for instance, that they need to do more to educate residents about how to report crimes. They might discover that one type of crime affects the community's sense of security more than another. They might recognize that there is still too great a gulf between the views of the minority community and white residents. And that's why these statistics are so meaningful.

What's more significant is the Bureau of Justice Statistics and the COPS Office are making available for free an easy-to-use software program, so that every police department can conduct their own neighborhood surveys. This administration has done more to partner with law enforcement than any other, and we think this is yet another way to assist law enforcement to be the very best that they can be.

(Displaying survey.) And this is the survey.

Q Mr. Holder, the survey comes out a day after the American Civil Liberties Union put out a report on concern about racial profiling. And today the ACLU is filing another lawsuit, which I think will bring to around a dozen or so the lawsuits they've filed over this. Is racial profiling a major concern still for the Justice Department? And do you think that's -- do you have any idea of why people are -- why black Americans especially are so dissatisfied, more than any other group, with the police in their communities?

MR. HOLDER: Well, Jan can perhaps talk about what we found in the survey with regard to the reasons why we saw those numbers. But I think racial profiling certainly is something that is of great concern to many people in this nation, people who are black and white, people who are in law enforcement and people who are not. It is going to be one of the main topics that we'll be discussing next week at the conference that I discussed.

Q What is your sense of the extent to which police themselves are concerned that there even is a problem with racial profiling, because you see such a divergence of police reactions; San Diego and San Jose voluntarily keeping records; the National Association of Police Organizations, however, saying there really isn't a problem.

MR. HOLDER: Well, I mean, I think that, you know, there is a divergent view in law enforcement about the nature of the problem, the extent of the problem. And I think one of the things that we have to do is really try to find, to the extent that we can using statistical measures, how big a problem we actually have and then deal with it.

There is certainly a perception among too many people in the black community, other people of color, that they are treated differently, and that perception is important; it affects a police department's ability to be effective. And that's one of the things, I think, that we see come out of this survey. And so the reality is not only important, perception is, as well.

Q Speaking of divergent opinions, if more than three out of four black residents in this study are satisfied with law enforcement, don't you find that encouraging? And is the NAACP speaking only for a minority, then, of the minorities?

MR. CHAIKEN: This survey was conducted last year before the issue of racial profiling became so -- of such prominent attention. But the survey does show the gap between the impressions of the police in the black community and in the white community, even before this issue rose to prominence. And we're glad to have this data from last year, because by repeating it, either we or the cities themselves can determine whether there's been a substantial impact on people's appreciation for the police.

Nonetheless, over the years it's clear that people of all colors do have a great overall high levels of trust in the police, and much greater than for other professions, like the media or statisticians. (Laughter.)

And --

MR. HOLDER: And we are not going to say where lawyers come in there.

MR. CHAIKEN: (Laughs.) And so this is -- every day, thousands of black people call their local police and expect them to handle the problem that they have called them about and trust them to do that. And so I think you do have to see that there is reality to this number that three-quarters of black people do have a favorable attitude toward their local police.

MR. HOLDER: Again, I think that -- I think, Terry, you are right; I mean, that number is -- that is kind of encouraging that we see the number that high. And yet, you know, the fact is, if we are talking about 25 percent, 24 percent or whatever, that number is still, it seems to me, too large. And so I think there is reason to see that as both good news and bad news.

Q What makes Madison, Wisconsin, such a place where people are satisfied? Is it an ethnic thing, or are there other factors that you have been able to identify?

MR. CHAIKEN: Well, included with the data in this report about the levels of crime, and the levels of fear of crime and trust of the police, we do have demographic information on the ethnic and racial breakdowns of the cities. And so, in general, because we know on the whole the blacks in these cities are less satisfied with the police, on the whole the cities that have a greater percent overall of black residents have a lower overall level of trust for the police. And you will also see that in some cities, there is not any difference between the whites and the blacks in their impression of the police.

Q But is there some other factor that makes Madison, Wisconsin, other than an ethnic factor -- which makes Madison, Wisconsin, so satisfied with its numbers?

MR. CHAIKEN: The cities were selected to have a wide range of reported crime rates and different parts of the country and different compositions of the population. And so the statistics about the lower crime rates experienced by people in Madison, confirm what we have from the police-reported statistics. And they go along with the fact that fear of crime is less there and that people have a higher degree of trust in their police. So all those things do fit together.

Q Mr. Holder, is the perception again based on actual events or perception based on just media coverage of a few isolated incidents?

MR. CHAIKEN: The study shows that people get their impressions primarily from their neighbors and from the media. But there is a substantial component of their fear level and their understanding of crime that comes from their own personal experiences with victimization.

Q Is there a strong correlation in these cities between the fear of crime and the actual crime rate?

MR. CHAIKEN: Yes, but it is not perfect.

You'll see that the ones that have the highest fear levels are not necessarily the highest crime levels.

Q But the correlation does exist.

MR. CHAIKEN: The correlation is there.

Q Mr. Chaiken, you said that this survey was done before the intense media coverage of racial profiling and the Simpson case and so forth. What difference does that make, given that many folks in these communities say that their own news media, black-oriented publications, have been onto the old "driving while black" syndrome long before the general news media caught up with it, and that this has been a common perception in that community since long before the story became a big national one.

MR. CHAIKEN: Well, these data show that there is that gap in perceptions even last year, but what I was saying was that to repeat the survey or for each city to repeat the same survey themselves will reveal whether intense scrutiny of this issue or any of the events that have happened in the last year have shifted even larger numbers of people. We don't know whether those changes in perception have occurred. But the base is obviously a very high level of support for the police.

Q I mean, I guess, when the survey was taken -- for instance, in New York -- it was after the Louima incident but before the Diallo incident, is that right?

MR. CHAIKEN: That's correct.

Q I know you said the last survey was taken about 20 years ago. What are the relative numbers? And is there any way to figure out whether or how much trust is increasing or decreasing?

MR. CHAIKEN: The surveys 20 years ago did not cover the same issues and were not these same cities. But it's our first effort to take our national data -- every year we publish data from our national surveys, but we can't break it down by city because we don't have enough data for each city. So this is an effort, our first effort, to gain some local information about these topics.

I don't think --

Q At the national level, then, has trust been increasing dramatically? Has it been more or less the same for a few years?

MR. CHAIKEN: This is -- the first time we fielded these questions was in this 12-city study. We do intend to do the same ones nationally, but we don't, at this point, have comparable data other than these 12 cities.

Q Could we change the subject?


Q All right. Mr. Li, the ambassador to the United States for the People's Republic of China, last week basically said that China would never steal, never would have to steal information from another country, from the United States specifically, and that they were innocent as doves.

What do you have to say to Mr. Li's allegation that there is no stealing via espionage of the United States?

MR. HOLDER: Well, I don't think I'd really want to comment on that. I wouldn't comment on that.

Q Okay, let me ask you this. Is it time to increase counterintelligence coverage of Chinese operatives in this country?

MR. HOLDER: Well, you know, I'm not sure that I'd say it's time to increase counterintelligence with regard to China specifically. I mean, I think we always have to keep our guard up. We are in a new world; the Cold War is over, and a lot of the techniques and concerns that we had back then are now going to have to be different, and we have to make sure that our nation is prepared to handle the new challenges that we face in that area.

Q Mr. Holder, what we hear from so many FBI veterans, counterintelligence people, is that the Chinese methods are completely different from the Russians, the old Cold War stuff that we're used to hearing about. But they've known this for years, that the Chinese methods are completely different. What has the FBI done, if anything, to combat Chinese espionage using different methods from what they used to combat Russia?

MR. HOLDER: Well, I mean, I don't think that's the kind of question that you ought to answer. (Chuckles.) Let's just say that I'm confident that the FBI is capable of responding to the new challenges that we face in this different world that I have described.

Q Well, have they in fact tried to do something completely different from what they had been doing in the past? It sounds to me as if they're still trying to put this square peg into a round hole.

MR. HOLDER: No, I mean, I think you can overplay that. I mean, there are certainly -- as I said, there are new challenges that we face, but it doesn't mean that these challenges are brand new or the concerns that we face are brand new. It's a question of refining techniques that have proven to be effective over the years, coming up with new ways to deal with the new technologies that we have to deal with. And as I said, I think the FBI is very capable in that regard.

Q Mr. Holder, last week the attorney general gave us a pretty careful time line on how the department responded to the request for a wiretap in one case.

As for your own involvement, can you say what happened -- was this thing pretty well resolved by the time you came on board?

MR. HOLDER: Well, I started on July 18th of '97 -- 17th -- I think something like that -- stayed two weeks, and promptly took two weeks off. But I don't know -- I mean, in terms of the time line, you know, I wouldn't say that it was fully resolved by then. I mean, there were still things going on. I mean --

Q Well, I guess a better question would be: Were you involved at all in reviewing this particular application that the attorney general talked about?

MR. HOLDER: No, I was not. As she indicated, Dan Seikaly in the Deputy's Office reviewed the matter. He was at that time the head of our Executive Office for National Security. But he did not review -- reveal his findings with me or share them with me. So no.

I mean, the way the system is designed, the attorney general deals with OIPR, and the Deputy's Office does not generally get involved in FISAs. I do, as I do now -- with the attorney general being out of town, I'm one FISA applications come to.

Q Is that mistake -- that your office is not involved?

MR. HOLDER: I'm sorry?

Q The same question.

MR. HOLDER: And the question is?

Q Is it a mistake that the DAG's office has not been involved in this process at all? I mean, usually don't you see almost everything that goes up to the AG?

MR. HOLDER: Mm, a fair amount of -- a substantial amount of what the attorney general sees goes through our office. But I think the process that we had in place then and that we are refining now gives an adequate amount of review. We have people in OIPR who work with the agencies who bring the applications to them. And there is always an opportunity, if one is particularly difficult, for the attorney general to get in touch with people in our office.

Q As you look back on what happened in this particular case, do you have any understanding -- we hear so much about how the FBI felt so strongly about this that they kept coming back and coming back, and Assistant Director John Lewis buttonholed the AG at another meeting, asked her to look at it again. Why is that the FBI director, Louis Freeh, never weighed in on this himself? Do you understand why?

MR. HOLDER: Well, you know, I don't want to speculate. I mean, I think that, you know, the main thing at this point is to really kind of focus on fine-tuning a system that I think actually works pretty well, that needs to, you know, make sure that we are operating as well as it -- it's operating as well as it possibly can.

But I think the concerns that the Bureau had were brought to the attention of, you know, the appropriate people within the department, not brought to the attention of the attorney general. And, you know, I think that that probably should have been done and is consistent with the wing, which she manages. And I think it has now been made clear that, if a similar circumstance were to arise again, that it would be expected that the attorney general would be more directly involved.

Q Mr. Holder, is the congressional rhetoric in this particular case gone beyond what the evidence actually was at the time?

MR. HOLDER: Well -- I mean, I don't want to speculate as to why people are saying what they are saying.

But you know, the attempts to lay blame in a very personal way, it seems to me, is counterproductive. What we ought to be doing is focusing on making sure that we get the job done and seeing whether there are systemic things that we need to change and modify. I don't think that the people who have criticized the attorney general for instance personally, are really on good ground.

Q But I guess my question more deals with the fact that it was denied because of lack of evidence, as opposed to the rhetoric today, which suggests that, "Look, the evidence was overwhelming to do this FISA"?

MR. HOLDER: Well again, I don't know where people are getting their information. You know, I have looked at the material, and it seems to me that the decision that was made back then was an appropriate one. Now, you know, I am looking back and trying to put myself in the position of the people who look at it, you know, a couple years or so ago. But it seems to me the decision that they made was appropriate.

Q Mr. Holder, in March the White House asked, and the OLC delivered an opinion on the legality of the president ordering the present air campaign. Can you tell us the general elements in that OLC opinion, which supported the president's authority to begin the present air campaign in the Balkans?

MR. HOLDER: I might defer that one to Myron only because I am not sure exactly how much of that we can appropriately discuss in this forum. I am just really not sure. So I'll defer that one to Myron.

Q Just getting back for a minute to this Chinese espionage situation, do you have any sense that the attorney general's modified limited hang-out -- (laughs) -- of last week -- has that quelled any of the --

MR. HOLDER: You can use some other description perhaps. (Laughter.) I am old enough to remember where that came from. (Laughter.)

Q She gave us a fair amount of information, and for her maybe even an astounding amount of information.

MR. HOLDER: Right.

Q Has that changed the furor at all, or has it just been quiet this week only because members of Congress are out of town?

Do you think she's out of danger or are people still going to be calling for her head?

MR. HOLDER: Well I don't think she ever was in danger. There have certainly been people who have called for her resignation. I don't think there's a basis for that. I mean, I think she has done not a good job, but a great job as attorney general. And I think that, you know, people worry about their legacies and how history will view them. I think that time will show that on this and other matters she did the right thing, she made some tough decisions, and that she's been a real good attorney general.

Q Let me ask you a question that I asked to Ms. Reno last week, Eric. To what extent is the PRC a threat to United States security? Is it a threat, and then to what extent, I would ask, to your thinking?

MR. HOLDER: I mean, we obviously have very different systems of government and very different views of how we view freedom. You know, I'm not -- and I think we have to be cognizant of the fact that our interests are not always going to be consistent in that regard. We have to make sure that we protect the national security, but there are also ways in which we can work with the Chinese and have to work with the Chinese to try to change, where we can, things in their system that we find inappropriate, bothersome. So I think it's, you know, it's a combination of both; we have to be wary, but at the same time, I think we have to try to work with them.

Q May I follow up on Pierre's question and ask a more general question? Despite all the smoke from the Hill in the last couple of weeks, is there any evidence that the Chinese government obtained information about U.S. nuclear weapons through espionage?

MR. HOLDER: I don't think it would be appropriate for me to comment on that.

Q Well, does the Cox report, that's public, contain evidence that the Chinese obtained nuclear weapons design information through espionage?

MR. HOLDER: I'll refer you all to the Cox report.

Q On the subject of hacking, would you address in general to what extent the Justice Department views this as a potentially serious threat to the agency and its computer files, and so forth? Or is it simply an embarrassment that the FBI's web page was taken down?

MR. HOLDER: No, I don't think it's an embarrassment. And it is serious.

I mean, you know, we tend to think of these hackers as kind of, you know, little cherubs, these little 16- and 15-year-olds who are going around fooling around with their computers and the reality is, you know, regardless of their age, what they're doing has a very serious impact on the ability of these various agencies to get information out to the public. That's the beauty of web pages and computers, you know? We allow our government to be infinitely more accessible than it has been in the past, and the attempts, sometimes successful, to bring down these web pages affects that ability and is, in my mind, something very serious and something that we will take very seriously and will, where we find people who are responsible for these actions, they'll be prosecuted in a very serious way.

Q Why is it very serious? Isn't it sort of the high-tech equivalent of spray-painting your bulletin board or taking all your push-pins away? I mean, why is it serious?

MR. HOLDER: Well, I mean, if you look at the potential of these web pages, which is an ability for government to share information with the people that it is supposed to serve, anybody who interferes with that transmission of information, I think, is doing something that is very serious. I think it's more than spray-painting a billboard. It's a lot more serious than that.

Q Mr. Holder, it's my understanding that the FBI site was "smurfed," rather than hacked. In other words, it was just overwhelmed -- (laughter) -- it was overwhelmed by people trying to access it; that the firewalls on the site protected it from being penetrated. That's not the case of the White House, the Senate and the Pentagon. Why don't these other -- is the justice Department prepared to help these other agencies put firewalls on their web sites so that -- they can be smurfed, but they can't be hacked and have this repeating occurrence?

MR. HOLDER: I'll be very honest with you. I've never -- I don't know -- I mean, you're a lot more technically advanced than I am. (Laughter.)

Q I doubt that! (Laughter.)

MR. HOLDER: Between -- smurfing and hacking is not a distinction I necessarily am aware of. We obviously have, as the law enforcers in this country, we have a responsibility to work with other agencies to make sure that they make their web sites as accessible and impenetrable as, you know, at the same time as we possibly can, and we're obviously willing to do that. We have really dedicated people within the department, the Criminal Division, in our Computer Crime Section, where experts in this field -- far more expert than I am -- and we have FBI agents around the country who are expert as well.

Q Is it correct that the FBI took its own site down rather than -- well, it wasn't shut down. In other words, the FBI turned it off for a while?

MR. HOLDER: Yeah, I believe that's right, but we can check with Myron just to make sure that that's correct. But I believe that's right.

Q Mr. Holder, can you give us the time table on the Lee investigation? When you figure the decision will be made on charges or no charges?

MR. HOLDER: I really wouldn't comment on that.


Q How about one on Mexico? Mr. Saenz who is the private aide to Ernest Zedillo, has been investigated for a couple of years. The CIA says this man is -- there is credible allegations of wrongdoing; that this man solicited enormous bribes -- I think $60 million was one of the bribes -- from drug cartels in order that they might be covered, I presume by the Mexican government. So what do you think, is Mexico pursuing this matter, or would we like to see them renew their interest in Mr. Saenz?

MR. HOLDER: Well, I mean, obviously those are very serious allegations. I mean, I don't want to comment on any of the specific things that you mentioned there. But, I mean, there obviously are very serious allegations there that we hope the government of Mexico has taken and will take serious and have a very thorough investigation.

Q I take it the investigation is not complete or thorough enough for us at this time?

MR. HOLDER: No, I think I'd just rest on the statement that I've just made.

Q All right.

Q Mr. Holder, the juvenile crime bill will be acted on in the House when it gets back. Do you think there has been a significant change of public and congressional attitudes about the need for changes in gun legislation? And if so, why?

MR. HOLDER: Well, I think there really is. I mean, and I think it's all directly related to the incident that we saw out in Colorado, what happened at Columbine High School. I'm not sure exactly how I could say I felt it, but as I went out and did events after that incident, you just sensed that there was something different in people, that perhaps people who had these feelings -- I mean, you know, studies always show that the vast majority of Americans support reasonable gun regulation, but for whatever reason, people are becoming more vocal. And I think we have a real opportunity now to pass this reasonable gun legislation that the administration has proposed. In fact, I think I'd be surprised if a lot of the administration's proposal does not come out of Congress.

Q Mr. Holder, could I go back to --

Q A follow up. Do you think that there might be more than even what the Senate did?

MR. HOLDER: Yeah, I think so. I mean, I think the Senate made a good start, but I think the things that the House is now going to be considering stand a good chance of being passed.

Q Can I go back to one more question about this report, because I find this kind of astounding -- maybe I shouldn't. In the highlight section, it says, "In most cities, less than half of the violent crimes were reported to the police." Now, does that suggest that the much-welcomed reduction in the crime rate may be less than it appears to be?

MR. HOLDER: No, not really. I mean, that's a consistent figure. I'll let Jan speak to this more directly, but that's pretty consistent with what I understand we have seen over this -- in this nation over the last 20 years or so.

MR. CHAIKEN: The national survey, National Crime Victimization Survey, has been running since 1973 and always shows that around 40 percent of violent crimes are reported to the police. So in these particular cities it's actually a little bit higher than the national standard.

Now, as to the changes over time, we have two independent ways to track that. One is our national survey, which picks up crimes reported to the police and not reported to the police.

That's been dropping over the last five years, just as the reported crime figures have been dropping. So it's not a question that there's a shift, that there's something funny about the drop in reported crime.

Q So crimes that are not reported also are declining, as well as reported crimes?

MR. CHAIKEN: Exactly.

Q Do you know why people don't report crimes to the police?

MR. CHAIKEN: Well, they tell us -- they answer that question in our surveys, and they -- and in a number of cases, they tell us that they don't think it was important enough to report to the police. In other circumstances, people feel that this is the kind of matter that they want to handle without involving the police. So there are great differences among different communities. If two partners are sparring with each other, in some communities it's quite typical, when it gets a pretty vigorous battle, for somebody to call the police, and in other communities they wouldn't think of calling the police.

Now in general, research shows that it's better for cases of violence against women to get the police involved, and part of this community policing effort is an attempt to win over the community and persuade them that there is value to reporting it to the police. And part of our reason for doing this survey is so later we can check again and see whether this actually happens, that people are bringing to the attention of the police more of these kinds of crimes.

But you can look at the places where people say there's a lot of community policing; you can examine the reporting levels and compare those with the others in this report.

Q Is domestic violence less reported than crime by strangers?

MR. CHAIKEN: In general, crimes that are committed by people that the victim knows are less reported.

Q Mr. Holder --

MR. HOLDER: We also have a particular problem with regard to the reporting of hate crimes. And those are numbers that are generally, we think, underrepresented, underreported.

STAFF: One more question.

Q Mr. Holder, one question on the FTC violence study: The entertainment industry seems to see this as an assault on them, that they think it's somehow disingenuous to look at this as just a study, and they're worried about, you know, subpoenas for access to marketing data, things like that. What do you see the Justice's end of this being? And what types of investigative tools do you think you'll employ to carry this out?

MR. HOLDER: Well, I'm not sure that we have really kind of fine- tuned exactly how we're going to proceed, but I think we -- but we are determined to make this an effective, meaningful inquiry. We're trying to approach this problem on a whole bunch of fronts. You know, we're trying to fight for reasonable gun legislation. It seems to me we also have to deal with the very real problem that we have with what our children are exposed to and the effects that that has on their conduct.

So we have to do what the president has proposed, and I think that at the conclusion of that, we'll have a better sense of, you know, where the problems are, and we'll have come up with some corrective actions for the industry to consider.

STAFF: Thanks, everybody.

Q Thank you.