STATEMENT OF JAMES B. COMEY
DEPUTY ATTORNEY GENERAL
OF THE UNITED STATES
UNITED STATES HOUSE OF REPRESENTATIVES
COMMITTEE ON APPROPRIATIONS SUBCOMMITTEE ON THE DEPARTMENTS
OF COMMERCE, JUSTICE, STATE, THE JUDICIARY AND RELATED AGENCIES
MARCH 24, 2004
(Please Note: The Deputy Attorney General Often Deviates From Prepared Remarks)
Good morning Chairman Wolf, Congressman Serrano, and Members of the Subcommittee. Thank you for giving me the opportunity to appear before you today and discuss the President's FY 2005 budget request for the Department of Justice's General Legal and Law Enforcement activities. I am grateful to you and to this Committee for your strong support of the Department of Justice. The Department has had many successes in the war on terror, in battling corporate fraud, in stemming violent gang and drug crime, and in preserving the civil rights and liberties of Americans. That success has come from the commitment of the people of the Department, from strong leadership and from your dedication to our cause.
For FY 2005, the President's budget requests $22.2 billion for the Department of Justice. This budget represents a 19 percent increase over last year for the Department's top priority: preventing terrorist attacks. Since FY 2001, our budget has increased by 242.3 percent for counterterrorism and counterintelligence spending from approximately $1 billion to $3.5 billion. The President's budget also enables the Department to continue to vigorously enforce federal laws - particularly drug, gun, and civil rights violations - and to combat corporate fraud and obscenity. The priorities of the Department of Justice are priorities that the Attorney General and I share - ensuring that we never again see thousands of innocent Americans suddenly murdered at the hands of a vile enemy, striving for a day where our streets and our communities are no longer ravaged by the plague of drug proliferation, working towards a future where children are safe on their streets and in their homes, without the threat of gangs and violent crime.
The activities of the Department of Justice are wide ranging. To name just a few, we investigate and prevent criminal activity, apprehend and prosecute suspects, litigate civil disputes, argue legal matters before the courts, and build and operate correctional institutions. Since assuming my post as Deputy Attorney General late last year, I have met with nearly every division, component and bureau of the Department of Justice. I have met with hundreds of Department employees who carry out our vital mission every day. Their efforts help safeguard the lives and civil liberties of Americans and all who enjoy the freedoms that are the hallmarks of our society. It's been said by many that we live in challenging times. Fortunately, at the Department of Justice, our people are up to the challenge. They are simply the best of the best. These are people who chose public service and they are committed to serving the cause of justice.
II. Preventing and Combating Terrorism
As I stated, the Department of Justice's number one priority continues to be the prevention, investigation, and prosecution of terrorist activities against U.S. citizens and U.S. interests. Over two and one-half years have passed since the catastrophic attacks of September 11, 2001, but the danger is still clear. Survival and success in this very real war on terrorism demands that the Department of Justice continuously improve its capabilities to protect Americans. The United States of America is winning this war on terrorism with unrelenting focus and unprecedented cooperation. For example, the Department of Justice secured convictions of nine individuals in the Virginia jihad case on terrorism-related charges, including conspiracy to levy war against the United States and conspiracy to provide material support to the Taliban and Lashkar-e-Taiba. As the Attorney General stated, "[those] convictions are a stark reminder that terrorist organizations are active in the United States. We will not allow terrorist groups to exploit America's freedoms for their murderous goals." To continue this effort, this budget requests an additional $371 million in new resources for counterterrorism/ counterintelligence activities.
A critical element in our battle against terrorism is to prevent the flow of money and other material resources to terrorists and terrorist organizations. By using the statutes Congress provided against material support of terrorism, the Department has successfully disrupted terrorist planning at the earliest possible stages, well before such violent plans can become reality. For the Criminal Division, the President's request includes an additional $1.2 million for counterterrorism efforts, combating terrorist financing operations and continuing the important work of training our foreign law enforcement counterparts. This request reflects an increase in the capacity of the Criminal Division to support law enforcement efforts, policies and strategies related to combating international and domestic terrorism. These funds will support the Department's aggressive pursuit not only of those who carry out terrorist attacks but also those who provide financing, equipment, personnel, or other material support to terrorists and terrorist organizations. Utilizing the terrorist financing and material support provisions created by Congress, the Department has charged more than 50 individuals and obtained 28 convictions. In addition, using the material support statutes, the Department has obtained convictions yielding lengthy prison sentences, as in the case of Mohammed Hammoud, the main defendant in the Charlotte Hizballah case, who was ultimately sentenced to 155 years in federal prison.
The request also includes an increase of $5.8 million for United States Attorneys to better combat and prosecute terrorism. These funds will be used to handle the influx of counterterrorism cases and referrals from the various law enforcement agencies tasked with responsibility for identifying, apprehending and neutralizing terrorist threats to our country.
Obtaining timely and accurate foreign intelligence is essential to preventing terrorist attacks. A critical means for obtaining that information is the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act (FISA), which governs how foreign intelligence is collected for purposes of preventing acts of terrorism as well as espionage directed against the United States. The Department's budget seeks an additional $6.6 million for these efforts to support the work of the Office of Intelligence Policy and Review (OIPR). OIPR's primary operational function is to prepare FISA applications for approval by the FISA Court, although all of the matters that OIPR handles are of great significance to the national security interests of the United States. Due to increased investigative resources at the FBI and other law enforcement agencies, the number of FISA applications has increased significantly since September 11, 2001. Since that time, OIPR has been operating around the clock. This resource enhancement will enable OIPR to hire the additional attorneys who are urgently needed to process the constantly-growing number of FISA applications required for foreign intelligence searches and surveillance in order to prevent future terrorist attacks on our country.
Lastly, the Department of Justice's Civil Division leads the fight in defending the antiterrorism laws passed by Congress, protecting sensitive security information and upholding government actions freezing the assets of terrorist organization. The President's request includes nearly $1 million in additional resources for the Civil Division, and these resources are vital to ensuring the success of the government's war on terrorism.
III. Drug Enforcement
In March 2002, the Attorney General announced a comprehensive six-part drug enforcement strategy for the Department of Justice. This strategy uses the combined talent and expertise of all Federal law enforcement agencies to identify and target the most significant drug supply organizations and their related components.
Our strategy is to reduce the drug supply by conducting coordinated, nationwide attacks on the infrastructure of the most significant drug trafficking and money laundering organizations. The President's FY 2005 budget provides an increase of $74.0 million in new resources, including $25.1 million for the Organized Crime Drug Enforcement Task Forces (OCDETF). OCDETF is the cornerstone of the Department's drug enforcement strategy to reduce the availability of drugs. OCDETF combines the talent of experienced federal agents and prosecutors with support from state and local law enforcement, uniquely positioning OCDETF to target trafficking networks and conduct multiple coordinated investigations across the country in order to root out and eliminate all facets of major drug organizations.
In addition, nearly $10 million is requested for the Assistant U.S. Attorney workforce, the first such increase for OCDETF-funded field attorneys since 1991. These funds will be used to address staffing imbalances that exist as a result of investigative enhancements without corresponding prosecutorial enhancements in approximately 52 judicial districts nationwide.
The Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) is committed to meeting the President's goal of reducing illegal drug use by 25 percent in 5 years. Through Priority Targeting, DEA will continue to focus the bulk of its resources on conducting coordinated, nationwide attacks on the entire infrastructure of the most significant drug trafficking and money laundering organizations responsible for supplying America's illicit drug market. Towards this end, the President's FY 2005 Budget Proposal requests an increase of 256 new positions (including 100 Special Agents) and $34.7 million to strengthen DEA's Priority Targeting investigations. Additional increases include 10 positions and $8.5 million for DEA's Concorde Initiative to modernize mission-critical DEA information technology systems; 4 positions and $4.8 million to upgrade the El Paso Intelligence Center (EPIC) Information System and provide immediate, automated responses to federal, state, and local entities' inquiries; and 6 positions (including 5 Special Agents) and $876,000 to enhance DEA's International Training Program by adding one mobile training team. By focusing on Priority Targets in each of DEA's 21 domestic field divisions and disrupting the transportation, distribution, and financial networks that link them to the Consolidated Priority Organization Targets (CPOTs), DEA will disrupt the market, reduce availability, and produce longer lasting results.
IV. Gun Crimes Enforcement
Violent firearm crime and firearms trafficking continue to be significant problems throughout the nation. The Administration made a commitment to reduce gun crime by getting gun criminals off the streets through the Project Safe Neighborhoods (PSN) initiative. Prosecutions of gun crimes have increased by 68 percent since 2001, and violent crime is at a 30-year low. PSN, announced by the President and the Attorney General in 2001, is a comprehensive strategy that brings together Federal, state and local agencies to reduce violent crime in our communities. Working with DOJ, each community tailors the program to target local gun violence problems.
The FY 2005 budget is designed to achieve a 4 percent reduction in reported violent firearms crimes in each new Project Safe Neighborhood location. Our request funds $95.7 million in new and directed program increases for this important Presidential initiative bringing total FY 2005 funding for PSN to $357 million. This includes new investments of $3 million for the United States Attorneys and $16.2 million for the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms, and Explosives (ATF).
Since joining the Department of Justice in January 2003, ATF has become an integral part of the Department's efforts to reduce the violent use of firearms by criminals. Over 70 percent of ATF's resources ($622.2 million) are dedicated to firearms regulation and enforcement efforts, including licensing and inspection of Federal firearms dealers, ballistics gun tracing, and criminal investigations of gun related crimes in partnership with a variety of Federal, state and local law enforcement agencies.
The United States Attorneys offices across the country also continue to develop strategies to make our communities safer. Critical to that goal is the aggressive prosecution of violent crimes, particularly those involving firearms. The President's budget request will insure that repeat firearms offenders get lengthy prison sentences through aggressive prosecution.
Moreover, although the Department is committed to enforcing vigorously the federal gun laws, the vast majority of gun crimes are most appropriately brought as state and local offenses. The Department of Justice plays an important role in these local efforts by supporting and cooperating with state and local law enforcement and prosecutors. That support includes almost $63 million in funding for more than 540 local gun crime prosecutor positions across the country.
V. Combating Corporate Fraud
In July 2002, the President established a multi-agency Corporate Fraud Task Force to bring together the maximum combined force of the federal government to investigate and prosecute corporate fraud. The FY 2005 budget requests $1.4 million in new investments to continue supporting investigators, prosecutors and financial analysts whose mission it is to search out and eradicate corporate fraud. As the Attorney General has stated, "[i]t is the honor, the duty, and the responsibility of the United States Department of Justice to insure that no one stands above the law-regardless of power, position, or privilege."
Within the first year, members of the Corporate Fraud Task Force have charged over 660 violators and secured over 250 corporate fraud convictions. Approximately 75 percent of these convictions led to prison sentences. In addition, Task Force members have frozen tens of millions in assets.
For the Criminal Division, the President's budget requests an increase to support their work on prosecutions that require centralized treatment because of the complexity of the scheme, the multi-district nature of the criminal activity, and the necessity for developing model prosecutions to establish the viability of a particular statute, theory, or technique. This will augment $10.9 million in Criminal Division base resources dedicated to fighting corporate fraud.
The U.S. Attorneys also continue to play an active role in prosecuting the type of sophisticated white-collar crimes identified by the Corporate Fraud Task Force activities. Base resources of $26.1 million will allow for their continued participation on the Corporate Fraud Task Force and the prosecution of white collar criminals for mail and wire fraud, debt collection, asset forfeiture, bankruptcy, and other forms of financial fraud.
The Task Force is resolved to make certain that the punishment of corporate wrong is swift and certain. As the Attorney General stated at the announcement of the indictments in connection with the WorldCom fraud, "America's economic strength depends on the integrity of the market place-a belief in the free flow of reliable information, the transparency of financial dealings, and the accountability of corporate officers."
The skillful and dedicated work of the Task Force has demonstrated that no executive is too prominent or too powerful and that no scheme to defraud is too complex or too fancy to avoid the long arm of the law. This type of criminal activity has been devastating to tens of thousands of innocent people who have lost their jobs and their life savings. The President's Corporate Fraud Task Force and the Justice Department are doing everything within their power to help restore public confidence.
VI. Combating Trafficking in Persons and Obscenity
Human trafficking is nothing less than modern day slavery. The Justice Department will continue to investigate aggressively, prosecute vigorously, and punish severely the persons responsible for committing each and every one of these terrible crimes. The Civil Rights Division, in connection with our U.S. Attorneys' offices, have prosecuted 24 cases under statutes created in the Trafficking Victims Protection Act of 2000. Almost two-thirds of those cases involve charges of sexual exploitation.
The Department has demonstrated zero tolerance for sex trafficking in all its forms and is committed to fighting child pornography and obscenity, and to protecting children from trafficking and other forms of exploitation. During the last year, the Department has successfully dismantled a number of pedophilia rings. One example is Operation Hamlet where Department of Justice prosecutors worked with the U.S. Customs Service to target, dismantle, and prosecute an international ring of organized and predatory child molesters operating in cyberspace. Members of the group photographed and videotaped their sexual abuse of children and then exchanged the photographic images and video among the other members over the Internet. Thanks to the collaborative effort of DOJ and Customs, more than 100 child victims were rescued. Thirteen of the 20 identified molesters were American. All have been indicted and six have already been convicted.
The number of child exploitation and adult obscenity investigations and prosecutions has increased by more than 300 percent since 2001. The FY 2005 budget includes an increase of $2.6 million and 25 positions to allow the Criminal Division's Child Exploitation and Obscenity Section to address the increase in workload and effectively combat the sexual exploitation of children and proliferation of adult obscenity.
The Department's budget request also includes $13.8 million in new and directed resources necessary to continue to lead efforts to help state and local law enforcement protect our children from crime, pornography, and obscenity.
Mr. Chairman, Congressman Serrano, Members of the Subcommittee, thank you for holding these hearings today to focus on the important work of the Department of Justice. I am pleased that several of my colleagues from the Department also will be with us today - DEA Administrator Karen Tandy, ATF Acting Director Edgar Domenech, U.S. Marshals Service Director Ben Reyna, and Bureau of Prisons Director Harley Lappin. Your commitment to the cause of Justice and to the work of the Department is greatly appreciated. I thank you again for the opportunity to be with you today, and I look forward to working with you in meeting the extraordinary challenges that we face together.
I am now pleased to answer any questions you may have.