Good morning, Chairman Leahy, Ranking Member Grassley, and distinguished members of the Committee. It is a privilege to appear before you today to discuss the priorities and accomplishments of the Department of Justice.
Throughout my tenure as Attorney General, I’ve had the chance to work closely with this Committee to carry out our most important duty: protecting the American people. Today, I’m pleased to report that the Justice Department efforts to fulfill this solemn obligation have never been stronger.
Three days ago – thanks to many dedicated military and civilian leaders; intelligence and law enforcement officers; diplomats and policymakers; investigators, prosecutors and counterterrorism experts – the decade-long manhunt for Osama bin Laden came to a successful end. This historic achievement was a tremendous step forward in attaining justice for the nearly 3,000 innocent Americans who were murdered on September 11, 2001. And I hope it will inspire a renewed commitment to collaboration – across party lines, branches of responsibility, and agencies – so that we can effectively address the most pressing challenges facing the American people.
At the Justice Department, we’re determined to build on the extraordinary record of progress that’s been established over the last two years in meeting our responsibilities to those we serve. We have thwarted numerous potential terror attacks, and charged more defendants with the most serious terror-related offenses than in any similar period in history. At the same time – despite significant budget constraints – we have strengthened our operations and advanced our traditional missions. We have filed a record number of criminal civil rights cases and secured a record amount of False Claims Act recoveries. We have played a leading role in responding to the largest oil spill in America’s history, and worked to ensure that taxpayers do not foot the bill for its cleanup. We’ve also spearheaded the efforts of the interagency Financial Fraud Enforcement Task Force, and successfully executed the largest financial and health-care fraud takedowns on record – and the biggest bank fraud prosecution in a generation .
These are historic achievements. But we have much more to do. Going forward, our efforts will focus on four specific areas.
First of all, our national security work will continue. Despite recent successes, our fight against terrorist threats is far from over. Already, I have ordered the Department’s prosecutors and law enforcement agencies to be mindful that bin Laden’s death could result in retaliatory attacks. Now, more than ever, we need access to the crucial authorities in the PATRIOT Act, and I call on Congress to reauthorize them for a substantial period of time before they expire at the end of this month.
Second, we will protect Americans from violent crime. We will continue to prosecute federal criminal law violations aggressively, but – in addition – we will implement research-based crime prevention strategies to combat gun-, gang-, and drug-fueled violence. We will provide support to young people who need our help in avoiding lives of crime – and to those who’ve served their time and are struggling to rejoin their communities. And we will strengthen relationships with our federal, state, local, and tribal law enforcement partners. We also will increase support for law enforcement officers – and work to reverse the alarming recent increase in line-of-duty officer fatalities.
Third: we will protect Americans from financial fraud through our highly effective task force and other outreach and prosecutorial initiatives. And we’ll continue to take proactive steps – like the recent launch of the Oil and Gas Price Fraud Working Group – to safeguard consumers.
Finally: we will protect the most vulnerable among us – our children; the elderly; and victims of hate crimes, human trafficking, and exploitation. And we’ll enforce our civil rights laws to guarantee that the rights of all Americans are upheld.
To achieve these goals, I need my full team in place. I urge you to confirm the highly qualified individuals whom President Obama has nominated to serve alongside me in leadership roles at the Department. In particular, I hope that the Senate will promptly confirm Jim Cole, whose nomination to serve as Deputy Attorney General has been pending for a full year.
Finally, we need your help in ensuring the effective administration of justice. Today, our nation’s court system is in a state of crisis, with more than ten percent of federal judgeships sitting vacant. If the Senate maintains the confirmation pace set during the last two years, the result will be a federal judicial system stressed to the breaking point, with litigants waiting longer and longer for their day in court. I urge the Senate to act without delay on all outstanding judicial nominations.
As always, I look forward to working with you on to address these challenges and to advance our shared priorities. I am now happy to answer your questions.