Justice News

Attorney General Eric Holder Testifies Before theU.S. Senate Committee on the Judiciary
Washington, DC
United States
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Tuesday, June 12, 2012

Chairman Leahy, Ranking Member Grassley, and distinguished Members of the Committee. I appreciate the chance to appear before you today to highlight some of the accomplishments that have distinguished the Department’s work under this Administration.

I am proud of all that’s been achieved by the 116,000 men and women who serve the Department in offices around the world. Their dedicated efforts – and those of our government and law enforcement partners at every level – have allowed me to fulfill the commitments that I made during my first appearance before this Committee as Attorney General. I pledged that my colleagues and I would work tirelessly to protect the American people from terrorism and other threats to our national security; to ensure that every decision would be guided exclusively by the facts and the law; to move aggressively in combating violent crime and financial fraud; to seek justice for victims, protect the environment, and safeguard the most vulnerable among us; and to uphold the essential civil rights of all citizens.

I am proud to report that the Department has made extraordinary – and, in many cases, historic – progress in each of these areas.

Nowhere is this more clear than in our national security efforts. Over the last three years, the Department has secured convictions against scores of dangerous terrorists in our Article III courts. We’ve uncovered – and prevented – multiple plots hatched by terrorist groups abroad, as well as extremists here at home. And we’ve strengthened essential surveillance and intelligence-gathering capabilities in a manner that is not only consistent with the rule of law – but with our most sacred values.

Last month, we secured our seventh conviction in an al-Qaeda-sponsored plot to conduct coordinated suicide bomb attacks in the New York subway system. Less than three weeks ago, we obtained a guilty verdict in the case of a former U.S. service member who planned a bomb attack against American soldiers at a restaurant in Killeen, Texas. And on the same day, a federal judge sentenced another Texas man to 20 years in prison for attempting to join al-Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula.

I also would like to briefly discuss the steps the Department has taken in response to recent allegations regarding possible unauthorized disclosures of classified information. These allegations are of great concern to me personally, and I know they concern all of you.

On Friday, I assigned two experienced United States Attorneys to lead separate criminal investigations being conducted by the FBI of potential unauthorized disclosures. These U.S. Attorneys are fully authorized to consult with members of the Intelligence Community, to follow all appropriate leads wherever they lead, and – ultimately – to prosecute any criminal violations to the fullest extent of the law.

Let me be clear: unauthorized disclosures of classified information could jeopardize the security of our nation, and risk the safety of the American people. They will not be tolerated. The Department will continue to take any such disclosures extremely seriously. And as our investigations unfold, I will provide information to members of the Judiciary and Intelligence Committees, as appropriate.

In addition to our significant national security achievements, the Department has taken decisive action to combat a wide range of financial and health-care fraud crimes. And I am happy to report that – across the country – this work is paying dividends.

Last year alone, the Department’s Consumer Protection Branch – in cooperation with our U.S. Attorneys’ Offices –secured more than $900 million in criminal and civil fines, restitution, and penalties; and obtained sentences totaling more than 130 years of confinement against more than 30 individuals. Working closely with the Department of Housing and Urban Development and a bipartisan group of 49 state attorneys general, we achieved the largest federal-state settlement in history – totaling $25 billion – with five of the nation’s top mortgage servicers. Through the President’s Financial Fraud Enforcement Task Force we’ve obtained prison sentences of up to 60 years in a wide range of fraud cases. And we’ve created two new Working Groups to enhance civil and criminal enforcement of consumer fraud, and to bring federal and state authorities together in investigating and prosecuting misconduct by financial institutions that contributed to the financial crisis.

Alongside key partners like the Department of Health and Human Services, we’ve also made tremendous gains in our efforts to fight health-care fraud. Over the last fiscal year alone – utilizing authorities provided under the False Claims Act and other statutes – we recovered nearly $4.1 billion in cases involving fraud on federal health-care programs. That’s the highest amount ever recovered in a single year. And for every dollar we’ve spent combating health-care fraud, we’ve returned an average of seven dollars to the U.S. Treasury, the Medicare Trust Funds, and others.

Put simply, our resolve to protect American consumers has never been stronger. The same can be said of our efforts to safeguard our citizens and law enforcement officers from violent crime.

Through innovative programs such as our Defending Childhood Initiative and National Forum on Youth Violence Prevention, we’ve developed comprehensive approaches for addressing the causes and consequences of violence among, and directed toward, our nation’s young people. We’ve strengthened partnerships between federal, state, local, tribal, and international law enforcement officials – and, as a result, we are working more effectively than ever before to confront gun-, gang-, and drug-fueled violence. In cooperation with our counterparts in Mexico and other countries, we’ve orchestrated coordinated strikes against violent drug cartels, arrested thousands of cartel members, and seized billions of dollars in assets. And we’re implementing strategic plans to address the shocking rates of violence that plague American Indian and Alaska Native women.

We’re also using every tool at our disposal to protect America’s law enforcement community. Violence against law enforcement officers is approaching the highest level we’ve seen in nearly two decades. As the brother of a retired police officer, I am proud that the Department has taken robust action to address this crisis. Throughout my tenure as Attorney General, I have met frequently with law enforcement leaders to ensure that the Department understands their concerns. This has led to the development, implementation, and enhancement of a host of important programs – from the VALOR Initiative, which is providing our law enforcement partners with the latest in training and cutting-edge technologies – to the Bulletproof Vest Partnership Program, which Chairman Leahy has long championed and which has helped more than 13,000 jurisdictions purchase lifesaving bullet- and stab-resistant equipment.

We also have worked closely with Members of Congress to advance important legislation – from the historic hate crimes prevention bill to the reduction of the unjust crack/powder cocaine sentencing disparity – a landmark achievement this Committee helped to make possible – to our ongoing efforts to ensure the reauthorization of the Violence Against Women Act, and our strong support for the renewal of essential authorities such as those included in the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act Amendments of 2008.

The Department also has taken steps to uphold essential civil rights protections. O ver the past three years, our Civil Rights Division filed more criminal civil rights cases than ever before – including record numbers of human trafficking cases. And we’ve taken action to make certain that – in our housing and lending markets; in our workplaces and military bases; in our immigrant communities and our voting booths; in our schools and places of worship – the rights of all Americans are protected.

In advancing this vital work, my colleagues and I are grateful for your continued support. We are eager to move forward together to achieve our shared priorities. And I am happy to answer any questions you may have.

Topic: 
Consumer Protection