DOJ seal Office of the Attorney General, Washington, DC 20530
December 11, 2003


The Honorable Howard L. Berman
Ranking Minority Member
Subcommittee on Courts, the Internet
and Intellectual Property
Committee on the Judiciary
U.S. House of Representatives
Washington, DC 20515

Dear Mr. Chairman:

The first and overriding priority of the Department of Justice (Department) is to protect Americans against future acts of terrorism and to bring terrorists to justice. It is a credit to the careful utilization of our new investigative tools as well as to the hard work of the law enforcement community, our intelligence agencies and the American people, that we have not suffered another major terrorist attack in this country since September 11, 2001. But we know that a significant terrorist threat persists and we all must remain vigilant.

Thus, we pursue the critical goals of the Department with a commitment to ever-improving levels of efficiency and effectiveness. I am, therefore, pleased to provide you a copy of the Inspector General's Semiannual Report to Congress and apprise you of the actions the Department has taken to address the significant findings of the Office of the Inspector General (OIG). Status information on the management decisions, actions completed, and actions in progress in response to OIG audit reports are available on the Department's Web site and will be updated quarterly. Taken together, this information represents the Department's efforts to identify and correct weaknesses in current activities and provide a plan and strategy for improving management and operations. Management improvements are being pursued aggressively in an atmosphere of cooperation with the Inspector General, and we have already made progress in many areas.

In the months since the September 11 attacks against America, the Department has worked vigorously to improve information sharing among all levels of law enforcement while continuing to protect classified information as appropriate. We have worked to enhance our capability to prevent terrorist incidents and to restructure our organizations and operations to better accomplish our mission. It is gratifying that in a report regarding the Department's treatment of aliens held on immigration charges in connection with the investigation of the September 11 attacks, the OIG praised the efforts of Department employees noting that they "worked tirelessly and with enormous dedication over an extended period of time to meet the challenges posed by the September 11 attacks and the ongoing threat of terrorism." While I cannot agree with any implication by the OIG that illegal aliens arrested in connection with the September 11 investigation were detained unnecessarily, I agree that the Department can and should learn from our experience in responding to this unprecedented act of terrorism, and I am monitoring component efforts to incorporate into any future activities the lessons learned from the OIG's report. In addition, as the Department continues its efforts to maximize its effectiveness with the resources it has been allocated, I am grateful that the OIG report on the Federal Bureau of Investigation's (FBI) casework and human resource allocation has provided concrete suggestions toward improving our effectiveness in this area. I further applaud the FBI for moving quickly to implement OIG recommendations to better manage its human capital.

The OIG conclusions in its review of the FBI's performance in deterring, detecting, and investigating the espionage activities of Robert Philip Hanssen identified systemic problems in the FBI's counterintelligence and internal security programs. The FBI reviewed the conclusions and acted promptly to implement measures to improve their security and mitigate future risk. Specifically, the FBI has enhanced its counterintelligence program by developing a nationally directed centralized program to ensure accountability, control, and leadership in its counterintelligence activities and a counterespionage section to manage all major espionage investigations. Further, within the newly defined program, the FBI has established a new Penetration Unit to uncover ‘moles' within the FBI. To address internal security program weaknesses the FBI has centralized its internal security functions in a division reporting directly to the FBI Director and enhanced these functions by, among other actions, developing comprehensive security program and Information Assurance plans, establishing an enterprise security operations center, and initiating a comprehensive security education, awareness, and training program.

As I noted in my last letter on the Department's semiannual activities, the Department again achieved a clean, unqualified opinion on all of its consolidated financial statements as well as unqualified opinions on all of the reporting components' financial statements that support the consolidated report for fiscal year 2002. In addition, the Department and its components were able to further reduce the number of material weaknesses reported in conjunction with these financial audits. This is an unprecedented accomplishment in the history of the Department, and I am grateful for the diligent efforts of all those who made it possible. The Department is committed to maintaining its unqualified opinion in future financial statement audits and to doing so with increased efficiency. To that end the Department continues to address the OIG's recommendations to improve its financial systems, management controls and reporting capabilities.

In addition, the Department is proceeding with its efforts to adequately secure sensitive computer systems and oversee the development and implementation of major Department systems. The Department continues to implement the OIG recommendations contained in its various reports issued pursuant to the Government Information Security Reform Act and believes that their full implementation will significantly enhance our information system security. To this end, I note that an earlier OIG report on the FBI's management of its information technology (IT) investments concluded that the FBI had not effectively managed its IT investments because it failed to fully implement the management processes associated with successful IT investments. The OIG more recently reviewed the FBI's implementation of its recommendations related to this report and found in the short time between its two reports that the FBI had already implemented 93 of 148 recommendations, or nearly 63 percent of all recommendations made. The Department and the FBI recognize that considerable effort is still required to have a state-of-the-art IT system and we are vigorously pursuing the correction of the remaining weaknesses.

As Attorney General, I have pledged to confront injustice by leading a professional Department of Justice that is free from politics, defined by integrity and dedicated to upholding the rule of law. I am continuing to pursue aggressively a timely and efficient process of audit resolution, believing firmly that it is a valuable tool to elevating continually the performance of the Department and thus will help ensure that we serve all Americans with integrity and impartiality.


Signature of John Ashcroft

John Ashcroft
Attorney General