June 3, 2004
The Honorable Henry A. Waxman
Ranking Minority Member
Committee on Government Reform
U.S. House of Representatives
Washington, DC 20515
Dear Congressman Waxman:
The first and overriding priority of the Department of Justice (Department) is to protect the lives and liberties of Americans and to bring terrorists to justice. It is a credit to the careful utilization of 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.
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 (GIG). Status information on the management decisions, actions completed, and actions in progress in response to OIG audit reports are available on the Department's website 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 are encouraged by the progress we have already made in many areas.
In the months since the September 11 attacks against America, the Department has worked to enhance our capability to prevent terrorist incidents and to restructure our organizations and operations to better accomplish our mission. We have worked vigorously to improve information sharing among all levels of law enforcement while continuing to' protect classified information as appropriate. I am pleased that the OIG's most recent report on the Federal Bureau of Investigation's (FBI) efforts to improve its sharing of intelligence and other information noted fundamental reform and considerable activities toward improved information sharing, while acknowledging the substantial impediments, both structural and legal, to the FBI's attainment of this objective. A major factor essential to achieving improved intelligence analysis and sharing identified by the OIG is sustained management attention. Recognizing the essential nature of complete and well analyzed intelligence, both the FBI Director and I are committed to ensuring that the FBI, as the lead agency in the arena of domestic intelligence, is the premier source of such intelligence, particularly as it relates to possible threats of terrorism against the homeland.
On a related matter, we are aware that the interoperability between the FBI's Integrated Automated Fingerprint Identification System (IAFIS) and the Department of Homeland Security's Automated Biometrics Identification System (IDENT)/US VISIT system is critical. The Department agrees that the interoperability of these systems will enhance information sharing and avoid some of the tragic consequences cited in the OIG report, and thus should be completed with alacrity. However, we also acknowledge that certain issues must be resolved concerning IDENT/US VISIT to ensure the most effective use of our resources and ultimately the best system for the diverse functions of the participating agencies. By meeting these objectives we believe we will have the most appropriate system in place within the shortest time possible.
I am deeply concerned by the OIG report of abuse of September 11 detainees at the Metropolitan Detention Center (MDC) in Brooklyn, New York. The Department does not authorize or condone improper treatment of any detained person. Immediately after September 11, about 1200 persons were initially detained; at the time of the OIG review more than 750 persons were still in custody at multiple locations. The OIG's preliminary review of possible abuse and subsequent review of the activities at the MDC focused on allegations by 30 detainees against approximately 20 MDC staff members. While the Bureau of Prisons (BOP) has a well deserved reputation of competence, professionalism and dedication, the results of the OIG review indicate the need for additional training for some staff and additional internal control procedures to allow the BOP and the Department to address adequately allegations of improper staff behavior. The BOP Director has acted quickly to resolve this issue and is committed to preventing, future abuse.
The OIG's report of potential inadequacies in the US Marshals Service's (USMS) program to protect the federal judiciary against threats is also of concern. While the OIG noted that the USMS has placed greater emphasis on judicial security, hiring additional court security inspectors and increasing courthouse security, it found insufficient and untimely assessments of threat, coupled with a limited ability to collect and share intelligence and determine appropriate countermeasures. The USMS has a long history of successfully securing high risk trials and protecting the court family, including the federal judiciary. Nonetheless, recognizing that an unintimidated and safe judiciary is essential to the fair administration of justice, the Department and the USMS are committed to taking additional actions, as necessary, to ensure security of the judiciary. The USMS is implementing the OIG recommendations intended to strengthen its judicial security program.
Finally, I am pleased to note that the Department continues to make progress in two areas under continuous OIG review - audited financial statements and information technology management and security. For a third consecutive year, in fiscal year 2003 the Department 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. In addition, the Department and its components were again able to reduce the overall number of material weaknesses reported in conjunction with these financial audits. 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 persevering in its efforts to adequately secure sensitive computer systems and oversee the development and implementation of major Department systems. The Department-is implementing the OIG recommendations contained in the various reports issued pursuant to the Federal Information Security Management Act as well as its predecessor, the Government Information Security Reform Act and believes that their full implementation will significantly enhance our system security.
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.