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Attorney General Eric Holder Testifies Before the House Appropriations Commerce, Justice and Science Subcommittee


Washington, DC
United States

Good afternoon, Chairman Mollohan, Ranking Member Wolf, and distinguished Members of the Subcommittee. Today it’s my privilege to discuss the President’s Department of Justice Budget for Fiscal Year 2011 and to provide an update on the Justice Department’s progress, top priorities, and future plans. But, first, let me thank you for your ongoing support of the department’s work and your recognition of its essential role in protecting our nation’s people and highest principles.

When I met with this Subcommittee last April, I pledged that, under my leadership, the Justice Department would vigorously pursue a set of specific, and critical, objectives: combating terrorism, fighting crime, enforcing our laws in a neutral and non-partisan manner, and reinvigorating the department’s commitment to integrity, transparency and results.

We’re on the right path to achieving these goals. Although unprecedented challenges and new demands have emerged, our key priorities remain clear. And ensuring the safety of the American people continues to be our paramount responsibility. Over the last year, we’ve enhanced our national security programs and capabilities. We have also strengthened efforts to protect our environment, as well as our most vulnerable communities. We’ve reinvigorated our mission to safeguard civil rights in our workplaces, our housing markets, our voting booths and our border areas. And, as part of our focus on securing our economy and combating mortgage and financial fraud, the department is now spearheading the Financial Fraud Enforcement Task Force that President Obama launched last year.

The President’s Budget request of $29 billion demonstrates a strong commitment to the Justice Department’s key priorities. Let me assure you that, in distributing and using these funds, we will think carefully and strategically. And we will act to ensure accountability and transparency.

As you’ve seen, the President’s Budget requests $300 million in program increases to help strengthen national security and counter the threat of terrorism. These resources will enable us to expand on the progress we’ve made in the last year. Due to the vigilance of our law enforcement and intelligence agencies, we’ve succeeded in identifying and averting nascent plots, some known to the public – some not, including one of the most serious threats since September 11, 2001. A few weeks ago, Najibullah Zazi, the mastermind behind a plot to bomb New York City’s subway system, pled guilty to three criminal charges. Four others also have been charged as a result of our investigation. This attempted attack on our homeland, on our most populated city, was real, it was in motion, and it would have been deadly. But, because of careful analysis by our intelligence agents and prompt actions by law enforcement, we were able to thwart a potential disaster -- as we have repeatedly done over the last year.

Just last month in New York City, Aafia Siddiqui, a U.S.-trained Pakistani physicist was convicted of attempted murder and armed assault. She had shown a clear intent to kill Americans and, at the time of her arrest, possessed documents that referred to “a mass casualty attack” and listed specific locations, including the Empire State Building, the Statue of Liberty and the Brooklyn Bridge. And, last week in Philadelphia, an American citizen was charged with conspiring to provide material support to terrorists and to commit murder overseas.

These recent cases remind us that terrorist methods are evolving, as are the types of individuals involved in terrorist activities. We face a serious, capable and determined enemy in the war we are fighting. This underscores why the Justice Department must have the capacity to respond effectively and quickly. And our actions over the past year provide evidence that we’re making significant advancements in combating these threats. Despite this recent progress, however, we cannot become complacent. And we must not – and we will not – lose focus in our efforts to bring terrorists to justice. 

I realize that there are different views on how to best approach this work. There is a very legitimate and robust conversation we should have about it. But we cannot allow the politics of fear to drive us apart. Facts, not fear, must be the basis of our discussion. Now, more than ever, the American people deserve this.

Again, we are at war. And we must use every instrument in our power – including the full scope of our military, law enforcement, intelligence and diplomatic capabilities – to win this war. But, in the pursuit of victory, we must not turn our backs on what has made our nation an example to all the world. Today, our challenge is to remain not only safe but also true to our heritage, true to our principles and true to our best selves.

This is the Justice Department’s most urgent, and most essential, work. Once again, I thank you for supporting it. I look forward to continuing to work with this Subcommittee and with the Congress.

And, now, I am happy to answer any questions you may have.

Updated March 14, 2016