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Lanny A. Breuer, Assistant Attorney General, Criminal Division, Speaks at a Retirement Ceremony Honoring Deputy Assistant Attorney General for the Criminal Division John C. Keeney


Washington, DC
United States

Good afternoon. It is my great privilege to welcome all of you to this retirement celebration for John C. Keeney, or as I informally call him, Mr. Keeney.

It looks like we have a standing room only crowd today. And that is exactly as it should be, as we gather to celebrate a man who has spent his entire career standing up – standing up for justice, standing up for integrity, and standing up for his country.

Before we begin, I want to acknowledge just a few of the many guests of Mr. Keeney who are with us here today.

First, I want to recognize the Keeney family – Mr. Keeney’s sons, John Jr. and Terry; his daughters, Jeanne Marie, Joan, and Kathy; their spouses, David, Kathy, and Gina; and Mr. Keeney’s many nieces, nephews, and grandchildren. I hope each of you knows how much your father, uncle, and grandfather means to all of us here at the Department of Justice and how deeply indebted we are to you for sharing him with us for all these years.

I also want to recognize the many distinguished Department alumni who have returned to this Great Hall in Mr. Keeney’s honor. With football season in full swing – (we’ve all been trying to cheer Mr. Keeney up given how Notre Dame has been playing) – there can be no doubt that today marks a “Homecoming” in the truest sense of the word. Former Attorneys General Civiletti, Meese, Barr, Ashcroft, Keisler, and Mukasey are here, as are former Deputy Attorneys General Terwilliger, Comey, McNulty, Morford, and Filip, former Associate Attorney General O’Connor, former Assistant Attorneys General for the Criminal Division Dennis, Mueller, Harris, Wray, Fisher, and Friedrich, and many other distinguished alumni. I am so pleased to welcome you back to the Department on this great occasion. I also want to welcome the many esteemed members of the bench who are with us today.

I’m told that this is among the largest gatherings of former Attorneys General and Deputy Attorneys General in the Department’s history. It speaks volumes about this great institution that the event that draws such a distinguished crowd back to this Great Hall is not a press conference, or a celebration of a trial victory, or even the swearing in of new leadership. Instead, the event that brings so many of you back here today is a ceremony honoring a career employee who, since 1951, has been the heart and soul of the Department’s Criminal Division.

The Justice Department’s culture is surely influenced by those of us whose tenure here is limited. But it is the career employees and dedicated servants like Jack Keeney who build and sustain that culture over time. Indeed, beyond the groundbreaking treaties Mr. Keeney has negotiated, beyond his stewardship of our legendary organized crime program, beyond his supervision of our most sensitive public corruption investigations, it is the culture of this institution that stands as Mr. Keeney’s greatest legacy – a culture of integrity and excellence, and an unwavering commitment to always striving to do what is right.

Today, Mr. Keeney will rightly be lauded as a giant in his field – a living legend. For those of us in the Criminal Division, though, Mr. Keeney is also a wonderful colleague, a thoughtful mentor, and, right through to the end of his tenure, an enormously hard‑working and prodigious prosecutor. I think he authorized 20 wiretaps today.

The name “John C. Keeney” – whether it appears on a wiretap authorization, or indictment, or testimony before Congress – carries special weight. It means that the decision to which he has lent his name has been made with the sole aim of justice being done. Indeed, throughout his long tenure, Mr. Keeney has passed judgment on some of the most sensitive and high-profile prosecutions by this Department. And, for the last 59 years, no one – no reporter, no Op-Ed writer, no defense attorney, no politician – has ever been able to credibly claim that any decision by Mr. Keeney was based on anything but the facts and the law. What a gift to this Division. What a gift to this Department.

Mr. Keeney, please know that your retirement will not come close to marking the end of your impact on the Criminal Division or the Department. Your leadership, your integrity, your judgment, and your grace have made an indelible imprint here. As David Margolis put it the other day, you are “the gold standard against which all the rest of us are measured.” And you always will be.

Mr. Keeney, I’d like to ask you to turn to your right.

On behalf of the Criminal Division, I’d like to present you with this portrait, which will hang permanently in the Criminal Division in your honor.

Mr. Keeney, if you could join me up here, I’d also like to present you with a Criminal Division plaque.

On a personal level, I am so thankful that I have had the benefit of your wise counsel during the last year and a half and I am honored to present this portrait and plaque to you on behalf of the Division that you have served so well.

Updated September 17, 2014