COMBINED STATEMENT OF
Attorney General Janet Reno
and Deputy Attorney General Eric H. Holder, Jr.
United States Senate
Committee on the Judiciary
Good morning Mr. Chairman, Senator Leahy and Members of the Committee. It is a pleasure for us to appear before you today to once again discuss the progress the Department of Justice has made in carrying out its important and varied responsibilities. We value the oversight function of this Committee, and we each view the opportunity to explain the work of the Department to Congress as one of our most important duties.
The Justice Department's 119,000 employees are at work around the world, protecting our borders, dismantling terrorist operations, arresting drug traffickers, prosecuting criminals, and too often putting their lives on the line.
Fighting Violent Crime
By almost any measure, crime is down across America. Reported incidents of violent crime have been decreasing for the past six years, juvenile arrest rates have fallen for two years in a row, and violent crime and property victimization figures are both at their lowest levels since the Bureau of Justice Statistics began recording such trends in 1973.
Our years of work in law enforcement have taught us one thing that we want to stress and we know the Members of this Committee agree -- this is no time to let down our guard. Report after report of positive crime statistics does not mean we can become complacent.
Together we must continue our bipartisan efforts against crime to ensure lasting results. Four years ago we put in place the Anti-Violent Crime Initiative, a strategy created to forge partnerships among law enforcement agencies at every level of government. The initiative seeks to coordinate the resources of local, state, and Federal government to avoid duplication and fragmentation in law enforcement and to ensure that we pursue all matters according to principles of federalism and in the best interest of the community and the country. We are committed to doing everything we can to build on the successes of these partnerships.
A key element of the success of the Anti-Violent Crime Initiative is community policing, an idea developed by local law enforcement, embraced by President Clinton, and implemented by the Department's Office of Community Oriented Policing Services. Working with local law enforcement, this Committee, and with others in Congress, we created the COPS Office so that the Federal government could effectively deliver needed community policing resources directly to local communities. The COPS program continues to add community policing officers toward our goal of 100,000 officers by the year 2000. We look forward to working with the Members of this Committee and communities across the country as we together encourage cities and towns to continue community policing.
Combating Drug Abuse
We have worked with the Office of National Drug Control Policy to implement the Administration's National Drug Control Strategy. In so doing we have targeted national and international organizations, major traffickers, violent drug gangs and money launderers. For example, last month 33 members of the Latin Kings gang were indicted in the Eastern District of Wisconsin and charged with various drug trafficking offenses, including RICO, conspiracy to distribute drugs, and firearms violations. Alleged acts of RICO predicate offenses included nine murders, 21 attempted murders, nine robberies, three arsons, five kidnappings, and an ongoing drug conspiracy involving cocaine, crack cocaine, and marijuana. We will continue use Organized Crime Drug Enforcement Task Forces to bring criminals to justice and to ensure safe neighborhoods for all Americans.
This past December, the Drug Enforcement Administration concluded a multijurisdictional wiretap investigation that targeted a significant United States methamphetamine organization and revealed trafficking ties that extended into Mexico. Specifically, the Guadalajara-based Amezcua organization, one of the largest methamphetamine trafficking organizations in the world, was supplying U.S. elements of the organization with methamphetamine, precursor chemicals, and cocaine. The investigation resulted in the arrest of 101 defendants, seizure of a significant amount of methamphetamine, methamphetamine solutions, cocaine and assets totaling over $2.25 million, as well as the dismantling of three methamphetamine laboratories. Last month, Jesus and Luis Amezcua-Contreras, leaders of the organization, were indicted on drug trafficking charges in the Southern District of California. We are seeking their extradition from Mexico, where the two were recently arrested.
In our most recent budget request, we have sought increased resources for the Drug Enforcement Administration, for the Criminal Division, and for Assistant United States Attorneys so that we can build on these and similar successes.
Our focus on traffickers does not mean that we will ignore those seeking to break the habit of addiction to dangerous drugs. Recent studies indicate that much violent crime is committed while the perpetrator is using illegal narcotics. With an eye toward breaking this dangerous link in the violent crime chain, we want to work with you to see that effective drug treatment and prevention programs get the funding they need. In addition, we are seeking a statutory change so that prison grant funds can be used for drug testing and treatment. Research reveals that the more prisoners we can break of their addiction to drugs, the less likely we are to be faced with an ex-prisoner committing crime in the future. We want to work with Congress to provide that kind of common sense flexibility to those who put our prison grant funds to use.
Fighting Juvenile Crime
Any fight against crime and drugs would be incomplete without a focus on our youth. The Department of Justice is committed to working with state and local law enforcement to ensure that America's children are given the options they need to avoid crime. When crime cannot be prevented, we will work to ensure violent juveniles are prosecuted.
For the second year in a row, juvenile arrest rates for violent crime have fallen, and arrest rates for juvenile homicides have dropped for a third year in a row. These encouraging statistics must be balanced against startling headlines. While a recent report co-authored by the Departments of Justice and Education indicated there was little increase in school crime between 1989 and 1995, clearly the tragedies that have made towns like Jonesboro, Springfield, and Paducah household names cry out for solutions.
We are working with Secretary of Education Riley to explore new ways we can prevent youth violence. Following the tragedy in Jonesboro, the Attorney General convened two meetings with a broad range of national experts, who uniformly urged that we give a higher priority to crime prevention and early intervention. The experts called on the Federal government to widely disseminate information about what works and to provide financial assistance for local communities to implement effective prevention and early intervention strategies. In the near future, the Departments of Justice and Education will issue guidelines to help school principals and teachers recognize and respond to youth who have displayed warning signs of violent behavior. Shortly thereafter, the two departments will issue the first of an annual report that educators, parents and local officials can use to address school safety issues.
Working with Congress, we must continue to fund adequately juvenile crime prevention programs. Police chiefs, prosecutors, and parents are all in agreement that targeted, effective crime prevention programs are the best way to combat youth violence. Together, we have built more beds to house our prisoners and hired more police to patrol our streets, but everyone involved in law enforcement agrees that we are never going to be able to arrest and jail our way out of the juvenile crime problem. The solution lies in early intervention in the lives of our youth and adequate crime prevention activities to occupy their time.
Mr. Chairman, the Department of Justice will work with Congress to pass meaningful juvenile justice reform. We will seek changes in Federal law to prevent violent juveniles from buying guns once they become adults, dedicate funding toward crime prevention programs, crack down on the illegal gun market, and disseminate best practices. We are committed to doing everything we can to prevent the tragedies experienced by the people of Jonesboro, Springfield and Paducah whenever possible.
Combating Domestic Violence
Our violent crime control efforts include the work the Department is doing in combating domestic violence. Due in large measure to the work of this Committee, we have given a voice to the victims of domestic violence and have joined with our state and local partners to fight violence against women.
Now is the time for all of us to redouble these efforts. We ought to develop evaluative criteria that allow us to study the link between drug and alcohol abuse and domestic violence, and target resources at breaking this link wherever possible. The Department will continue to allocate resources to communities so they can set up innovative community policing strategies aimed at domestic violence, and we will work with rural and Native American areas.
If we keep at it, we have the opportunity to truly change the culture of America when it comes to domestic violence. We can make a long, lasting difference, and we look forward to facing the challenge -- buttressed by the abiding commitment of the Members of this Committee -- to fight domestic violence.
Targeting Crime in Indian Country
The Department of Justice will continue to fulfill its unique responsibility in Indian Country. The optimistic statistical crime news described above rings hollow when one visits Indian Country. Indeed, homicide and violent crime rates in many Native American lands are rising. By any measure, Indian Country has been badly neglected. In too many tribal communities law enforcement agencies are understaffed and underfunded, lacking uniformed police, criminal investigators, and detention staff and facilities, as well as basic communications and intelligence gathering technology. Just as troubling, the few jails on Native American lands are inadequate to meet current needs.
These conditions warrant immediate action, and the Department of Justice aims to do whatever it can to correct problems under its jurisdiction. Recently, we requested funds from Congress that would allow us to join with the Department of Interior to address some of these problems through a multi-year initiative aimed at raising the level of Indian Country law enforcement to national standards. In particular, we will focus on the number of officers per capita, the training and equipment of tribal law enforcement officers, and the quality and availability of detention facilities. Our participation in the initiative's first year will be punctuated by anti-crime grants provided directly to tribal jurisdictions.
We also intend to augment our investigatory and prosecutorial capacity in Indian Country. The Federal government has the responsibility for investigating and prosecuting major crimes in most of Indian Country, and we have recognized the need for additional resources, in the form of FBI agents and Assistant United States Attorneys, so that we can better target violent crime, gang-related violence, and juvenile crime on Indian lands. With Congress' assistance, we will issue COPS grants to fund positions for tribal officers, direct resources towards Indian tribal courts so that they can better meet demands of burgeoning case loads, and create funding streams to construct, modernize, and repair correctional facilities and jails on Indian lands. These are necessary first steps; our unique relationship with and responsibility for Indian Country warrants nothing less.
Working Against International Crime
Increasingly, we are finding that our struggle against crime at home leads us to seek the assistance of our partners abroad. Crime is becoming globalized -- con artists operate overseas, car theft rings move stolen vehicles across borders, and counterfeiters print fully two-thirds of their illegal currency in foreign lands. Last month, the President proposed comprehensive international crime control legislation, passage of which will begin to address many of these concerns. At the Department of Justice, we remain committed to working with our international partners where appropriate. Just two weeks ago, the Attorney General and Mexican Attorney General Jorge Madrazo met and signed a letter of understanding, setting up a procedure to enhance cooperation in sensitive cross-border law enforcement activities. We look forward to continuing and building upon such partnerships in the future.
As we reach the close of the 20th century, we find our streets safer and our homes more secure against crime. But the threat of terrorism, both foreign and domestic, is more real and more dangerous today than it was during the height of the Cold War.
The protection of our Nation and its people from acts of terrorism is one of the greatest challenges and highest priorities of the Department of Justice. Our strategy remains to do everything possible to deter and prevent such heinous acts. At the same time, we seek to ensure that the necessary capabilities and procedures are in place to respond to terrorism so that we can effectively manage any crisis and mitigate its consequences.
As directed by Congress, by December 31 of this year we will develop and begin to implement a Five-Year Counterterrorism and Technology Plan that will serve as a baseline for coordination of national policy and operational capabilities to combat terrorism. This five-year plan will be representative of all agencies involved in the government's counterterrorism effort and will draw upon the expertise of academia, the private sector, and state and local law enforcement.
Any effective counterterrorism strategy requires training for those who would respond first to acts of terrorism, including those responding to terrorist use of chemical and biological weapons. In this regard, and in conjunction with several other Federal agencies, the Department of Justice is supporting the Department of Defense in providing weapons of mass destruction training to state and local emergency responders. This initiative will eventually train emergency responders in 120 cities throughout the United States. It is our hope that through these efforts, state and local governments will not only be better able to deal with threats of terrorism through effective planning and increased response capability, but as a related benefit, we are also improving the overall ability of America's communities to protect citizens from chemical accidents resulting from industrial facilities or transportation of hazardous materials.
The Federal Bureau of Investigation plays the lead role in the Department's efforts to manage the threat posed by chemical and biological terrorism. The FBI has established a Weapons of Mass Destruction (WMD) Operations Unit to analyze chemical and biological threats, coordinate the national response to a chemical or biological terrorist incident and procure expert advice and assistance when necessary. In addition, the FBI has established a Hazardous Materials Response Unit to assess the capabilities of local and state authorities, to work with them in dealing with chemical and biological crises, and to support that effort when warranted.
We will continue to use resources provided to the Department of Justice by Congress to protect the Nation against a terrorist attack, and to ready those responsible for handling such an emergency if one does occur. For example, the Department's Office of Justice Programs (OJP) recently established the Domestic Preparedness Institute and opened the Center for Domestic Preparedness at Fort McClellan, Alabama. This Center will provide state and local first responder personnel with advanced training, including hands-on field and laboratory exercises to improve their capabilities to respond to and manage terrorist incidents. OJP will also be providing equipment -- including items necessary for personal protection, detection, decontamination, and communication -- to state and local authorities who would be called upon to respond to an incident involving weapons of mass destruction.
Protecting Our Borders
Just as we continue our fight against terrorism, so will we keep working to strengthen our borders against illegal immigration. Through the efforts of the Immigration and Naturalization Service (INS), the Department seeks to enhance border management throughout the Nation, as well as to continue to reengineer the naturalization process to accommodate millions of new applicants. Our most recent budget requested a sixteen percent increase in INS funding; these added resources will allow us to hire 1,000 new Border Patrol agents, and to equip current agents with the tools they need to track and apprehend illegal border crossers. We will be placing a special emphasis on the effective employment of force-multiplying technologies, so that we can make better use of resources currently available.
In the coming months and years, we will continue to implement our Southwest Border Strategy. Operations in California, Texas, Arizona, and New Mexico have all been expanded so that we can best use new resources to regain control of border areas that historically have been the major corridors for illegal immigration. "Operation Rio Grande," launched in August 1997 in Brownsville, Texas, is a special multi-year operation designed to gain and maintain control of targeted border areas through a combination of new technology and additional manpower.
In addition, the Department has forged a working relationship with the United States Customs Service (USCS) that has allowed for the pooling of resources and technology to strengthen our borders. The joint Remote Video Inspection System (RVIS) project enables the INS and USCS to conduct remote inspections via a six-camera video system. This system is currently deployed at seven sites along the Northern border. Five more sites will be deployed this year, and ten will follow next year. Other significant joint INS/USCS projects include: a video phone inspection system; the Secured Electronic Network for Traveler Rapid Inspection (SENTRI) project that allows for quick and thorough inspections of travelers; and the use of license plate readers that will allow the automatic input of license plate information into our data systems, thereby freeing INS and USCS inspectors to perform more thorough checks of vehicles at our ports of entry. These joint efforts will enable us to continue our strong efforts to secure our borders against illegal immigration.
In San Diego, our operations have significantly diminished illegal immigration and alien smuggling -- illegal alien apprehensions are at a 21-year low, and local police and prosecutors are reporting significant decreases in border crime. In addition, at the San Ysidro Port-of-Entry, a border which years ago took over two hours to cross today finds commuters waiting on average only twenty minutes. Clearly our efforts in parts of the country are beginning to bear fruit.
As for those aliens already here illegally, we are continuing to deport record numbers. During fiscal year 1997, INS removed more than 113,000 criminal and other illegal aliens, an increase of more than 44,000 over 1996's record and 20,000 over its target of 93,000 removals. Our target for fiscal year 1998 is a record 127,300 removals. We are well on our way to reaching this goal -- according to our most current data, removals through May 1998 totaled nearly 109,000. INS has implemented innovative programs which allow for the deportation of criminal aliens directly from prison, and which target alien fugitives as well as aliens attempting entry with fraudulent documents. Protection of our borders and enforcement of this Nation's immigration laws remains one of the Department's highest priorities, and I look forward to facing the challenges presented by heightened immigration with this Committee's welcomed assistance.
Litigating in the Nation's Interest
No components represent the work of the Department of Justice more ably than those charged with litigating in the Nation's interest, the Department's six litigating divisions: Antitrust, Civil, Civil Rights, Criminal, Environment and Natural Resources, and Tax. The expertise of the attorneys in these Divisions allows the Department of Justice to effectively address an extraordinarily wide range of nationwide law enforcement priorities -- from church arsons and child pornography to multi-state organized crime rings and national antitrust conspiracies.
By way of example, the Antitrust Division actively works to ensure that American consumers benefit from the kind of free-market economy that antitrust enforcement engenders. Protecting against anticompetitive actions helps consumers obtain more innovative, high-quality goods and services at lower prices, and enhances the worldwide competitiveness of American business by promoting healthy rivalry, encouraging efficiency, and ensuring a full measure of opportunity for all competitors.
The Antitrust Division recently concluded that for every dollar of merger activity occurring in the United States in 1992, today ten dollars is tied up in mergers. Any merger wave of this size and scope must be accompanied by an equally ambitious regime of antitrust oversight. For that reason, we have sought Congress' assistance in fully utilizing the pre-merger filing fees which are available to the Antitrust Division. Over the last four years, the Division's resource level has remained the same; we look forward to working with this Committee and others for ways to fully allocate the available fees in order to adequately keep up with the present merger wave.
The Civil Rights Division is also playing a critical role in protecting Americans. As the primary agency within the Federal government charged with the enforcement of Federal civil rights laws, the Civil Rights Division will continue to do all it can to advance equality, opportunity and fair play for all Americans. Discrimination based on race, color, religion, sex, national origin, and disability remains a major concern for far too many Americans. While the Division seeks to resolve disputes short of litigation, it will vigorously enforce civil rights laws to reflect the national priority placed on equality.
The Civil Rights Division has ensured fairness in the lending process through the filing of discrimination suits resulting in record fines and damages, led the National Church Arson Task Force as it worked to investigate a rash of suspicious fires in houses of worship, and promoted compliance with the Americans with Disabilities Act through extensive public outreach efforts. It has prosecuted hate crimes when necessary: during the past year we prosecuted 43 defendants successfully, obtaining either a conviction or guilty plea. A number of prosecutions charged members of organized hate groups, such as the Ku Klux Klan, and various racist Skinhead gangs. Last year, three skinhead members of the Nazi Low Riders were charged with both assaulting an eighteen-year-old African-American man as he was getting into his car in the parking lot of a Blockbuster video rental store in Los Angeles, and attacking a sixteen-year-old African American man as he was walking along a street in Lancaster, California. Two defendants pled guilty, and the third case is pending.
Along with Antitrust and Civil Rights, the Environment and Natural Resources Division works to enforce the Nation's laws in the public interest. The Division's responsibilities include defensive and affirmative litigation concerning the use of the Nation's natural resources and public lands; wildlife protection; Indian rights and claims; cleanup of hazardous waste sites; condemnation of private property for public purposes; defense of environmental challenges to government activities; and civil and criminal environmental law enforcement. The Division's work runs the gamut from defending against those who sought to enjoin the Cassini Space Mission to Saturn, to prosecuting companies that sought to dump ammonia into Idaho's Sioux River. It is staffed by dedicated career attorneys and its work is emblematic of the Department's overall commitment to legal excellence for the citizens of this country.
The Civil Division continues to defend our laws, recoup billions of dollars for the Federal government, and fight fraud. The Division defended challenges to Megan's Law and the Violence Against Women Act, and worked with United States Attorney's offices to recover more than $1 billion in settlements and judgments in civil fraud cases. These recoveries included $600 million in damages from clinical laboratories engaged in a fraudulent marketing and billing scheme for laboratory tests charged to federally funded health care programs. The Tax Division ensures fairness in the tax system by protecting the public fisc from bogus tax claims and illegal tax protest organizations. Collectively, employees of the Department of Justice's litigating divisions personify excellence in public service, and their work serves the Nation well.
Preparing Law Enforcement for the Twenty-First Century
While today's struggle against violent crime, protection of our borders, safeguarding of the Nation against terrorists, and representation of the interests of Americans in court continue to be priorities of the Department of Justice, we are also working to ensure that the Department is well-positioned to confront tomorrow's law enforcement challenges head-on.
We are blessed to live in a time of technological revolution. Information moves across the planet at the stroke of a computer key, and effective harnessing of these incredible technologies is advancing society. But criminals are taking part in the information revolution as well, and their use of technology brings new challenges for the law enforcement community. In a recent case, computer hackers from Germany captured the customer credit card files of a Miami company. The hackers threatened to distribute all the credit card numbers unless they were paid ransom. Fortunately, German authorities arrested one of the hackers when he tried to pick up the money. If the hackers had chosen to use the stolen credit card numbers, however, law enforcement may have been powerless to stop them.
Perhaps more ominously, an international computer hacker organization headquartered in Dallas, Texas successfully penetrated the networks of several telecommunications providers and acquired unlisted telephone numbers, personal addresses, credit information, and National Crime Information Center data, causing financial losses in excess of a half million dollars and unquantifiable security compromises. The advanced level and expertise of the hackers was comparable to telephone company experts, and suggests that they could have disrupted telecommunications on a national basis had they so desired.
In this age of international computer criminals, we must prepare ourselves to wage technological war against those who would sit at their kitchen tables in foreign countries and rob banks in the United States. An important step was the creation in 1996 of the Criminal Division's Computer Crimes and Intellectual Property Section (CCIPS). Since its creation, one of CCIPS top priorities has been the training of Federal investigators and prosecutors. The Section works with a "Computer and Telecommunications Coordinator" in each United States Attorney's office to ensure that expertise in computer crimes and intellectual property protection is spread throughout the Nation. The Section trains state and local agents and prosecutors as well. CCIPS works in tandem with investigators from the FBI and the U.S. Customs Service to ensure that the Nation's intellectual property is protected and to bring criminal copyright and trademark charges where appropriate.
This past February, we made further progress toward our goal of safeguarding the Nation against the 21st century criminal with the creation of the FBI's National Infrastructure Protection Center (NIPC). The Center's mission is to detect, deter, prevent, assess, warn, respond to, and investigate unlawful acts involving computer and information technologies and unlawful acts, both physical and cyber, that threaten or target our critical infrastructures. In the Information Age, protection of our Nation's infrastructure is as critical a mission of the Department of Justice as the securing of our country's borders. Telecommunications, banking and finance, transportation, electrical energy, gas and oil supply, water supply, emergency services, and government operations are all critical infrastructures; their debilitation or destruction would have a significant adverse impact on our national economy and national security.
NIPC will seek to build partnerships so that we can safeguard these infrastructures. These partnerships will include representatives from other critical Federal agencies, from state and local law enforcement, and from private industry. Such an arrangement will foster the sharing of information and expertise, and will improve coordination among all the relevant actors in the event of a crisis. We look forward to the NIPC building this cooperative relationship with the Nation's high technology industry and others as we together face the law enforcement challenges presented by the Information Age.
In the coming months, we plan to expand the Criminal Division's Computer Crime and Intellectual Property Section, and we will continue to build the necessary infrastructure to pursue criminals who attack or employ global networks. In this regard, we should note that the Department of Justice faces severe competition from high technology companies and law firms for the brightest legal and technical minds in the Nation. We look forward to working with Congress in the future to consider creative solutions aimed at making high technology legal and technical work at the Department the most appealing offer available.
The Department of Justice will continue to modernize its operations so as to stay steps ahead of tomorrow's cyber criminal and to ensure that our critical infrastructures do not fall victim to attack. We will seek the cooperation of this Committee and others in the months and years ahead as we together face this unfortunate byproduct of emerging technologies.
The challenges facing the Department of Justice in the 21st century are many, but together we can ensure a safer America if we work in a bipartisan manner to fashion effective solutions. We welcome this Committee's oversight of the Department's operations, and look forward to working with you as we move Federal law enforcement towards a new millennium.