Thank you Chairman Leahy for convening this important hearing. The Federal Bureau of Investigation is the preeminent law enforcement agency in the world. It plays an essential role in our criminal justice system and its ability to investigate crimes and find the truth is unmatched anywhere in the world.
Opening Statement of
Senator Orrin G. Hatch
Senate Judiciary Committee
"Restoring Confidence in the FBI"
That said, there are serious issues concerning the operation of the FBI that must be addressed in a thoughtful, substantive and proactive way. The American people rely on the protections provided by the fine men and women at the FBI and deserve the best possible performance it can deliver. Unquestionably, there is room for improvement in the operation of the Bureau. The FBI, in conjunction with the Justice Department, simply must adhere to the highest standards of conduct in its investigations, use of informants, and in the fulfillment of its discovery obligations.
It is important, however, to keep the current problems at the FBI in perspective. The men and women of the FBI are dedicated professionals to whom we owe a great debt of gratitude. They solve difficult and important cases every day. Despite the serious problems that exist, the fact remains that the FBI solved the Oklahoma City bombing, the World Trade Center bombing and the terrorist attacks in East Africa, among the literally thousands of others that do not get the same profile in the press.
Chairman Leahy has expressed a desire to do a series of oversight hearing on the FBI. I fully support him in that effort and commend him for his prompt attention to this matter. The Committee's oversight responsibilities are an important element of our system of Constitutional checks and balances. I think it needs to be emphasized, that in my opinion, the focus of the oversight must be to improve the FBI and prepare it to be effective in the 21st Century.
Confidence in the FBI, and in the criminal justice system generally, is necessary for our system of governmental law enforcement to operate effectively.
I believe that we must vigorously - but constructively - examine the current managerial issues and focus on how to build a better FBI. In particular, I believe we should look critically at the culture of the FBI and how it is - or is not - effectively integrated with the Justice Department.
I also believe that, as we proceed through this essential oversight process, we must continue to be careful to respect the existence of ongoing criminal investigations, Inspector General investigations, and national security issues. Our Committee is best suited to a vigorous examination and debate of the policy issues involved, and less equipped to perform the intensive factual examinations already underway in the open criminal and IG investigations. I look forward to working with Chairman Leahy and other members of this Committee to ensure thorough oversight of the Bureau, while continuing to be sensitive to the investigations and national security concerns of some of the active matters at the Bureau.
In the end, I believe any constructive oversight and development of future reforms at the FBI must address two key issues: 1) a permanent oversight mechanism and 2) a mechanism through which outside experts can bring their expertise and objectivity to bear on the possible solutions to the problems at FBI.
As to the first issue, there are various proposals ranging from improvements to the Justice Department's Inspector General and its ability to perform oversight at the FBI, to the establishment of a separate Inspector General exclusively for the FBI. I look forward to working with my colleagues in evaluating these ideas, although I generally favor working within the Justice Department structure.
On the second issue, I have announced that I have been working with Senator Schumer to develop a bi-partisan, expert "blue-ribbon" commission to do a strategic, thorough review of the FBI, and make recommendations for improvements. I commend Senator Schumer for his leadership on this issue and look forward to working with him and our distinguished Chairman, Senator Leahy, to seeing that this legislation is enacted.
The Schumer-Hatch legislation would create a commission to that will be able to bring outside, objective expertise to bear on the issues that currently challenge the FBI. The Inspector Generals are great at doing factual investigations, but they are not designed to do strategic long term recommendations on these important policy and managerial issues. The blue-ribbon Commission can fill that gap. It is bipartisan, objective, and focused upon solutions, not headlines.
I welcome our witnesses, either today or in the coming days, to provide us with their views and recommendations on improving the legislation.
Once again, I thank the Chairman for convening this hearing. I am looking forward to hearing from our panel of distinguished witnesses and to working with the Chairman to constructively pursue this important oversight project.