Skip to comments.Source: 9/11 Terror Detainees Face Trial in N.Y.
Posted on 11/13/2009 3:48:30 AM PST by Cindy
Source: 9/11 Terror Detainees Face Trial in N.Y. Friday, November 13, 2009
WASHINGTON Self-proclaimed Sept. 11 mastermind Khalid Sheikh Mohammed and four other Guantanamo Bay detainees will be sent to New York to face trial in a civilian federal court, an Obama administration official said Friday.
The official said Attorney General Eric Holder plans to announce the decision later in the morning.
The official is not authorized to discuss the decision before the announcement, so spoke on condition of anonymity.
(Excerpt) Read more at foxnews.com ...
I guess I was trying to give the Obama administration the benefit of doubt. Seriously, Obama will have riots on his hands if any of these guys walks free. Our nation will be torn apart, and there will be blood in the streets, guaranteed.
So I can’t believe the Obama people would risk allowing that to happen. But maybe they’re oblivious to that reality. If they are, wow- just wow.
Cindy ~ President Obama is Attorney General Holders boss.
"President" Obama is mentally ill.
Never let a crisis go to waste. If not this seizure they would have timed it to be covered by another headline grabbing event.
Catherine HERRIDGE just said (paraphrase)- “what are the charges?” What was the reason for the timing of this, given the AG did not have the charges to announce? Why now?
I would give the people of NYC's fifth bourough a pass on that. Staten Island went for McCain/Palin.
"Uh, there is no war on terror -- it's just that they blame us for all of our past mistreatment of them. We can do better, as soon as I take over the rest of the private sector and fully implement my command-and-control government."
FUBO, just FU Barack!
And btw, I’m from NYC. Weeks after the attack, I walked into the kitchen wondering what’s burning. Nothing.
Then I saw the window open and realized it was coming in. From ground zero.
Try to act surprised when he gets off on a techinicality.
Note: The following text is a quote:
Attorney General Announces Forum Decisions for Guantanamo Detainees
~ Friday, November 13, 2009
Good morning. Just over eight years ago, on a morning our nation will never forget, nineteen hijackers working with a network of Al Qaeda conspirators around the world launched the deadliest terrorist attacks our country has ever seen. Nearly 3,000 people lost their lives in those attacks, and in the years since, our nation has had no higher priority than bringing those who planned and plotted the attacks to justice.
One year before, in October 2000, a terrorist attack on the USS Cole killed seventeen American sailors.
Today we announce a step forward in bringing those we believe were responsible for the 9/11 attacks and the attack on the USS Cole to justice.
Five detainees at Guantanamo have been charged before military commissions with participation in the 9/11 plot: Khalid Sheikh Mohammed, Walid Muhammed Salih Mubarak Bin Attash, Ramzi Bin Al Shibh, Ali Abdul-Aziz Ali, and Mustafa Ahmed Al Hawsawi. Those proceedings have been stayed since February, as have the proceedings pending in military commissions against four other detainees accused of different crimes. A case in military commissions against the alleged mastermind of the Cole bombing, Abd al-Rahim al-Nashiri, was withdrawn in February.
For the past several months, prosecutors at the Department of Justice have been working diligently with prosecutors from the Pentagons Office of Military Commissions to review the case of each detainee at Guantanamo who has been referred for prosecution. Over the past few weeks, I have personally reviewed these cases, and in consultation with the Secretary of Defense, have made determinations about the prosecution of ten detainees now held at Guantanamo, including those charged in the 9/11 plot and the alleged mastermind of the Cole bombing.
Today, I am announcing that the Department of Justice will pursue prosecution in federal court of the five individuals accused of conspiring to commit the 9/11 attacks. Further, I have decided to refer back to the Department of Defense five defendants to face military commission trials, including the detainee who was previously charged in the USS Cole bombing.
The 9/11 cases that will be pursued in federal court have been jointly assigned to prosecutors from the Southern District of New York and the Eastern District of Virginia and will be brought in Manhattan in the Southern District of New York. After eight years of delay, those allegedly responsible for the attacks of September the 11th will finally face justice. They will be brought to New York to answer for their alleged crimes in a courthouse just blocks from where the twin towers once stood.
I am confident in the ability of our courts to provide these defendants a fair trial, just as they have for over 200 years. The alleged 9/11 conspirators will stand trial in our justice system before an impartial jury under long-established rules and procedures.
I also want to assure the American people that we will prosecute these cases vigorously, and we will pursue the maximum punishment available. These were extraordinary crimes and so we will seek maximum penalties. Federal rules allow us to seek the death penalty for capital offenses, and while we will review the evidence and circumstances following established protocols, I fully expect to direct prosecutors to seek the death penalty against each of the alleged 9/11 conspirators.
In his speech at the National Archives in May, the President called for the reform of military commissions to ensure that they are a lawful, fair, and effective prosecutorial forum. The reforms Congress recently adopted to the Military Commissions Act ensure that military commission trials will be fair and that convictions obtained will be secure.
I know that the Department of Defense is absolutely committed to ensuring that military commission trials will be consistent with our highest standards as a nation, and our civilian prosecutors will continue to work closely with military prosecutors to support them in that effort.
In each case, my decision as to whether to proceed in federal courts or military commissions was based on a protocol that the Departments of Justice and Defense developed and that was announced in July. Because many cases could be prosecuted in either federal courts or military commissions, that protocol sets forth a number of factors including the nature of the offense, the location in which the offense occurred, the identity of the victims, and the manner in which the case was investigated that must be considered. In consultation with the Secretary of Defense, I looked at all the relevant factors and made case by case decisions for each detainee.
It is important that we be able to use every forum possible to hold terrorists accountable for their actions. Just as a sustained campaign against terrorism requires a combination of intelligence, law enforcement and military operations, so must our legal efforts to bring terrorists to justice involve both federal courts and reformed military commissions. I want to thank the members of Congress, including Senators Lindsay Graham, Carl Levin and John McCain who worked so hard to strengthen our national security by helping us pass legislation to reform the military commission system.
We will continue to draw on the Pentagons support as we bring cases against the alleged 9-11 conspirators in federal court. The Justice Department has a long, successful history of prosecuting terrorists for their crimes against our nation, particularly in New York. Although these cases can often be complex and challenging, federal prosecutors have successfully met these challenges and have convicted a number of terrorists who are now serving lengthy sentences in our prisons. And although the security issues presented by terrorism cases should never be minimized, our marshals, court security officers, and prison officials have extensive experience and training dealing with dangerous defendants, and I am confident they can meet the security challenges posed by this case.
These detainees will not be transferred to the United States for prosecution until all legal requirements are satisfied, including those in recent legislation requiring a 45 day notice and report to the Congress. I have already spoken to Governor Paterson and Mayor Bloomberg and am committed to working closely with them to ensure that all security and related concerns are properly addressed. I have every confidence that we can safely hold these trials in New York, as we have so many previous terrorism trials.
For the many Americans who lost friends and relatives in the attacks of September 11, 2001 and on the USS Cole, nothing can bring those loved ones back. But they deserve the opportunity to see the alleged plotters of those attacks held accountable in court, an opportunity that has been too long delayed. Todays announcements mark a significant step forward in our efforts to close Guantanamo and to bring to justice those individuals who have conspired to attack our nation and our interests abroad.
For over two hundred years, our nation has relied on a faithful adherence to the rule of law to bring criminals to justice and provide accountability to victims. Once again we will ask our legal system, in two venues, to rise to that challenge. I am confident it will answer the call with fairness and justice.
But that is not what the Military Commissions Act says. It allows for military tribunal ONLY, and these defendants have been charged under that that Act. Holder's actions are unconstitutional. Congress and Congress alone can set jurisdiction for these crimes (Article III, Section 2). And Congress has not authorized jurisdiction in US civilian court for this.
This case will be tossed, and Holder knows it.
I’m so sorry 444 Flyer.
...and all our intelligence exposed OR our intelligence won’t be exposed and the case(s) will be tossed.
This is a very sad day in history.
That is shocking. Seems like you’ve read the act and know the details.
Anyway, too bad Bush didn’t resolve this before he left office.
ON THE INTERNET:
I wonder how long it will be till someone asks Hillary what she thinks of sending them to New York. I won’t be holding my breath.
Daniel Pearl’s dad is sickened by Obama’s 9/11 trial decision
NYPost ^ | November 14, 2009 | CARL CAMPANILE
Posted on November 14, 2009 1:28:57 PM PST by GOPGuide
The father of slain Wall Street Journal reporter Daniel Pearl slammed the Obama administration’s decision to hold a public trial for admitted 9/11 mastermind Khalid Sheik Mohammed — who boasted of killing his son in Pakistan.
Judea Pearl said he was “sick to the stomach” when he heard that the Justice Department decided to prosecute Mohammed in Manhattan federal court.
“I don’t want to hear every morning in the papers what KSM did,” Pearl told The Post last night. “Danny was killed once. Now he will be killed 10 times a day. Leave him alone.”
VIDEO: 9/11 SUSPECTS TO BE TRIED IN NY
His son’s beheading in 2002 was caught on a gruesome video that shocked the world.
“The 21st century saw three shocks,” Pearl said. “The first was 9/11. The second was the killing of my son. And the third was the shock today.”
The reporter’s outraged father, a UCLA professor, said a public trial would allow the admitted mass murderer to “boast about his cruelty” and encourage other terrorists to inflict harm.
Pearl said the prosecution of Mohammed should be done in closed session to avoid giving terrorists a platform.
(Excerpt) Read more at nypost.com ...
White House: IL prison eyed for Guantanamo inmates
AP ^ | 11/14/2009 41 minutes ago | TAMMY WEBBER
Posted on November 14, 2009 4:08:27 PM PST by Former Military Chick
Edited on November 14, 2009 4:09:57 PM PST by Admin Moderator. [history]
CHICAGO A White House official says the Obama administration is considering buying a northwestern Illinois prison to house a limited number of detainees from Guantanamo Bay, along with federal inmates.
(Excerpt) Read more at google.com ...
Note: The following text is a quote:
STATEMENT BY SENATOR JOHN McCAIN
November 13, 2009
Washington, D.C. U.S. Senator John McCain (R AZ) issued the following statement on the Obama Administrations decision to try Khalid Sheikh Mohammed (KSM) and four other Al-Qaeda terrorists suspected of planning and executing the September 11th attacks in the United States Federal District Court for the Southern District of New York:
I am extremely disappointed with the Obama Administrations decision to try in U.S. civilian courts the Al-Qaeda terrorists who planned, supported, and conducted the September 11th attacks. These terrorists are not common criminals. They are war criminals, who committed acts of war against our citizens and those of dozens of other nations.
Terrorists who have declared war against our country should be treated as war criminals and tried for their crimes through military tribunals. In a letter sent to Congress just last week, hundreds of families of victims of the September 11th attacks urged the Administration to try these terrorists in military tribunals, and I fully respect and agree with their position. I have worked tirelessly with my colleagues in Congress and with the Obama Administration to make our military tribunals system better able to dispense justice efficiently and fairly while protecting secure information. If military tribunals are suitable for the terrorists who attacked our sailors aboard the U.S.S. Cole, as the Obama Administration has decided, then military tribunals are certainly the right venue to try the Al-Qaeda terrorists, including Khalid Sheikh Mohammed, who murdered thousands of innocent civilians on September 11, 2001.
Todays decision sends a mixed message about Americas resolve in the fight against terrorism. We are at war, and we must bring terrorists to justice in a manner consistent with the horrific acts of war they have committed.
Note: The following text is a quote:
Trial Decision Brings Guantanamo Closer to Closing
By Fred W. Baker III
American Forces Press Service
WASHINGTON, Nov. 13, 2009 Todays decision to pursue the prosecution of 10 detainees held at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba, paves the way toward resolving the disposition of others there and eventually closing the detention facility, a senior Defense Department official said today.
Defense and Justice Department officials announced that five detainees accused of conspiring to commit the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks will be tried in federal court in New York. Another five, one of whom is accused of orchestrating the 2000 bombing of the USS Cole, will be charged in military commissions.
“Bringing terrorists to justice is an integral part of our national security, Defense Secretary Robert M. Gates said in a release after the announcement. The reform of military commissions and today’s announcement are important steps in that direction.”
President Barack Obama signed an executive order in January that suspended the commissions and ordered the detention facility closed within a year. Congress recently approved reforms to the Military Commissions Act, allowing officials to move forward with determining how and where the detainees are tried.
Officials from both departments said that the decisions announced today reflected a coordinated and cooperative effort and signaled a significant step toward closing the Guantanamo Bay detention facility.
The announcement today in terms of the prosecutable detainees was basically Round 1, a senior Defense Department official said on background. I think now that we have the process in place [and] we have the prosecution teams in place, the process will move along at a fairly efficient rate.
While the five accused of the 9/11 attacks are going to be prosecuted in federal court, and the other five are going to resume their military commissions, officials were quick to point out that the commissions are not a lesser form of justice.
The whole effort that we went through with the Congress to reform military commissions was for the purpose of making the process more robust, more credible, more sustainable upon appeal, the official said. I think that we made some very significant reforms in that regard so that commissions would not be perceived as second-class justice.
Each case was reviewed by representatives of both departments, and the trial venue was decided based on many factors. Two things considered were the identity of the victims and the location of the offenses, the official said.
The Cole bombing was an offense directed at the United States Navy and the victims were sailors, so that was the type of offense that we think should be tried in a military commissions context, the defense official said.
The defense official could not say how quickly the disposition of the other detainees will be decided, or when and where the military commissions will resume, but he did say that senior officials are anxious to get the process rolling.
I think that youll see more decisions like the decision today further down the road, he said. Certainly, todays announcement is not the last one.
The five detainees whose prosecution will be pursued in federal court for the Sept. 11 terror attacks are Khalid Sheikh Mohammed, Walid Muhammad Salih Mubarak Bin Attash, Ramzi Binalshibh, Ali Abdul Aziz Ali and Mustafa Ahmed Adam al Hawsawi. The Justice Department intends to pursue a prosecution against them in the Southern District of New York as soon as possible.
The detainees will be transferred to the United States for trial after all legal requirements, including a 45-day notice and report to Congress, are satisfied, and consultations with state and local authorities have been completed, officials said.
Defense Department News Release
Note: The following text is a quote:
IMMEDIATE RELEASE No. 889-09
November 13, 2009
Departments of Defense and Justice Announce Forum Decisions for Ten Guantanamo Bay Detainees
The Departments of Defense and Justice today announced forum decisions for ten detainees at Guantanamo Bay whose cases were previously charged in military commissions, including five detainees accused of conspiring to commit the Sept. 11, 2001 terror attacks and a detainee accused of orchestrating the attack on the USS Cole.
“Bringing terrorists to justice is an integral part of our national security, said Defense Secretary Robert M. Gates. The reform of Military Commissions and today’s announcement are important steps in that direction.”
Today we announce a step forward in bringing those we believe were responsible for the 9/11 attacks and the attack on the USS Cole to justice, said Attorney General Eric Holder. For over two hundred years, our nation has relied on a faithful adherence to the rule of law to bring criminals to justice and provide accountability to victims. Once again we will ask our legal system to rise to that challenge, and I am confident it will answer the call with fairness and justice.
The Attorney General, in consultation with the Secretary of Defense, has determined that the United States government will pursue a prosecution in federal court against five detainees who are currently charged in military commissions with conspiring to commit the Sept. 11, 2001 terror attacks, which killed nearly 3,000 individuals. These detainees are Khalid Sheikh Mohammed, Walid Muhammad Salih Mubarak Bin Attash, Ramzi Binalshibh, Ali Abdul Aziz Ali and Mustafa Ahmed Adam al Hawsawi.
The Department of Justice intends to pursue a prosecution against these five individuals in the Southern District of New York as soon as possible. Prosecution of these detainees will be co-managed by teams from the Southern District of New York and the Eastern District of Virginia. These detainees will be transferred to the United States for trial after all legal requirements, including a 45-day notice and report to Congress, are satisfied, and consultations with state and local authorities have been completed. The detainees will be housed in a federal detention facility in New York, which includes maximum security units that have securely held terrorism suspects in the past. Once federal charges are brought against these detainees, military commission charges now pending against them will be withdrawn.
The Attorney General has also determined, in consultation with the Secretary, that the prosecutions of five other Guantanamo Bay detainees who were charged in military commissions may be resumed in that forum. These detainees include the detainee accused of orchestrating the October 2000 attack on the USS Cole, which killed 17 U.S. sailors and injured dozens of others, and a detainee who is accused of participating in an al-Qaeda plot to blow up oil tankers in the Straits of Hormuz.
Secretary Gates and Attorney General Holder are confident that detainees now held at Guantanamo Bay can be detained securely in U.S. detention facilities and that their trials can be conducted effectively and safely in the United States, whether in federal court or in a military commission.
Over the past decade, the Department of Justice has successfully prosecuted many terrorism defendants in our federal courts. Today, there are more than 200 inmates who have a history of or nexus to international terrorism, who have been convicted in federal courts, and are now housed securely in Bureau of Prisons facilities. The Department has already transferred one former Guantanamo Bay detainee, Ahmed Ghailani, to the Southern District of New York to face trial for his alleged role in the 1998 East Africa Embassy bombings.
With regard to military commissions, the reforms Congress recently adopted to the Military Commissions Act will ensure that commission trials are fair, effective, and lawful. Military commissions have been used by the United States to try those who have violated the law of war for more than two centuries. Further, the U.S. Supreme Court recognized in Hamdan v. Rumsfeld Congress power to determine the need for military commissions and to provide their jurisdiction and procedures, and this Congress has recently reiterated its support for commissions in adopting important reforms to the Military Commissions Act.
Finally, the Secretary and Attorney General understand and share the concern of the victims of terrorist attacks about the length of time it has taken to bring the perpetrators to justice. Justice has been delayed far too long. Prosecutors in both departments are committed to moving forward with all these cases as quickly as possible and to working together to see that justice is served, consistent with our nations values.
Secretary of Defense Robert M. Gates coauthored with Zbigniew Brzezinski the 2004 Council on Foreign Relations paper "Iran: Time for a New Approach" calling for negotiations with the Islamic Republic of Iran.
Candidate Obama was already sending advisor Brzezinski to Syria.
Gates' fellow CIA-veteran Brennan spouts a dangerous line, warns Daniel Pipes.
I posit Obama as an Islamo-Communist in the closet, in the White House.
Good graphic Phil. My chickens are already asleep or I’d post them! Lol
DEMOCRATS: Obama, Holder and now Moran...
Dem Congressman: ‘It’s Unamerican’ To Oppose U.S. Terror Trials
Evan McMorris-Santoro | November 13, 2009, 6:36PM
SNIPPET: “Rep. Jim Moran (D-VA) has strong words for the Republicans opposing Attorney General Eric Holder’s plan to bring five 9/11 suspects to New York City to face trial.
“They see this as an opportunity to demagogue,” he said. “They will seize on any opportunity to do that, and that means they’ll even take a stand that’s un-American.””
SNIPPET: “Moran, who represents the Congressional district closest to D.C., was among the only members of Congress to advocate President Obama’s plan to send prisoners from Guantanamo Bay to the U.S. so the military prison could be shut down. Obama first proposed the idea shortly after being elected and most in Congress rejected the plan, saying that bringing terror suspects to this country would endanger American lives.
Today, many politicians raised those same fears. Moran dismissed them.”
ADDING to post no. 65:
Video: Attorney General Eric Holder at Todays Press Conference
November 13th, 2009 Posted by Tracy Russo
“Trying KSM in Civilian Court: Inconsistent, Indefensible, Inexplicable”
Wednesday, November 18, 2009
By Terence P. Jeffrey
Listen to Commentary Podcasts
SNIPPET: “Attorney General Eric Holders decision to try Khalid Sheik Mohammed in a federal civilian court is inconsistent, indefensible and inexplicable.
It is inconsistent with Holders own decision to try Abd al-Rahim al-Nashiri in a military commission. It is indefensible in light of the unmistakable intentions of the Framers of the Constitution. It is inexplicable by any prudential analysis of the national interest in dealing with an enemy like al-Qaida.
Some strange ideological impulserather than common sense and respect for the rule of lawis driving the Obama administration to give special treatment to the perpetrator of one of the greatest war crimes ever committed against the United States.”
“9/11 mom confronts Holder: Why are you doing this?”
POSTED AT 5:30 PM ON NOVEMBER 18, 2009 BY ALLAHPUNDIT
Note: The following text is a quote:
Written Testimony by Attorney General Eric Holder to Senate Judiciary Committee
Washington, D.C. ~ Wednesday, November 18, 2009
Good morning Chairman Leahy, Ranking Member Sessions, and Members of the Committee. Thank you for the opportunity to appear before you today to highlight the work and priorities of the Department of Justice. I would also like to thank you for your support of the Department. I look forward to your continued support and appreciate your recognition of the Departments mission and the important work that we do.
As I have stated to you on previous occasions, the Department continues to focus on its vital missions and goals: protecting the American people from terrorist threats and reinvigorating its traditional role in fighting crime, protecting civil rights, protecting the environment, and ensuring fairness in the market place.
Protecting America against acts of terrorism is the highest priority of the Department. The Department is constantly striving to improve its ability to identify, penetrate, and dismantle terrorist plots as a result of a series of structural reforms, the development of new intelligence and law enforcement tools, and a new mindset that values information sharing, communication and prevention.
I am committed to continuing to build our capacity to deter, detect and disrupt terrorist plots and to identify those who would seek to do us harm; and I am committed to doing so consistent with the rule of law and American values. We will continue to develop intelligence, identify new and emerging threats, and use the full range of tools and capabilities the Department possesses in its intelligence and law enforcement components.
Together with our Federal, State, and local partners, as well as international counterparts, the Department has worked tirelessly to safeguard America and will continue to do so. For instance, by working with our partners in New York and Colorado, and in concert with other Federal agencies, the Department was recently able to thwart one of the most serious threats since September 11, 2001, culminating in the arrest of Najibullah Zazi.
We are continuing the investigation of Zazi, who at this point has only been charged with a crime, and thus retains the presumption of innocence. But the threat posed to this nation by international terror networks, including al-Qaeda, remains real. The response to that threat depends on the work of law enforcement at all levels and our partners in the intelligence community who disrupt plots before they actually develop into attacks. The good news is that the system worked: a coordinated effort led to the disruption of the alleged plot before anyone was harmed.
But the system has to work every time. We cannot rest for a single minute and we will not. The ongoing investigation in Colorado and New York reminds us that there are people who live in this country whose radicalization leads to a desire to commit terrorist attacks against the very country that shelters them. They can become supporters of al-Qaeda or they can become anti-government radicals in the model of Timothy McVeigh. The presence of would be domestic terrorists further highlights the need for collaboration between law enforcement and intelligence agencies at all levels of government.
As we indicated in the papers that we filed in the Zazi case, we used the tools available under the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act (”FISA”) to obtain much of the information that led to unraveling that plot. The existing tools are valuable in a real and practical sense, and we have discussed their uses with you in detail. I look forward to continuing to work with you to ensure that all these tools are utilized fully, in a manner that is consistent with the rule of law and our core values relating to privacy and civil liberties.
Counterintelligence and Counterespionage
The Department is also pursuing a vigorous strategy to disrupt the activities of foreign intelligence services and foreign illicit procurement networks here in the United States. In the fall of 2007, the Department announced an initiative to step up enforcement of our export control and embargo laws on a nationwide scale. There are now approximately 25 interagency enforcement groups throughout the country working under the guidance of Federal prosecutors, with the full cooperation of the intelligence community, to protect dual use and military technologies from adversaries who would potentially use them against us and to maintain our technological advantage. The substantial increase in prosecutions demonstrates very clearly that our adversaries and others have sophisticated acquisition programs targeting technologies that relate directly to our advantage on the battlefield, such as military night vision, encryption software, unmanned aerial vehicles, and military aircraft components.
We have also seen that espionage is not simply a relic of the Cold War. Earlier this year, a retired State Department employee and his wife were charged with engaging in a long running conspiracy with the Cuban intelligence service to furnish highly sensitive classified information through coded communications and clandestine meetings. Most recently, a scientist who had access to classified information relating to satellites and Department of Defense programs, was charged with attempted espionage after he gave some of that information to an undercover FBI agent posing as a foreign intelligence officer. We remain vigilant in identifying these activities and will continue to disrupt them whenever possible.
The Department is reinvigorating its traditional role in fighting crime, and drug enforcement is a significant aspect of this effort. We have renewed our commitment to identifying and attacking the highest-level drug trafficking organizations that pose the greatest threat to our communities. The Departments overall drug enforcement strategy draws on the collective talent and expertise of multiple Federal law enforcement agencies. Together, we are identifying and targeting the most significant drug trafficking organizations in the world that contribute to the supply of illegal drugs in the United States. We are attacking the financial infrastructure supporting those enterprises, thereby disrupting and ultimately dismantling them.
At the outset, let me salute the courage of our Drug Enforcement Administration (”DEA”) employees, who fight these enterprises around the world, often at great personal risk. Sadly, on October 26, 2009, three DEA agents Special Agent Forrest Leamon, Special Agent Chad Michael, and Special Agent Michael Weston paid the ultimate price, as a result of a helicopter crash in Afghanistan. In Afghanistan, the DEA has undertaken an expansive effort to target high value drug traffickers, both through its increased operational presence and by focused mentoring of elite Afghan counternarcotics forces. We owe a debt of gratitude to these agents, and all of their colleagues serving around the world.
Closer to home, in recent years, there has been a marked rise in violence within Mexico and along the border between Mexico and the United States due in significant part to the courageous decision of Mexican President Calderon to confront the cartels head-on. In response to this development, the Department has made it a priority to stem the growing violence and associated criminal activity by deploying all available resources, guided by a coherent strategic plan that maximizes the efficacy of those resources. An essential aspect of our plan is ensuring a productive partnership with the Government of Mexico including through the Merida Initiative as well as to strengthen our partnerships with our State and local law enforcement counterparts. Equally important, the Departments plan avoids wasteful overlap and duplication with the activities of our other Federal partners, particularly the law enforcement agencies at the Department of Homeland Security (”DHS”).
The root cause of the explosion of violence in Mexico and the associated criminal activity along the Southwest Border is the conflicts within and among a limited number of sophisticated, transnational criminal organizations. These hierarchical, Mexico-based cartels are responsible for smuggling into the United States most of our nations foreign-produced illegal drugs, which are then transported to distribution organizations in almost every State. While the cartels primary business is drug trafficking, they also sponsor a panoply of other crimes that support their illegal operations. These other crimes include extortion, murder, corruption of public officials, kidnapping and human smuggling, laundering of illicit criminal proceeds through the existing financial system and through bulk cash smuggling, and the illegal acquisition, trafficking, and use of firearms and other weapons.
The Departments view based on our decades of experience in investigating, prosecuting, and dismantling organized criminal groups, such as the Mafia, international terrorist groups, and domestic and transnational gangs is that the best way to fight such large scale criminal organizations is through intelligence-based, prosecutor-led, multi-agency task forces that blend the strengths, resources, and expertise of the complete spectrum of Federal, State, local, and international investigative and prosecutorial agencies. Through their participation in such task forces, our prosecutors in the U.S. Attorneys Offices and the Criminal Division, together with the Departments law enforcement agencies DEA, ATF, FBI, and USMS and other Federal law enforcement agencies (including from DHS and Treasury) and State and local law enforcement, give us the capacity to carry out the full range of activities necessary to succeed against these organizations.
The Department has embraced a model to achieve our comprehensive goals that is proactive, in which we develop priority targets through the extensive use of intelligence. Sharing information, we build cases, coordinating long-term, extensive investigations to identify all the tentacles of a particular organization. Through sustained coordination of these operations, we are able to execute a coordinated enforcement action, arresting as many high-level members of the organization as possible, disrupting and dismantling the domestic transportation and distribution cells of the organization, and seizing as many of the organizations assets as possible, whether those assets be in the form of bank accounts, real property, cash, drugs, or weapons. Finally, we prosecute the leaders of the cartels and their principal facilitators, locating, arresting, and extraditing them from abroad as necessary.
The Departments Organized Crime Drug Enforcement Task Forces (”OCDETF”) Program, which is under the direct supervision of the Deputy Attorney General, coordinates the provision of resources and related logistical support to many of these prosecutor-led, multi-agency task forces. The Departments Special Operations Division coordinates all investigations and operations targeting the cartels and other high-value drug trafficking organizations in multiple districts throughout the country and coordinates the sharing of tactical and operational intelligence, ensuring that those investigations are pursued in a coordinated, focused manner to have the maximum possible impact on these organizations and their operations. In certain key locales, OCDETF has established Co-Located Strike Forces, for the pursuit of the highest level traffickers of drugs, guns, and money. For instance, the San Diego Strike Force has been responsible for coordinating the Federal government’s successful efforts against the Arellano-Felix Organization, sometimes known as the Tijuana Cartel, and the Houston OCDETF Strike Force has directed some of our most damaging blows against the Gulf Cartel.
As has been previously reported to you, earlier this year the Department struck tremendous blows against two of the largest Mexican drug cartels, the Sinaloa Cartel and the Gulf Cartel, in Operation Xcellerator and Project Reckoning, both multi-agency, multi-national operations that have so far collectively led to the arrests of more than 1350 drug traffickers and the seizure of more than $137 million in U.S. currency, 32,000 kilograms of cocaine, thousands of pounds of methamphetamine, and several hundred firearms.
Only a few weeks ago, more than 3,000 agents and officers combined across the United States to make more than 300 arrests in 19 States as part of Project Coronado, a 44-month, multi-agency law enforcement investigation involving Strike Forces, which targeted the distribution network of a major Mexican cartel known as La Familia. To date, Project Coronado has yielded more than 1,186 total arrests, and the seizure of more than $33 million in U.S. currency, 2,000 kilograms of cocaine, 2,710 pounds of methamphetamine, 29 pounds of heroin, and nearly 400 weapons.
Just this month, I met with Mexican Attorney General Arturo Chávez Chávez and members of his team to discuss how our respective departments could best coordinate our attack on the Mexican cartels. The level of cooperation between our two departments is unprecedented, and, as our recent meeting demonstrates, we will continue to strive to find ways to jointly attack these vicious organizations. An example of our growing levels of cooperation with Mexico is the record number of fugitives Mexico has extradited to the United States over the years. Just this year, we received 100 fugitives from Mexico, in comparison with only 12 fugitives in 2000.
By continuing to work together, building on what we have done well so far and developing new ideas to refresh our strategies, the Department is rising to the challenge of combating the highest-level drug trafficking organizations that threaten our nation.
International Organized Crime
Globalization confers great benefits to people all over the world. But it also generates enormous and unforeseen opportunities for the growth of crime. Criminals from many countries have been quick to see how improved travel and communications could facilitate their illegal businesses. They have become adept in their use of computers and the tools of international finance to prey on victims around the globe. The unfortunate result of these trends is that we now find ourselves facing an unprecedented explosion in organized crime that threatens every nation. In some parts of the world, leaders of criminal enterprises, through ill-gotten fortunes, wield more influence than heads of state or legitimate businesses. Organized criminals seek to gain or solidify footholds here in the United States with an eye toward some of our most strategic industries and markets, our financial institutions and infrastructure. They collude with hostile states, intelligence services and terrorists.
Very early in my tenure I determined that international organized crime must become a priority of the Department. Toward that end, we brought together nine of the major U.S. Federal law enforcement agencies under the auspices of the Attorney Generals Organized Crime Council to devise and implement a unified national strategy in response to international organized crime.
One of the most significant steps we have taken to implement the strategy is to establish the International Organized Crime Intelligence and Operations Center, or IOC-2. IOC-2, which has already begun operations, allows partner agencies working across the United States to focus and prioritize joint efforts, combine data, and produce actionable leads for investigators and prosecutors. IOC-2 also provides a forum for coordinating the multi-jurisdictional investigations and prosecutions that result from these leads. IOC-2 is an important step in our strategy to marshal all available intelligence about international criminal organizations, including information from law enforcement, our international partners, and the private sector, to combat this growing threat.
Overseas Rule of Law Development
Given the globalization of crime, it is also essential that we extend our first line of defense abroad, in order to better protect our own citizens. The Obama Administration is taking three steps to accomplish this goal. First, the Criminal Divisions Office of International Affairs, working together with the State Department, continues to build a critical international framework of extradition and mutual legal assistance treaties including a landmark set of treaties with the European Union, for which I exchanged the instruments of ratification last month. Second, we continue to expand our network of overseas law enforcement partnerships, including by conducting joint cross-border investigations and by posting Justice Department prosecutors and law enforcement agents as attaches in our Embassies. And third, in post-conflict and fragile states around the world, we are working to help build police and prosecutorial agencies that are committed to the rule of law.
Indeed, the Justice Department is committed to upholding the rule of law in all our actions — and we believe the rule of law is one of the United States greatest exports. Where there is rule of law, citizens can have an expectation of safety, fairness, due process, and accountability. But it is not only the citizens of other countries who benefit from our overseas rule of law work. Rule of law development helps foster capable and strong partners in the fight against transnational crime, corruption, and terrorism and, in so doing, helps stem the tide of criminality before it reaches the United States. Thus, the safety and future prosperity of the United States, no less than that of foreign countries, depends on the strengthening of the rule of law overseas.
To advance this goal, the Justice Department has two offices in the Criminal Division dedicated solely to overseas rule of law development: the International Criminal Investigative Training Assistance Program (known as “ICITAP”) and the Office of Prosecutorial Development, Assistance and Training (known as “OPDAT”). These two offices, with funding support from the State Department, place long-term, in-country Federal prosecutors and senior law enforcement advisors to provide tailored rule of law assistance on a range of issues from human trafficking to border security in more than 30 countries around the world ranging from Indonesia, to Pakistan, to the Balkans, to Colombia.
The Justice Department also has made an extensive commitment to support the missions in Afghanistan and Iraq. In Afghanistan, in addition to the DEAs efforts. the FBI continues to undertake counterterrorism efforts and intelligence gathering, and also supports the Major Crimes Task Force by closely mentoring select Afghan investigators. The USMS advises and trains Afghan counternarcotics police on witness and judicial security, and ATF agents embedded with the military are conducting post-blast investigation training. Finally, the Criminal Divisions Senior Federal Prosecutors Program, located in Kabul, Afghanistan, provides training, mentoring and guidance to a Task Force of Afghan prosecutors and police investigators responsible for the investigation and prosecution of high-level narcotics, corruption and money laundering offenses. These Department prosecutors also advise and mentor Afghan prosecutors and investigators in the Afghan Attorney Generals Anti-Corruption Unit and the Major Crimes Task Force.
In Iraq, the Department of Justice has been involved in rule of law development assistance since 2003. In 2007, U.S. Ambassador Khalilzhad created the Office of the Rule of Law Coordinatorthe first of its kind in any embassy abroadand directed that this office be led by the Department of Justice. Since then, three senior Justice Department prosecutors, all with previous Justice Department development experience in Iraq, have served as the Rule of Law Coordinator, coordinating all U.S. government Rule of Law assistance programs in Iraq.
Over the past nine months, the Department has taken decisive steps to emphasize the Civil Rights Divisions traditional enforcement priorities. But that is not enough. I also am committed to making the Division stronger and better equipped to address todays civil rights challenges.
The recent passage of the Matthew Shepard and James Byrd, Jr. Hate Crimes Prevention Act stands at the forefront of our efforts to strengthen our civil rights enforcement. As I noted when I testified in support of this legislation before you in June, one of my highest personal priorities upon returning to the Justice Department has been to do everything I could to help ensure that this legislation finally became law. I am grateful to Congress for passing this landmark legislation, which has been over a decade in the making. In particular, we all owe a significant debt of gratitude to the late Senator Kennedy, who championed this bill from its inception, and to you, Chairman Leahy, for your leadership.
This is landmark legislation. For the first time in the history of this nation, the Federal government has authority to prosecute violent hate crimes committed because of the victims sexual orientation, gender, gender identity, or disability. The new law also enhances our ability to prosecute hate crimes based on the victims race, religion, or national origin, or military status, and enables us to provide assistance to State, local, and tribal officials in their investigation and prosecution of hate crimes. This is the first significant expansion of Federal criminal civil rights laws in over a decade, since passage of the Church-Arson statute in the mid-1990s and it is long overdue.
The Department stands ready to use all of the tools at its disposal to bring the perpetrators of hate crimes to justice. In fact, immediately after the bill became law, the Department began taking action to implement it, issuing a directive to prosecutors in the field and preparing guidance and training for those who are responsible for enforcing it. We also continue to vigorously prosecute cases under other Federal hate crimes statutes. This summer, for example, a grand jury indicted James von Brunn, an 88-year-old anti-Semite, Holocaust-denier and white supremacist, for opening fire at the U.S. Holocaust Museum and killing Stephen T. Johns, a security guard.
I have said to you that we would strengthen civil rights enforcement, and we have done so across a range of other areas. We have been working to protect the voting rights of all Americans. We are currently preparing for a massive influx of redistricting submissions that will result from the 2010 Census. In September, we achieved an important victory on behalf of American military personnel and other overseas citizens when a Federal court in Virginia ruled that the State violated the voting rights of these citizens by failing to mail absentee ballots in sufficient time for them to be counted in the November 2008 general election, as required by the Uniform and Overseas Citizens Absentee Voting Act. The brave women and men who risk their lives to protect our nation must be given the opportunity to vote and to have their votes counted.
We have also stepped up our voting rights enforcement in Indian Country. In October, the Division notified Shannon County, South Dakota, that it intends to bring suit under Section 203 of the Voting Rights Act, to protect the voting rights of American Indians who speak the Lakota language and have limited English proficiency. This would be the first lawsuit to protect the voting rights of Native Americans since 2000.
The Civil Rights Division is working to fulfill the continuing vitality of the Americans with Disabilities Act through implementation of the Supreme Courts decision in the Olmstead case. Olmstead held that the ADA requires public agencies to make services available in the most integrated settings appropriate to serve the needs of qualified individuals with disabilities. We are actively considering litigation opportunities in which the Department, through intervention and amicus filings, will seek to end unlawful segregation of persons with disabilities and ensure that appropriate integrated settings are made available to them.
We are also bringing cases to enforce the Fair Housing Act. In the past ten months, we have filed 30 cases under that Act, including 17 pattern or practice cases. Earlier this month, we announced that the owners of numerous Los Angeles apartment buildings located in the Koreatown section of the city agreed to pay $2.7 million to settle allegations that they discriminated against African Americans, Hispanics, and families with children, preferring to rent units instead to Korean tenants. This was the largest monetary settlement ever obtained by the Justice Department in a Fair Housing Act case alleging discrimination in apartment rentals. The Department also has obtained 14 Fair Housing Act consent decrees in the past ten months, including 11 pattern or practice consent decrees.
In fair lending cases, we currently are monitoring cases for compliance and recently entered into two consent decrees with lenders who had engaged in a pattern or practice of discriminatory lending. We are actively engaged in investigations of other lenders for violations of fair lending laws.
In the employment area, the Civil Rights Division is vigorously enforcing Title VII. Since January of this year, we have filed three Title VII pattern and practice suits and obtained consent decrees in five cases. We also have opened six new investigations of State and local governmental employers with respect to employment opportunities for women, African Americans, and Latinos.
We also continue to file an increasing number of cases under the Uniformed Services Employment and Reemployment Rights Act (”USERRA”) on behalf of service members returning to the workforce. In fiscal year 2009, we received 175 USERRA referrals from the Department of Labor, a 75% increase over the previous year and established a “fast track” program to address suitable cases administratively, thereby eliminating any backlog.
Finally, in our work to protect civil rights in education, we filed an amicus brief in support of Florida parents who filed suit under Title IX after the States high school athletic association adopted discriminatory reductions in the game schedule for female student athletes. Our work helped prompt a resolution, pursuant to which the school athletic association agreed to restore the full schedule and to refrain from making any policy changes that treat one gender differently from the other.
As we celebrate new tools and tackle these modern challenges, we are forever mindful of the initial charge of the Civil Rights Division: the enduring promise of the 13th Amendment. As long as slavery or trafficking in persons, as it is often called, endures, the Human Slavery and Trafficking Prosecution Unit stands ready to ensure that this most fundamental civil right is protected.
I am confident that the Civil Rights Division will be able to build on this record of the past ten months, and accomplish even more in the future because of the arrival of Assistant Attorney General Tom Perez. I thank you for confirming him to this important post.
Fairness and Integrity in the Criminal Justice System
Ensuring justice requires the publics trust and confidence in the criminal justice system. I am committed to using all the tools at my disposal to enhance the fairness and integrity of the criminal justice system in numerous ways.
Our sentencing laws play a key role in our criminal justice system. These laws must be tough, predictable, and fair, and must be perceived as fair by the public. As you know, I have set up a working group that is analyzing the range of sentencing issues from the overall structure of Federal sentencing to prisoner reentry to unwarranted sentencing disparities so we can identify those sentencing policies that are working and those that are in need of reform.
There are few areas of the law that cry out for reform more than Federal cocaine sentencing policy. Bipartisanship is in short supply in Washington, but on this issue there is agreement on the need for change. This Administration continues to believe that we can eliminate the sentencing disparity between crack and powder cocaine while also ensuring that violent and dangerous crack offenders receive stiff and certain prison sentences, as they must. The stakes are simply too high to let reform in this area wait any longer.
I am committed to addressing two other areas to help ensure the fairness and integrity of the criminal justice system: helping to solve the indigent defense crisis and ending racial profiling.
I have previously spoken about, and will continue to highlight the indigent defense crisis that exists throughout the Nation. Our criminal and juvenile justice systems fail when defendants lack access to independent and effective counsel. Due to lack of funding and oversight, many jurisdictions fall woefully short of the promise made in Gideon v. Wainwright more than 45 years ago. With that promise in mind, I have convened a working group in the Department and tasked it with identifying every tool at our disposal to help address this problem. Justice simply should not be contingent upon whether a defendant can afford to pay for a lawyer.
In the area of racial profiling, the Departments current Guidance Regarding the Use of Race by Federal Law Enforcement Agencies, issued in 2003, has been the subject of some criticism. We need to ensure that our policy allows us to perform our core law enforcement and national security responsibilities with legitimacy, accountability, and transparency. Therefore, I have initiated an internal review to evaluate the 2003 Guidance and to recommend any changes that may be warranted.
The Department is committed to an open and accountable government. I have pledged greater transparency and the Department has continued to follow through. As you already know, we issued new comprehensive Freedom of Information Act (”FOIA”) Guidelines that direct all Executive branch departments and agencies to apply a presumption of openness when administering the FOIA. The Department has provided extensive guidance and training to educate our agency partners on what this presumption requires, and our attorneys regularly work with agencies to identify documents that the agency has withheld under a legitimate assertion of a FOIA exemption but that could be disclosed under the new guidelines. In addition to issuing these new FOIA guidelines, the Department has released more than two dozen previously undisclosed Office of Legal Counsel memoranda and opinions relating to national security matters.
My commitment to transparency includes forthrightness concerning difficult issues. For instance, my decisions concerning interrogations to undertake a limited review of various decisions — have made some people on both sides unhappy. But I did what I thought was necessary and explained the reasons for my decisions. I have made a number of decisions that have not pleased everyone, but I have made the calls that I believe are right based on the facts and the law.
The Department has also redesigned its website, in part to advance our interest in transparency. The Departments website contains useful information for citizens about our activities, and we are using the site to fulfill the promise of transparency that I have made here and elsewhere in the past.
Juvenile violent crime arrests grew dramatically in the late 1980s and reached a peak in 1994; in the following ten years the numbers dropped sharply, and they have continued to drop, although less dramatically, since then. For example, there were 3% fewer juvenile arrests in 2008 than in 2007, and juvenile violent crime arrests were down 2%. Nonetheless, as I saw in my recent trip to Chicago, some areas are experiencing increases in the level and severity of youth violence. In the last school year, 34 students were killed and another 290 were shot on the streets of Chicago. In the previous school year, 23 students were killed and 211 were shot. Although none of the homicides occurred inside the schools, what happens in and near the schools affects both the safety and security of our children and their learning environment.
Complex social issues like youth violence and problems involving criminal street gangs are most effectively reduced through collaborative strategies that include law enforcement, social services, community- and faith-based organizations, public health organizations, and the business community, among others. Anti-violence and anti-gang strategies must be carefully planned, drawing on local data and evidence from previous effective efforts. Research shows that high quality implementation is just as important as high quality program designs. Key strategies that have demonstrated effectiveness in reducing gang and youth violence are prevention, intervention to change norms about violence, and targeted enforcement.
The Department supports prevention activities targeted to at-risk and high-risk youth, such as those implementing counseling and skill building programs, which are necessary components of a comprehensive approach to sustainable violence reduction. Early prevention activities that address family environment and parenting tend to yield larger long-term effects than those that reach older children and exclude parents. Some successful prevention programs include the nurse-family partnership, in which registered nurses visit at-risk mothers during pregnancy and in the first two years of childhood; Big Brothers/Big Sisters and other mentoring programs; and cognitive behavioral therapy, which uses structured goal setting and planning to reduce recidivism.
Intervention to change norms about violence includes strategies that utilize targeted deterrence. In one such strategy spearheaded by the Department, groups of known offenders are assembled together with criminal justice officials, community offenders, and service providers. Offenders are exposed to evidence and testimony of the effect of their violent actions, warned of serious consequences for continued violence, and given opportunities, services, and support. This strategy was used in Boston, Chicago, and Project Safe Neighborhood (”PSN”) sites across the country. Although nationally PSN was not primarily designed to combat youth violence, this targeted deterrence strategy embraced by the PSN initiative — produced a 63% decrease in monthly youth homicides in Boston and a 37% decrease in the monthly homicide rate in Chicago.
Too often, youth are led down the path to criminality by adults who exploit them for personal gain. The Department does not, and will not, tolerate criminals who prey on youth, either by directly involving them in crime, or by creating unsafe and unhealthy environments for youth. In those cases, the Department works to remove those influences from the communities they undermine through targeted enforcement initiatives, where law enforcement officers, prosecutors, and probation and parole professionals coordinate to address the most significant offenders in places of concentrated gang activity. High rate, violent offenders and central gang network figures are identified. Strong cases are built, using Federal prosecutions when appropriate.
Children are not subject to violence only through gangs and guns. Each day, children throughout the country encounter the dangers and suffer the consequences of exploitation. No child should have to endure the harm that results from predators and child pornographers on the Internet, abduction, being prostituted (a form of sex trafficking), sexual and physical abuse, and “child sex tourism” in which travelers abroad seek to sexually abuse foreign children.
The Department is developing a National Strategy for Child Exploitation Prevention and Interdiction to further this critical goal, consistent with the PROTECT Our Children Act, which the Congress passed last year. The National Strategy will establish long-range goals for preventing child exploitation, including annual objectives for measuring the Governments progress in meeting those goals. In developing an effective National Strategy, the Department determined that it first was necessary to undertake a detailed assessment of the child exploitation threats posed to our children. The information that the Department is gathering and analyzing in this initial threat assessment is a vital prerequisite to development of an effective, comprehensive, fact-based future strategy. We will soon appoint a senior official within the Office of the Deputy Attorney General to oversee this effort.
Project Safe Childhood (”PSC”) is an existing Department-wide effort to prosecute those who use the Internet and other modern technology to distribute child pornography or solicit children for sexual activity. PSC coordinates the efforts of Federal, State and local law enforcement agencies to protect our children from online sexual predators. Today, a PSC task force, led by the U.S. Attorney, operates in every Federal district. PSC is supported by experts in the Child Exploitation and Obscenity Section of the Criminal Division, and their High Technology Investigative Unit. In FY 2007, the Departments Office of Juvenile Justice and Delinquency Prevention (”OJJDP”) provided $4 million in grants to further the goals of Project Safe Childhood. As part of this effort, OJJDP provided $2.5 million to fund a national public education and awareness campaign. To date, this national media campaign has generated an estimated audience reach of more than 185 million. OJJDP also provided $1.5 million to fund projects at the local, State, or multi-State levels, including outreach efforts and innovative programming to schools, youth, and community organizations, businesses, and various parent groups. These local projects have provided training and information to a total of nearly 10,000 participants.
OJJDP also administers the ICAC Task Force Program. The ICAC program is a national network of 61 coordinated task forces representing more than 2,000 Federal, State, local, and tribal law enforcement and prosecutorial agencies. By helping State, local, and tribal law enforcement agencies develop effective and sustainable responses to online child victimization and child pornography, we are helping to build capacity at the local level to address these offenses.
In the realm of child sex trafficking, the Child Exploitation and Obscenity Section, the FBIs Crimes Against Children Unit, and the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children have teamed up to target those responsible for the prostitution of children on our own city streets through an initiative dubbed Innocence Lost. Since its inception in 2003, 34 Innocence Lost Task Forces and Working Groups have recovered nearly 900 children from the streets. The investigations and subsequent 510 convictions have resulted in lengthy sentences, including multiple 25-years-to-life sentences, and the seizure of more than $3.1 million in assets. The task forces include United States Attorneys, State and local law enforcement, and child victim service providers. The FBI, through Operation Cross Country, has led four nationwide take-downs designed to gather intelligence on this form of child sex trafficking and to identify victims who are minors and remove them from the sex trade. The last take-down, in October of 2009, resulted in enforcement actions in 36 cities across 30 FBI divisions around the country and led to the recovery of 52 children who were being victimized through prostitution. Eighty-four pimps were among those arrested on State and local charges.
Health Care Fraud
Every year, billions of dollars are lost to Medicare and Medicaid fraud. Those billions represent health care dollars that could be spent on services for Medicare and Medicaid beneficiaries, but instead are wasted on fraud and abuse. This is unacceptable. The Department is actively fighting health care fraud in all areas of the country through robust criminal prosecution and civil enforcement efforts.
This important work is done through a number of collaborative efforts. In every region of the country, United States Attorneys Offices, the Departments Criminal Division and other litigating components and the FBI work together with the Center for Medicare and Medicaid Services, the Department of Health and Human Services Office of Inspector General, other Federal agencies (such as the Drug Enforcement Administration, the Department of Labor, and the Office of Personnel Management), State and local law enforcement agencies, and private insurance company special investigative units to deter, detect, and prosecute health care fraud. In addition, our Medicare Fraud Strike Force uses interagency teams to identify hot spots of unexplained high-billing levels in concentrated areas by analyzing Medicare data so that it can target emerging or migrating schemes along with chronic fraud by criminals masquerading as health care providers or suppliers. Working with the Department of Health and Human Services and these other agencies, the Departments civil and criminal enforcement efforts have returned more than $15 billion to the Federal government, of which $13.1 billion went back to the Medicare Trust Fund.
Because coordination across agencies is an integral part of preventing and prosecuting health care fraud, Secretary Sebelius and I have pledged to work together to fight waste, fraud and abuse in Medicare and Medicaid. In May 2009, we announced the creation of the Health Care Fraud Prevention and Enforcement Action Team (”HEAT”). In connection with the HEAT initiative, the Justice Department and HHS investigators are using comprehensive data analysis and intelligence gathering to identify potential fraud with unprecedented speed and efficiency. We have also enhanced training programs on enforcement measures for prosecutors and investigators, and we have increased compliance training for providers to prevent honest mistakes and help stop potential fraud before it happens.
The HEAT initiative has had some great successes thus far. We expanded the Medicare Fraud Strike Force to Houston and Detroit, bringing the total number of cities/regions where the Strike Force is operating to four: South Florida, Los Angeles, Detroit and Houston. These expanded efforts have already shown results. On June 24, 2009, the Criminal Division and United States Attorneys Office for the Eastern District of Michigan announced seven indictments charging 53 people with submitting more than $50 million in false bills to Medicare in schemes involving physical, occupational, and infusion therapy. On July 29, the Department and United States Attorneys Office for the Southern District of Texas announced that 32 people were indicted in Houston for schemes to submit more than $16 million in false Medicare claims for durable medical equipment. In fact, in Strike Force cases alone since the HEAT initiative was announced in May, Department prosecutors have filed or unsealed indictments in 25 cases charging 128 defendants who allegedly submitted more than $123 million in false claims to Medicare, negotiated 24 guilty pleas, and conducted two jury trials that won convictions of three defendants on multiple counts charged. We know that these strike forces work, and in the coming months, we plan to expand strike forces into several other areas around the country that are experiencing a concentrated and cross-regional spread of Medicare fraud.
In addition to criminal prosecutions, the Department has pursued civil enforcement for health fraud. We have worked closely with Congress on the recently passed Fraud Enforcement and Recovery Act (”FERA”) to strengthen the Governments ability to combat fraud. Private parties also bring claims under the False Claims Act, alleging fraud against government health care programs, and the Government then can intervene in appropriate cases to pursue the litigation and recover against the defendant.
Although I am personally recused from this matter, the Departments significant recoveries this calendar year include the historic settlement with Pfizer and its subsidiary that resulted in Pfizer agreeing to pay $2.3 billion, the largest health care fraud settlement in the history of the Department of Justice. Pfizer paid $1.195 billion in criminal fines, forfeiting $105 million, and paid $1 billion to resolve civil claims that the company illegally promoted four drugs and caused false claims to be submitted to government health care programs for indications of the drugs that were not covered. The civil settlement also resolved civil claims that Pfizer paid kickbacks to health care providers to induce them to prescribe these and other drugs.
The Department completed significant civil settlements against drug companies under the False Claims Act recently. For instance, in January, 2009, Eli Lilly pled guilty to illegal marketing of one of its drugs for unapproved uses, and paid $1.415 billion, including $800 million in civil damages that were recovered under the False Claims Act and under State laws, in addition to a $515 million criminal fine and $100 million in forfeited assets. And in October, Mylan Pharmaceuticals, Inc., paid $118 million to resolve allegations that it had sold innovator drugs that were manufactured by other companies and had classified those drugs as non-innovator drugs for Medicaid rebate purposes.
Since the False Claims Act was substantially amended in 1986 and through fiscal year 2008, we have recovered more than $14.3 billion from fraud that had been committed against Federal health care programs, primarily Medicare. During fiscal year 2008 alone, the Department of Justices vigorous efforts to combat health care fraud accounted for $1.12 billion in civil settlements and judgments. During that same time period, the Department opened 849 new civil health care fraud matters and filed complaints or intervened in 226 civil health care fraud matters. Also, during that time period, Federal prosecutors filed criminal charges in 502 health care fraud cases involving charges against 797 defendants and obtained 588 convictions for health care fraud offenses. In addition, they opened 957 new criminal health care fraud investigations involving 1641 defendants. Our monetary recoveries in fiscal year 2009 have already exceeded those of the previous year. We just announced that we have obtained more than $2.4 billion in False Claims Act settlements and judgments, and that more than $1.6 billion of that amount was in health care fraud matters.
We will continue to vigorously pursue health care fraud through the criminal and civil means at our disposal. Potential fraudsters should be aware that the HEAT is on.
Tribal Justice and Public Safety for Tribal Communities
Another top priority for the Department of Justice is improving public safety and law enforcement in tribal communities. By statute and because of its government-to-government relationship with tribes, the United States has a legal duty and moral obligation to address violent crime in Indian country and to assist tribes in their efforts to provide for safe tribal communities. The Department takes this obligation seriously and is working actively with tribes and Federal agencies to improve all aspects of law enforcement in Indian country.
Last month, the Deputy Attorney General, the Associate Attorney General, and I met with tribal leaders from throughout the United States to discuss the pressing public safety issues facing American Indians and Alaska Natives, and to hear their views on the most effective strategies for making tribal communities safe. On October 30, the Department also held the official consultation required under the Violence Against Women Act, to obtain information specifically about the problem of violence directed at Native American women.
Tragically, in many parts of the Indian country, the situation is dire. Violent crime has reached crisis proportions on many reservations, and is having a devastating toll on the daily lives of Native Americans. Based on data reported by tribes to the Bureau of Indian Affairs, we have seen violent crime rates in some parts of Indian Country that are two, four, and sometimes over ten times the national average. When I met with tribal leaders, they made very clear that they also are facing serious problems of violence against children, women, and elders, and that they want and need the Federal governments help in bringing the perpetrators to justice.
The Department has a unique legal and moral duty to respond to the public safety crisis in tribal communities. Under current law, the Department has sole responsibility for prosecuting major crime, including violent felonies, in most of Indian Country. In many instances, only the Department can seek a sentence appropriate to certain serious crimes committed in Indian Country. If we fail to act, justice is not served. I take seriously the Departments duty in this area, and I intend to ensure the Department does all it can to enforce the law where we have jurisdiction. Because the Federal government has a legal obligation to consult with tribal nations before making major decisions that affect their interests, the Department will convene a tribal Nations Leadership Council, composed of elected officials from tribal nations to advise me on matters critical to American Indians and Alaska Natives.
To meet the Departments basic governmental responsibilities in this area, we have launched a comprehensive initiative on public safety in tribal communities, with two principal goals. The first is to find immediate solutions to reduce the crime rates, including homicide, drugs, and violence against children and women, and to put policies in place to help tribal communities make a difference for themselves. The other is to develop long term answers to the problems facing tribal communities. We also are reevaluating our grants to tribal courts and tribal justice initiatives to ensure that we do everything we can to answer the challenge. We have reached out to other Federal agencies including the Departments of Interior and Health and Human Services, among others to try to develop a unified and comprehensive approach to public safety challenges in Indian Country.
Although we have already begun to take action to improve the Departments effectiveness in addressing our responsibilities toward Native Americans, a great deal more must be done. We are working to ensure that these discussions with the tribes will provide the foundation for lasting change in this area.
The American Recovery and Reinvestment Act of 2009 (”ARRA”) included $4 billion in Department of Justice grant funding to enhance State, local, and tribal law enforcement efforts, including the hiring of new police officers, to combat violence against women, and to fight internet crimes against children. The economic crisis has hit our State, local, and tribal justice partners especially hard. Public safety was paramount in the Departments decisions about the use of the money that ARRA provided to us. As of the end of FY 2009 on September 30, our Office of Justice Programs (”OJP”) has made 3,883 ARRA grant awards totaling $2.74 billion to State, local, and tribal criminal justice agencies. This funding is in addition to our 4,346 FY09 grants totaling almost $2.2 billion that also were awarded.
OJP focused its funding efforts on supporting innovative, evidence-based programs that help communities with a wide range of crime prevention, prosecution, and reentry efforts. Some of these programs have specifically addressed the needs of communities particularly hard hit by the economic downturn. For example, OJPs Bureau of Justice Assistance (”BJA”) used ARRA funds to provide over $123 million to rural law enforcement agencies to help them prevent and combat crime, especially drug related crimes that have had a devastating effect on these smaller communities.
The Department recognizes that State and local agencies need the flexibility to assess their own criminal justice needs and the ability to focus their funding based on those needs. BJA administers the Edward Byrne Memorial Justice Assistance Grant Program (”JAG”), which provides formula block grants to States and localities. In FY09, BJA awarded more than $480 million in JAG funding. In addition to regular FY JAG funding, BJA also administered critical Recovery Act JAG funding in 2009, awarding more than $1.9 billion in Recovery JAG funding.
In addition, the Department is committed to ensuring that all funds expended pursuant to the Recovery Act are protected from fraud. We will aggressively enforce the False Claims Act and other federal statutes to ensure that we recover vital dollars that are fraudulently obtained and hold accountable those who steal government recovery funds. The Department worked closely with this Committee on the Fraud Enforcement and Recovery Act to amend the major frauds statute, 18 U.S.C. § 1031, to include fraud involving funds made available under the Recovery Act and the Troubled Assets Relief Program. This important amendment will ensure that Federal prosecutors have jurisdiction to use a potent fraud statute to protect the government assistance provided during this most recent economic crisis. The Department has been providing training to the IG community on the new amendments and their role in strengthening the government’s ability to combat Recovery Act fraud, and is working with the Recovery Accountability and Transparency Board to ensure that matters are referred to the Department in a timely matter. Furthermore, the Antitrust Division launched an Economic Recovery Initiative aimed at training government officials to prevent, detect, and report efforts by parties to unlawfully profit from federal assistance. We ensured that this initiative was up and running just one month after the Recovery Act was signed into law, so that the public would receive the maximum benefit of these fraud prevention and detection efforts before stimulus money was awarded. The Department is uniquely positioned to provide such training due to its expertise in investigating and prosecuting procurement fraud schemes. We intend to draw on all the resources and expertise of the Department, together with our partner agencies and regulatory authorities throughout the Executive Branch to ensure that taxpayer funds are safeguarded from fraud and abuse and that the recovery effort is conducted in an open, competitive and nondiscriminatory manner.
Economic crimes pose a continual threat to the vitality of our economy. Financial, corporate and mortgage frauds are significant problems and a major focus of the Department of Justice. For example, the integrity of our capital markets depends on the ability of investors to receive, and rely on, accurate financial information. Similarly, abuses involving financial fraud schemes, such as mortgage lending and securitization frauds, foreclosure rescue scams, reverse mortgage scams and bankruptcy schemes, have affected the health of our housing markets. In addition, 15 United States Attorneys Offices have already reported opening matters concerning entities receiving economic recovery funds. Vital funds appropriated to our armed forces overseas are being diverted.
The Department has an impressive record of success in identifying, investigating, and prosecuting economic crimes, including massive financial and corporate fraud schemes. For example, on October 17th the manager of the multi-billion dollar Galleon Group hedge fund was arrested on insider trading charges along with five others, including an IBM executive, in what was described as the largest hedge fund insider trading scheme ever charged by the Department. We have also had similar success in fighting mortgage fraud. For example, on April 22, 2009, a Federal grand jury indicted four defendants for their participation in a massive mortgage fraud scheme that promised to pay off homeowners mortgages on their “Dream Homes,” but left them to fend for themselves. The scheme involved more than 1,000 investors who invested approximately $70 million.
I recently joined Treasury Secretary Geithner, Housing and Urban Development Secretary Donovan, Federal Trade Commission Chairman Leibowitz and a group of State attorneys general to announce the creation of four State/Federal mortgage fraud working groups that will be focused on information-sharing, criminal enforcement, civil enforcement and civil rights enforcement in combating mortgage fraud, including foreclosure and rescue scams and lending discrimination. These working groups are each co-chaired by a State Attorney General and an Assistant Attorney General from the Department of Justice, and include high-level participants from Treasury, HUD, the FTC, the FBI and State banking authorities.
The Department of Justice has also established a coordinated and unified approach to combating procurement fraud, including fraud relating to the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan and reconstruction efforts in those countries. The Department has devoted an array of resources and expertise to this important mission. The Antitrust Division, the Civil Division, and numerous
U.S. Attorneys Offices have devoted substantial resources and coordinated their efforts with the Criminal Divisions Fraud Section, Public Integrity Section, Office of International Affairs, and the Asset Forfeiture and Money Laundering Section.
The Department has been working closely with and through the International Contract Corruption Task Force (”ICCTF”), various inspectors general, and other law enforcement partners to investigate and prosecute procurement fraud relating to the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, and the rebuilding of those countries. Established in October 2006, the ICCTF is a joint agency task force that deploys criminal investigative and intelligence assets worldwide to detect and investigate corruption and contract fraud resulting primarily from wars and reconstruction efforts in Iraq and Afghanistan (also referred to as “war-related contract fraud”). This task force is led by a board of governors composed of senior agency representatives who operate all major war-related contract fraud cases to defend the interests of the United States overseas.
Procurement fraud cases, especially those involving the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, usually are very complex and resource intensive. The cases often involve extraterritorial conduct as well as domestic conduct, requiring coordination between appropriate law enforcement agencies. In order to improve coordination and information sharing, the ICCTF has established a Joint Operations Center based in Washington, D.C. The JOC currently serves as the nerve center for the collection and sharing of intelligence regarding war-related contract fraud cases. The Joint Operations Center coordinates intelligence-gathering and provides analytic and logistical support for the ICCTF agencies. As a result of this concentration of efforts, the Department has significantly increased the number of prosecutions relating to war-related contract fraud.
The FBI currently has special agents deployed in Iraq, Afghanistan, and Kuwait to provide full-time support to the International Contract Corruption Initiative, which addresses major fraud and corruption in the war and reconstruction efforts in Iraq and Afghanistan. These deployments are conducted in 120-day rotation cycles and special agents work jointly with the Defense Criminal Investigative Service, Army Criminal Investigation Command Major Procurement Fraud Unit, Special Inspector General for Iraq Reconstruction, and the U.S. Agency for International Development, which also have agents deployed to address this crime problem.
To date, the Department has brought criminal charges against more than 100 defendants (including mainly individuals and some companies) for war-related contract fraud, in addition to civil claims brought or settled against a number of contractors. This figure represents more than triple the number of similar criminal cases that had been brought by June 2007.
We must do more and we are doing more. We recently announced an intensified effort to combat financial and corporate fraud. Our new Financial Fraud Enforcement Task Force will tackle all aspects of financial crime, including the type of mortgage fraud that was a significant catalyst for the recent worldwide financial marketplace meltdown.
Protecting Consumers and a Competitive Marketplace
Vigorous antitrust enforcement is critical to protecting Americas consumers and ensuring the conditions for a competitive marketplace. We are fulfilling our plans to emphasize robust enforcement of the antitrust laws.
We are committed to challenging mergers that will harm consumers and businesses. Since the beginning of the year, four transactions were restructured or abandoned by the parties in response to an Antitrust Division investigation, and the Division obtained divestitures or other relief in two additional enforcement actions. In addition, the Department of Justice, together with the Federal Trade Commission, announced on September 22, 2009, that we will solicit public comment and hold joint public workshops to explore the possibility of updating the Horizontal Merger Guidelines that are used by both agencies to evaluate the potential competitive effects of mergers and acquisitions. Having guidelines that offer more clarity and better reflect agency practice provides for enhanced transparency and gives businesses greater certainty when making merger decisions, resulting in a more competitive marketplace that benefits consumers.
As part of the Departments effort to work cooperatively with other agencies, we announced in August a partnership with the Department of Agriculture to co-host a series of workshops held around the country in States with significant agriculture industries to examine the state of competition in agriculture markets. The Antitrust Division is actively seeking input from farmers, ranchers, economists, lawyers, consumer groups and processors about their views and experiences. These workshops will give the Department the opportunity to learn first-hand about such issues as the effects on competition of concentration in relevant sectors, concerns about buyer power, and the economic impact of vertical integration.
Protecting the Environment
The Department continues to vigorously enforce the environmental laws through its Environment and Natural Resources Division, which on November 16 marked the 100th anniversary of its founding as the Public Lands Division. Our enforcement priorities include reducing harmful emissions from large coal-fired power plants, cleaning up environmental sites, and preventing water pollution, especially in the form of contaminated stormwater runoff. During this Administration we have brought cases or secured major settlements in all three of these areas.
The Department also continues its other work to protect the environment. For example, the Environment Division has been involved in the ongoing bankruptcy of a large mining company, Asarco, in an effort to ensure that more than $1.6 billion is available to clean up the contaminated sites the company is leaving behind. The Department also entered into a landmark agreement to clean up the contaminated Hanford nuclear site, a matter in which both Secretary of Energy Chu and I were personally involved. And, we have prosecuted criminally a number of companies and individuals who have intentionally discharged pollutants from vessels en route to American ports.
The Environment Division is also working with the Environmental Protection Agency to obtain the cleanup of major river bodies in the United States, including the Fox River (Wisconsin), the Kalamazoo River (Michigan) and the Hudson River (New York). Additionally, we have vigorously defended important Federal agency actions from a variety of legal challenges including defense of the U.S. Armys multifaceted activities to dispose of chemical weapons and defense of the Interior Departments listing of the polar bear as a threatened species under the Endangered Species Act.
The Department appreciates the work the Committee and the Senate have done to confirm nominees that the President has submitted both for positions in the Department and for the Federal judiciary. At this point in the first year of President Bushs administration, the Senate had confirmed 12 of his lower court judicial nominees; as of November 16, 2009, the Senate has approved only six, while eight remain on the Executive Calendar, continuing to await confirmation by the full Senate. Similarly, as of November 16, 2009, three of eleven Assistant Attorneys General have yet to be confirmed. I hope the Committee will continue to approve these nominations, and it is imperative that the full Senate act on them expeditiously.
Chairman Leahy, Ranking Member Sessions, and Members of the Committee, I want to thank you for this opportunity to address my priorities for the Department. I am pleased to answer any questions you might have.
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Attorney General Eric Holder Testifies Before the Senate Judiciary Committee
Washington, D.C. ~ Wednesday, November 18, 2009
When I appeared before this committee in January for my confirmation hearing, I laid out several goals for my time as Attorney General: to protect the security of the American people, restore the integrity of the Department of Justice, reinvigorate the Departments traditional mission, and most of all, to make decisions based on the facts and the law, with no regard for politics. In my first oversight hearing in June, I described my early approach to these issues.
Five months later, we are deeply immersed in the challenges of the day, moving forward to make good on my promises to the committee and the presidents promises to the American people.
First and foremost, we are working day and night to protect the American people. Due to the vigilance of our law enforcement and intelligence agencies, we have uncovered and averted a number of serious threats to domestic and international security. Recent arrests in New York, Chicago, Springfield, and Dallas, are evidence of our success in identifying nascent plots and stopping would-be attackers before they strike.
Violence can still occur, however, as evidenced by the recent tragic shootings at Fort Hood. We mourn the deaths of 13 brave Americans, including Dr. Libardo Caraveo, a psychologist with the Justice Departments Bureau of Prisons who had been recalled to active duty. The Federal Bureau of Investigation is working diligently to help gather evidence that will be used by military prosecutors in the upcoming trial of the individual who is alleged to have committed this heinous act.
We are also seeking to learn from this incident to prevent its reoccurrence. Future dangerousness is notoriously difficult to predict. The president has ordered a full review to determine if there was more that could have been done to prevent the tragedy that unfolded in Texas two weeks ago. We have briefed the chairman and ranking member of this committee and other congressional leaders on our efforts, and will continue to keep Congress abreast of this review.
My written statement addresses a number of other issues before the Department, but I would like to use the rest of the time allotted to me today to address a topic that I know is on many of your minds my decision last week to refer Khalid Sheikh Mohammed and four others for prosecution in federal courts for their participation in the 9/11 plot.
As I said on Friday, I knew this decision would be controversial. This was a tough call, and reasonable people can disagree with my conclusion that these individuals should be tried in federal court rather than a military commission.
The 9/11 attacks were both an act of war and a violation of our federal criminal law, and they could have been prosecuted in either federal courts or military commissions. Courts and commissions are both essential tools in our fight against terrorism. Therefore, at the outset of my review of these cases, I had no preconceived views as to the merits of either venue, and in fact on the same day that I sent these five defendants to federal court, I referred five others to be tried in military commissions. I am a prosecutor, and as a prosecutor my top priority was simply to select the venue where the government will have the greatest opportunity to present the strongest case in the best forum.
I studied this issue extensively. I consulted the Secretary of Defense. I heard from prosecutors from my Department and from the Defense Departments Office of Military Commissions. I spoke to victims on both sides of the question. I asked a lot of questions and weighed every alternative. And at the end of the day, it was clear to me that the venue in which we are most likely to obtain justice for the American people is in federal court.
I know there are members of this committee, and members of the public, who have strong feelings on both sides. There are some who disagree with the decision to try the alleged Cole bomber and several others in a military commission, just as there are some who disagree with prosecuting the 9/11 plotters in federal court.
Despite these disagreements, I hope we can have an open, honest, and informed discussion about that decision today, and as part of that discussion, I would like to clear up some of the misinformation that I have seen since Friday.
First, we know that we can prosecute terrorists in our federal courts safely and securely because we have been doing it for years. There are more than 300 convicted international and domestic terrorists currently in Bureau of Prisons custody, including those responsible for the 1993 World Trade Center bombing and the attacks on our embassies in Africa. Our courts have a long history of handling these cases, and no district has a longer history than the Southern District of New York in Manhattan. I have talked to Mayor Bloomberg of New York, and both he and the Police Commissioner Ray Kelly believe that we can safely hold these trials in New York.
Second, we can protect classified material during trial. The Classified Information Procedures Act, or CIPA, establishes strict rules and procedures for the use of classified information at trial, and we have used it to protect classified information in a range of terrorism cases. In fact, the standards recently adopted by Congress to govern the use of classified information in military commissions are derived from the very CIPA rules that we use in federal court.
Third, Khalid Sheikh Mohammed will have no more of a platform to spew his hateful ideology in federal court than he would have in military commissions. Before the commissions last year, he declared the proceedings an “inquisition,” condemned his own attorneys and our Constitution, and professed his desire to become a martyr. Those proceedings were heavily covered in the media, yet few complained at the time that his rants threatened the fabric of our democracy.
Judges in federal court have firm control over the conduct of defendants and other participants in their courtrooms, and when the 9/11 conspirators are brought to trial, I have every confidence that the presiding judge will ensure appropriate decorum. And if KSM makes the same statements he made in his military commission proceedings, I have every confidence the nation and the world will see him for the coward he is. Im not scared of what KSM will have to say at trial and no one else needs to be either.
Fourth, there is nothing common about the treatment the alleged 9/11 conspirators will receive. In fact, I expect to direct prosecutors to seek the ultimate and most uncommon penalty for these heinous crimes. And I expect that they will be held in custody under Special Administrative Measures reserved for the most dangerous criminals.
Finally, there are some who have said this decision means that we have reverted to a pre-9/11 mentality, or that we dont realize this nation is at war. Three weeks ago, I had the honor of joining the President at Dover Air Force Base for the dignified transfer of the remains of eighteen Americans, including three DEA agents, who lost their lives to the war in Afghanistan. The brave soldiers and agents carried home on that plane gave their lives to defend this country and its values, and we owe it to them to do everything we can to carry on the work for which they sacrificed.
I know that we are at war.
I know that we are at war with a vicious enemy who targets our soldiers on the battlefield in Afghanistan and our civilians on the streets here at home. I have personally witnessed that somber fact in the faces of the families who have lost loved ones abroad, and I have seen it in the daily intelligence stream I review each day. Those who suggest otherwise are simply wrong.
Prosecuting the 9/11 defendants in federal court does not represent some larger judgment about whether or not we are at war. We are at war, and we will use every instrument of national power civilian, military, law enforcement, intelligence, diplomatic, and others to win. We need not cower in the face of this enemy. Our institutions are strong, our infrastructure is sturdy, our resolve is firm, and our people are ready.
We will also use every instrument of our national power to bring to justice those responsible for terrorist attacks against our people. For eight years, justice has been delayed for the victims of the 9/11 attacks. It has been delayed even further for the victims of the attack on the USS Cole. No longer. No more delays. It is time, it is past time, to act. By bringing prosecutions in both our courts and military commissions, by seeking the death penalty, by holding these terrorists responsible for their actions, we are finally taking ultimate steps toward justice. That is why I made this decision.
In making this and every other decision I have made as Attorney General, my paramount concern is the safety of the American people and the preservation of American values. I am confident this decision meets those goals, and that it will withstand the judgment of history.
“Culture of corruption: Holder, terrorists, Covington & Burling”
By Michelle Malkin November 18, 2009 02:00 PM
“Bombshell: Obama bringing KSM to NYC for trial; former Bush AG Mukasey responds: High risk of attack”
By Michelle Malkin November 13, 2009 09:04 AM
BOMBSHELL: OBAMA BRINGING KSM TO NYC FOR TRIAL; FORMER BUSH AG MUKASEY RESPONDS: "HIGH RISK OF ATTACK"
Note: The following post is a quote:
The War On Terror On Trial
Investors.com ^ | November 18, 2009
Posted on November 18, 2009 5:39:19 PM PST by Kaslin
Justice: Attorney General Holder’s testimony on Wednesday provided no credible rationale for sending the 9/11 conspirators into the civilian federal court system. This is 100% politics.
Steam was pouring out of Eric Holder’s ears after Sen. Jon Kyl, R-Ariz., quoted from former federal prosecutor Andrew McCarthy’s National Review article this week. McCarthy described Holder as “a lawyer whose firm is among those responsible for the litigation-driven delay that became a lawfare triumph for al-Qaida.”
And he pointed out that once the administration Holder serves took over, “Obama shut down the (military) commission despite the jihadists’ efforts to conclude it by pleading guilty ... so that we can instead endure an incredibly expensive and burdensome civilian trial that will take years to complete.”
While he was at it, Kyl pulverized Holder’s contention that civilian courts would make conviction easier.
“How could you be more likely to get a conviction in federal court, when Khalid Sheikh Mohammed has already asked to plead guilty before a military commission and be executed?” Kyl asked, eliciting a round of applause for himself in the hearing room.
Holder’s beside-the-point retort was that he didn’t know or care what was in Khalid’s mind.
The attorney general had to suck in the steam, however, when the Senate Judiciary Committee hearings concluded in the afternoon. That was when he was forced to stand quietly in the hearing room and endure an earful from the mother of one of the victims of United Flight 93.
(Excerpt) Read more at investors.com ...
Note: Video included.
“In May, Obama Said Hed Use Military Commissions to Try Terrorists Who Violate the Laws of War and to Protect Intelligence Sources and Trial Participants”
Wednesday, November 18, 2009
By Terence P. Jeffrey, Editor-in-Chief
SNIPPET: “(CNSNews.com) - In a speech delivered six months before his administration decided to try 9/11 mastermind Khalid Sheik Mohammed in a federal civilian court, President Barack Obama said he would use military commissions to try terrorists who violate the laws of war and to protect intelligence sources and methods as well as the safety of the people who would need to participate in such trials.
In the speech, Obama said: We are indeed at war with al Qaeda and its affiliates.
Additionally, he warned in the May 21 speech that al Qaeda is actively planning to attack us again and that after 9/11 the nation had entered an era in which we faced enemies who did not abide by any law of war.”
NOTE: The following text is a quote:
Home Briefing Room Speeches & Remarks
THE WHITE HOUSE
Office of the Press Secretary
For Immediate Release May 21, 2009
REMARKS BY THE PRESIDENT
ON NATIONAL SECURITY
10:28 A.M. EDT
THE PRESIDENT: Good morning, everybody. Please be seated. Thank you all for being here. Let me just acknowledge the presence of some of my outstanding Cabinet members and advisors. We’ve got our Secretary of State, Hillary Clinton. We have our CIA Director Leon Panetta. We have our Secretary of Defense William Gates; Secretary Napolitano of Department of Homeland Security; Attorney General Eric Holder; my National Security Advisor Jim Jones. And I want to especially thank our Acting Archivist of the United States, Adrienne Thomas.
I also want to acknowledge several members of the House who have great interest in intelligence matters. I want to thank Congressman Reyes, Congressman Hoekstra, Congressman King, as well as Congressman Thompson, for being here today. Thank you so much.
These are extraordinary times for our country. We’re confronting a historic economic crisis. We’re fighting two wars. We face a range of challenges that will define the way that Americans will live in the 21st century. So there’s no shortage of work to be done, or responsibilities to bear.
And we’ve begun to make progress. Just this week, we’ve taken steps to protect American consumers and homeowners, and to reform our system of government contracting so that we better protect our people while spending our money more wisely. (Applause.) The — it’s a good bill. (Laughter.) The engines of our economy are slowly beginning to turn, and we’re working towards historic reform on health care and on energy. I want to say to the members of Congress, I welcome all the extraordinary work that has been done over these last four months on these and other issues.
In the midst of all these challenges, however, my single most important responsibility as President is to keep the American people safe. It’s the first thing that I think about when I wake up in the morning. It’s the last thing that I think about when I go to sleep at night.
And this responsibility is only magnified in an era when an extremist ideology threatens our people, and technology gives a handful of terrorists the potential to do us great harm. We are less than eight years removed from the deadliest attack on American soil in our history. We know that al Qaeda is actively planning to attack us again. We know that this threat will be with us for a long time, and that we must use all elements of our power to defeat it.
Already, we’ve taken several steps to achieve that goal. For the first time since 2002, we’re providing the necessary resources and strategic direction to take the fight to the extremists who attacked us on 9/11 in Afghanistan and Pakistan. We’re investing in the 21st century military and intelligence capabilities that will allow us to stay one step ahead of a nimble enemy. We have re-energized a global non-proliferation regime to deny the world’s most dangerous people access to the world’s deadliest weapons. And we’ve launched an effort to secure all loose nuclear materials within four years. We’re better protecting our border, and increasing our preparedness for any future attack or natural disaster. We’re building new partnerships around the world to disrupt, dismantle, and defeat al Qaeda and its affiliates. And we have renewed American diplomacy so that we once again have the strength and standing to truly lead the world.
These steps are all critical to keeping America secure. But I believe with every fiber of my being that in the long run we also cannot keep this country safe unless we enlist the power of our most fundamental values. The documents that we hold in this very hall — the Declaration of Independence, the Constitution, the Bill of Rights — these are not simply words written into aging parchment. They are the foundation of liberty and justice in this country, and a light that shines for all who seek freedom, fairness, equality, and dignity around the world.
I stand here today as someone whose own life was made possible by these documents. My father came to these shores in search of the promise that they offered. My mother made me rise before dawn to learn their truths when I lived as a child in a foreign land. My own American journey was paved by generations of citizens who gave meaning to those simple words — “to form a more perfect union.” I’ve studied the Constitution as a student, I’ve taught it as a teacher, I’ve been bound by it as a lawyer and a legislator. I took an oath to preserve, protect, and defend the Constitution as Commander-in-Chief, and as a citizen, I know that we must never, ever, turn our back on its enduring principles for expedience sake.
I make this claim not simply as a matter of idealism. We uphold our most cherished values not only because doing so is right, but because it strengthens our country and it keeps us safe. Time and again, our values have been our best national security asset — in war and peace; in times of ease and in eras of upheaval.
Fidelity to our values is the reason why the United States of America grew from a small string of colonies under the writ of an empire to the strongest nation in the world.
It’s the reason why enemy soldiers have surrendered to us in battle, knowing they’d receive better treatment from America’s Armed Forces than from their own government.
It’s the reason why America has benefitted from strong alliances that amplified our power, and drawn a sharp, moral contrast with our adversaries.
It’s the reason why we’ve been able to overpower the iron fist of fascism and outlast the iron curtain of communism, and enlist free nations and free peoples everywhere in the common cause and common effort of liberty.
From Europe to the Pacific, we’ve been the nation that has shut down torture chambers and replaced tyranny with the rule of law. That is who we are. And where terrorists offer only the injustice of disorder and destruction, America must demonstrate that our values and our institutions are more resilient than a hateful ideology.
After 9/11, we knew that we had entered a new era — that enemies who did not abide by any law of war would present new challenges to our application of the law; that our government would need new tools to protect the American people, and that these tools would have to allow us to prevent attacks instead of simply prosecuting those who try to carry them out.
Unfortunately, faced with an uncertain threat, our government made a series of hasty decisions. I believe that many of these decisions were motivated by a sincere desire to protect the American people. But I also believe that all too often our government made decisions based on fear rather than foresight; that all too often our government trimmed facts and evidence to fit ideological predispositions. Instead of strategically applying our power and our principles, too often we set those principles aside as luxuries that we could no longer afford. And during this season of fear, too many of us — Democrats and Republicans, politicians, journalists, and citizens — fell silent.
In other words, we went off course. And this is not my assessment alone. It was an assessment that was shared by the American people who nominated candidates for President from both major parties who, despite our many differences, called for a new approach — one that rejected torture and one that recognized the imperative of closing the prison at Guantanamo Bay.
Now let me be clear: We are indeed at war with al Qaeda and its affiliates. We do need to update our institutions to deal with this threat. But we must do so with an abiding confidence in the rule of law and due process; in checks and balances and accountability. For reasons that I will explain, the decisions that were made over the last eight years established an ad hoc legal approach for fighting terrorism that was neither effective nor sustainable — a framework that failed to rely on our legal traditions and time-tested institutions, and that failed to use our values as a compass. And that’s why I took several steps upon taking office to better protect the American people.
First, I banned the use of so-called enhanced interrogation techniques by the United States of America. (Applause.)
I know some have argued that brutal methods like waterboarding were necessary to keep us safe. I could not disagree more. As Commander-in-Chief, I see the intelligence. I bear the responsibility for keeping this country safe. And I categorically reject the assertion that these are the most effective means of interrogation. (Applause.) What’s more, they undermine the rule of law. They alienate us in the world. They serve as a recruitment tool for terrorists, and increase the will of our enemies to fight us, while decreasing the will of others to work with America. They risk the lives of our troops by making it less likely that others will surrender to them in battle, and more likely that Americans will be mistreated if they are captured. In short, they did not advance our war and counterterrorism efforts — they undermined them, and that is why I ended them once and for all. (Applause.)
Now, I should add, the arguments against these techniques did not originate from my administration. As Senator McCain once said, torture “serves as a great propaganda tool for those who recruit people to fight against us.” And even under President Bush, there was recognition among members of his own administration — including a Secretary of State, other senior officials, and many in the military and intelligence community — that those who argued for these tactics were on the wrong side of the debate, and the wrong side of history. That’s why we must leave these methods where they belong — in the past. They are not who we are, and they are not America.
The second decision that I made was to order the closing of the prison camp at Guantanamo Bay. (Applause.)
For over seven years, we have detained hundreds of people at Guantanamo. During that time, the system of military commissions that were in place at Guantanamo succeeded in convicting a grand total of three suspected terrorists. Let me repeat that: three convictions in over seven years. Instead of bringing terrorists to justice, efforts at prosecution met setback after setback, cases lingered on, and in 2006 the Supreme Court invalidated the entire system. Meanwhile, over 525 detainees were released from Guantanamo under not my administration, under the previous administration. Let me repeat that: Two-thirds of the detainees were released before I took office and ordered the closure of Guantanamo.
There is also no question that Guantanamo set back the moral authority that is America’s strongest currency in the world. Instead of building a durable framework for the struggle against al Qaeda that drew upon our deeply held values and traditions, our government was defending positions that undermined the rule of law. In fact, part of the rationale for establishing Guantanamo in the first place was the misplaced notion that a prison there would be beyond the law — a proposition that the Supreme Court soundly rejected. Meanwhile, instead of serving as a tool to counter terrorism, Guantanamo became a symbol that helped al Qaeda recruit terrorists to its cause. Indeed, the existence of Guantanamo likely created more terrorists around the world than it ever detained.
So the record is clear: Rather than keeping us safer, the prison at Guantanamo has weakened American national security. It is a rallying cry for our enemies. It sets back the willingness of our allies to work with us in fighting an enemy that operates in scores of countries. By any measure, the costs of keeping it open far exceed the complications involved in closing it. That’s why I argued that it should be closed throughout my campaign, and that is why I ordered it closed within one year.
The third decision that I made was to order a review of all pending cases at Guantanamo. I knew when I ordered Guantanamo closed that it would be difficult and complex. There are 240 people there who have now spent years in legal limbo. In dealing with this situation, we don’t have the luxury of starting from scratch. We’re cleaning up something that is, quite simply, a mess — a misguided experiment that has left in its wake a flood of legal challenges that my administration is forced to deal with on a constant, almost daily basis, and it consumes the time of government officials whose time should be spent on better protecting our country.
Indeed, the legal challenges that have sparked so much debate in recent weeks here in Washington would be taking place whether or not I decided to close Guantanamo. For example, the court order to release 17 Uighurs — 17 Uighur detainees took place last fall, when George Bush was President. The Supreme Court that invalidated the system of prosecution at Guantanamo in 2006 was overwhelmingly appointed by Republican Presidents — not wild-eyed liberals. In other words, the problem of what to do with Guantanamo detainees was not caused by my decision to close the facility; the problem exists because of the decision to open Guantanamo in the first place. (Applause.)
Now let me be blunt. There are no neat or easy answers here. I wish there were. But I can tell you that the wrong answer is to pretend like this problem will go away if we maintain an unsustainable status quo. As President, I refuse to allow this problem to fester. I refuse to pass it on to somebody else. It is my responsibility to solve the problem. Our security interests will not permit us to delay. Our courts won’t allow it. And neither should our conscience.
Now, over the last several weeks, we’ve seen a return of the politicization of these issues that have characterized the last several years. I’m an elected official; I understand these problems arouse passions and concerns. They should. We’re confronting some of the most complicated questions that a democracy can face. But I have no interest in spending all of our time relitigating the policies of the last eight years. I’ll leave that to others. I want to solve these problems, and I want to solve them together as Americans.
And we will be ill-served by some of the fear-mongering that emerges whenever we discuss this issue. Listening to the recent debate, I’ve heard words that, frankly, are calculated to scare people rather than educate them; words that have more to do with politics than protecting our country. So I want to take this opportunity to lay out what we are doing, and how we intend to resolve these outstanding issues. I will explain how each action that we are taking will help build a framework that protects both the American people and the values that we hold most dear. And I’ll focus on two broad areas: first, issues relating to Guantanamo and our detention policy; but, second, I also want to discuss issues relating to security and transparency.
Now, let me begin by disposing of one argument as plainly as I can: We are not going to release anyone if it would endanger our national security, nor will we release detainees within the United States who endanger the American people. Where demanded by justice and national security, we will seek to transfer some detainees to the same type of facilities in which we hold all manner of dangerous and violent criminals within our borders — namely, highly secure prisons that ensure the public safety.
As we make these decisions, bear in mind the following face: Nobody has ever escaped from one of our federal, supermax prisons, which hold hundreds of convicted terrorists. As Republican Lindsey Graham said, the idea that we cannot find a place to securely house 250-plus detainees within the United States is not rational.
We are currently in the process of reviewing each of the detainee cases at Guantanamo to determine the appropriate policy for dealing with them. And as we do so, we are acutely aware that under the last administration, detainees were released and, in some cases, returned to the battlefield. That’s why we are doing away with the poorly planned, haphazard approach that let those detainees go in the past. Instead we are treating these cases with the care and attention that the law requires and that our security demands.
Now, going forward, these cases will fall into five distinct categories.
First, whenever feasible, we will try those who have violated American criminal laws in federal courts — courts provided for by the United States Constitution. Some have derided our federal courts as incapable of handling the trials of terrorists. They are wrong. Our courts and our juries, our citizens, are tough enough to convict terrorists. The record makes that clear. Ramzi Yousef tried to blow up the World Trade Center. He was convicted in our courts and is serving a life sentence in U.S. prisons. Zacarias Moussaoui has been identified as the 20th 9/11 hijacker. He was convicted in our courts, and he too is serving a life sentence in prison. If we can try those terrorists in our courts and hold them in our prisons, then we can do the same with detainees from Guantanamo.
Recently, we prosecuted and received a guilty plea from a detainee, al-Marri, in federal court after years of legal confusion. We’re preparing to transfer another detainee to the Southern District Court of New York, where he will face trial on charges related to the 1998 bombings of our embassies in Kenya and Tanzania — bombings that killed over 200 people. Preventing this detainee from coming to our shores would prevent his trial and conviction. And after over a decade, it is time to finally see that justice is served, and that is what we intend to do. (Applause.)
The second category of cases involves detainees who violate the laws of war and are therefore best tried through military commissions. Military commissions have a history in the United States dating back to George Washington and the Revolutionary War. They are an appropriate venue for trying detainees for violations of the laws of war. They allow for the protection of sensitive sources and methods of intelligence-gathering; they allow for the safety and security of participants; and for the presentation of evidence gathered from the battlefield that cannot always be effectively presented in federal courts.
Now, some have suggested that this represents a reversal on my part. They should look at the record. In 2006, I did strongly oppose legislation proposed by the Bush administration and passed by the Congress because it failed to establish a legitimate legal framework, with the kind of meaningful due process rights for the accused that could stand up on appeal.
I said at that time, however, that I supported the use of military commissions to try detainees, provided there were several reforms, and in fact there were some bipartisan efforts to achieve those reforms. Those are the reforms that we are now making. Instead of using the flawed commissions of the last seven years, my administration is bringing our commissions in line with the rule of law. We will no longer permit the use of evidence — as evidence statements that have been obtained using cruel, inhuman, or degrading interrogation methods. We will no longer place the burden to prove that hearsay is unreliable on the opponent of the hearsay. And we will give detainees greater latitude in selecting their own counsel, and more protections if they refuse to testify. These reforms, among others, will make our military commissions a more credible and effective means of administering justice, and I will work with Congress and members of both parties, as well as legal authorities across the political spectrum, on legislation to ensure that these commissions are fair, legitimate, and effective.
The third category of detainees includes those who have been ordered released by the courts. Now, let me repeat what I said earlier: This has nothing to do with my decision to close Guantanamo. It has to do with the rule of law. The courts have spoken. They have found that there’s no legitimate reason to hold 21 of the people currently held at Guantanamo. Nineteen of these findings took place before I was sworn into office. I cannot ignore these rulings because as President, I too am bound by the law. The United States is a nation of laws and so we must abide by these rulings.
The fourth category of cases involves detainees who we have determined can be transferred safely to another country. So far, our review team has approved 50 detainees for transfer. And my administration is in ongoing discussions with a number of other countries about the transfer of detainees to their soil for detention and rehabilitation.
Now, finally, there remains the question of detainees at Guantanamo who cannot be prosecuted yet who pose a clear danger to the American people. And I have to be honest here — this is the toughest single issue that we will face. We’re going to exhaust every avenue that we have to prosecute those at Guantanamo who pose a danger to our country. But even when this process is complete, there may be a number of people who cannot be prosecuted for past crimes, in some cases because evidence may be tainted, but who nonetheless pose a threat to the security of the United States. Examples of that threat include people who’ve received extensive explosives training at al Qaeda training camps, or commanded Taliban troops in battle, or expressed their allegiance to Osama bin Laden, or otherwise made it clear that they want to kill Americans. These are people who, in effect, remain at war with the United States.
Let me repeat: I am not going to release individuals who endanger the American people. Al Qaeda terrorists and their affiliates are at war with the United States, and those that we capture — like other prisoners of war — must be prevented from attacking us again. Having said that, we must recognize that these detention policies cannot be unbounded. They can’t be based simply on what I or the executive branch decide alone. That’s why my administration has begun to reshape the standards that apply to ensure that they are in line with the rule of law. We must have clear, defensible, and lawful standards for those who fall into this category. We must have fair procedures so that we don’t make mistakes. We must have a thorough process of periodic review, so that any prolonged detention is carefully evaluated and justified.
I know that creating such a system poses unique challenges. And other countries have grappled with this question; now, so must we. But I want to be very clear that our goal is to construct a legitimate legal framework for the remaining Guantanamo detainees that cannot be transferred. Our goal is not to avoid a legitimate legal framework. In our constitutional system, prolonged detention should not be the decision of any one man. If and when we determine that the United States must hold individuals to keep them from carrying out an act of war, we will do so within a system that involves judicial and congressional oversight. And so, going forward, my administration will work with Congress to develop an appropriate legal regime so that our efforts are consistent with our values and our Constitution.
Now, as our efforts to close Guantanamo move forward, I know that the politics in Congress will be difficult. These are issues that are fodder for 30-second commercials. You can almost picture the direct mail pieces that emerge from any vote on this issue — designed to frighten the population. I get it. But if we continue to make decisions within a climate of fear, we will make more mistakes. And if we refuse to deal with these issues today, then I guarantee you that they will be an albatross around our efforts to combat terrorism in the future.
I have confidence that the American people are more interested in doing what is right to protect this country than in political posturing. I am not the only person in this city who swore an oath to uphold the Constitution — so did each and every member of Congress. And together we have a responsibility to enlist our values in the effort to secure our people, and to leave behind the legacy that makes it easier for future Presidents to keep this country safe.
Now, let me touch on a second set of issues that relate to security and transparency.
National security requires a delicate balance. One the one hand, our democracy depends on transparency. On the other hand, some information must be protected from public disclosure for the sake of our security — for instance, the movement of our troops, our intelligence-gathering, or the information we have about a terrorist organization and its affiliates. In these and other cases, lives are at stake.
Now, several weeks ago, as part of an ongoing court case, I released memos issued by the previous administration’s Office of Legal Counsel. I did not do this because I disagreed with the enhanced interrogation techniques that those memos authorized, and I didn’t release the documents because I rejected their legal rationales — although I do on both counts. I released the memos because the existence of that approach to interrogation was already widely known, the Bush administration had acknowledged its existence, and I had already banned those methods. The argument that somehow by releasing those memos we are providing terrorists with information about how they will be interrogated makes no sense. We will not be interrogating terrorists using that approach. That approach is now prohibited.
In short, I released these memos because there was no overriding reason to protect them. And the ensuing debate has helped the American people better understand how these interrogation methods came to be authorized and used.
On the other hand, I recently opposed the release of certain photographs that were taken of detainees by U.S. personnel between 2002 and 2004. Individuals who violated standards of behavior in these photos have been investigated and they have been held accountable. There was and is no debate as to whether what is reflected in those photos is wrong. Nothing has been concealed to absolve perpetrators of crimes. However, it was my judgment — informed by my national security team — that releasing these photos would inflame anti-American opinion and allow our enemies to paint U.S. troops with a broad, damning, and inaccurate brush, thereby endangering them in theaters of war.
In short, there is a clear and compelling reason to not release these particular photos. There are nearly 200,000 Americans who are serving in harm’s way, and I have a solemn responsibility for their safety as Commander-in-Chief. Nothing would be gained by the release of these photos that matters more than the lives of our young men and women serving in harm’s way.
Now, in the press’s mind and in some of the public’s mind, these two cases are contradictory. They are not to me. In each of these cases, I had to strike the right balance between transparency and national security. And this balance brings with it a precious responsibility. There’s no doubt that the American people have seen this balance tested over the last several years. In the images from Abu Ghraib and the brutal interrogation techniques made public long before I was President, the American people learned of actions taken in their name that bear no resemblance to the ideals that generations of Americans have fought for. And whether it was the run-up to the Iraq war or the revelation of secret programs, Americans often felt like part of the story had been unnecessarily withheld from them. And that caused suspicion to build up. And that leads to a thirst for accountability.
I understand that. I ran for President promising transparency, and I meant what I said. And that’s why, whenever possible, my administration will make all information available to the American people so that they can make informed judgments and hold us accountable. But I have never argued — and I never will — that our most sensitive national security matters should simply be an open book. I will never abandon — and will vigorously defend — the necessity of classification to defend our troops at war, to protect sources and methods, and to safeguard confidential actions that keep the American people safe. Here’s the difference though: Whenever we cannot release certain information to the public for valid national security reasons, I will insist that there is oversight of my actions — by Congress or by the courts.
We’re currently launching a review of current policies by all those agencies responsible for the classification of documents to determine where reforms are possible, and to assure that the other branches of government will be in a position to review executive branch decisions on these matters. Because in our system of checks and balances, someone must always watch over the watchers — especially when it comes to sensitive administration — information.
Now, along these same lines, my administration is also confronting challenges to what is known as the “state secrets” privilege. This is a doctrine that allows the government to challenge legal cases involving secret programs. It’s been used by many past Presidents — Republican and Democrat — for many decades. And while this principle is absolutely necessary in some circumstances to protect national security, I am concerned that it has been over-used. It is also currently the subject of a wide range of lawsuits. So let me lay out some principles here. We must not protect information merely because it reveals the violation of a law or embarrassment to the government. And that’s why my administration is nearing completion of a thorough review of this practice.
And we plan to embrace several principles for reform. We will apply a stricter legal test to material that can be protected under the state secrets privilege. We will not assert the privilege in court without first following our own formal process, including review by a Justice Department committee and the personal approval of the Attorney General. And each year we will voluntarily report to Congress when we have invoked the privilege and why because, as I said before, there must be proper oversight over our actions.
On all these matters related to the disclosure of sensitive information, I wish I could say that there was some simple formula out there to be had. There is not. These often involve tough calls, involve competing concerns, and they require a surgical approach. But the common thread that runs through all of my decisions is simple: We will safeguard what we must to protect the American people, but we will also ensure the accountability and oversight that is the hallmark of our constitutional system. I will never hide the truth because it’s uncomfortable. I will deal with Congress and the courts as co-equal branches of government. I will tell the American people what I know and don’t know, and when I release something publicly or keep something secret, I will tell you why. (Applause.)
Now, in all the areas that I’ve discussed today, the policies that I’ve proposed represent a new direction from the last eight years. To protect the American people and our values, we’ve banned enhanced interrogation techniques. We are closing the prison at Guantanamo. We are reforming military commissions, and we will pursue a new legal regime to detain terrorists. We are declassifying more information and embracing more oversight of our actions, and we’re narrowing our use of the state secrets privilege. These are dramatic changes that will put our approach to national security on a surer, safer, and more sustainable footing. Their implementation will take time, but they will get done.
There’s a core principle that we will apply to all of our actions. Even as we clean up the mess at Guantanamo, we will constantly reevaluate our approach, subject our decisions to review from other branches of government, as well as the public. We seek the strongest and most sustainable legal framework for addressing these issues in the long term — not to serve immediate politics, but to do what’s right over the long term. By doing that we can leave behind a legacy that outlasts my administration, my presidency, that endures for the next President and the President after that — a legacy that protects the American people and enjoys a broad legitimacy at home and abroad.
Now, this is what I mean when I say that we need to focus on the future. I recognize that many still have a strong desire to focus on the past. When it comes to actions of the last eight years, passions are high. Some Americans are angry; others want to re-fight debates that have been settled, in some cases debates that they have lost. I know that these debates lead directly, in some cases, to a call for a fuller accounting, perhaps through an independent commission.
I’ve opposed the creation of such a commission because I believe that our existing democratic institutions are strong enough to deliver accountability. The Congress can review abuses of our values, and there are ongoing inquiries by the Congress into matters like enhanced interrogation techniques. The Department of Justice and our courts can work through and punish any violations of our laws or miscarriages of justice.
It’s no secret there is a tendency in Washington to spend our time pointing fingers at one another. And it’s no secret that our media culture feeds the impulse that lead to a good fight and good copy. But nothing will contribute more than that than a extended relitigation of the last eight years. Already, we’ve seen how that kind of effort only leads those in Washington to different sides to laying blame. It can distract us from focusing our time, our efforts, and our politics on the challenges of the future.
We see that, above all, in the recent debate — how the recent debate has obscured the truth and sends people into opposite and absolutist ends. On the one side of the spectrum, there are those who make little allowance for the unique challenges posed by terrorism, and would almost never put national security over transparency. And on the other end of the spectrum, there are those who embrace a view that can be summarized in two words: “Anything goes.” Their arguments suggest that the ends of fighting terrorism can be used to justify any means, and that the President should have blanket authority to do whatever he wants — provided it is a President with whom they agree.
Both sides may be sincere in their views, but neither side is right. The American people are not absolutist, and they don’t elect us to impose a rigid ideology on our problems. They know that we need not sacrifice our security for our values, nor sacrifice our values for our security, so long as we approach difficult questions with honesty and care and a dose of common sense. That, after all, is the unique genius of America. That’s the challenge laid down by our Constitution. That has been the source of our strength through the ages. That’s what makes the United States of America different as a nation.
I can stand here today, as President of the United States, and say without exception or equivocation that we do not torture, and that we will vigorously protect our people while forging a strong and durable framework that allows us to fight terrorism while abiding by the rule of law. Make no mistake: If we fail to turn the page on the approach that was taken over the past several years, then I will not be able to say that as President. And if we cannot stand for our core values, then we are not keeping faith with the documents that are enshrined in this hall. (Applause.)
The Framers who drafted the Constitution could not have foreseen the challenges that have unfolded over the last 222 years. But our Constitution has endured through secession and civil rights, through World War and Cold War, because it provides a foundation of principles that can be applied pragmatically; it provides a compass that can help us find our way. It hasn’t always been easy. We are an imperfect people. Every now and then, there are those who think that America’s safety and success requires us to walk away from the sacred principles enshrined in this building. And we hear such voices today. But over the long haul the American people have resisted that temptation. And though we’ve made our share of mistakes, required some course corrections, ultimately we have held fast to the principles that have been the source of our strength and a beacon to the world.
Now this generation faces a great test in the specter of terrorism. And unlike the Civil War or World War II, we can’t count on a surrender ceremony to bring this journey to an end. Right now, in distant training camps and in crowded cities, there are people plotting to take American lives. That will be the case a year from now, five years from now, and — in all probability — 10 years from now. Neither I nor anyone can stand here today and say that there will not be another terrorist attack that takes American lives. But I can say with certainty that my administration — along with our extraordinary troops and the patriotic men and women who defend our national security — will do everything in our power to keep the American people safe. And I do know with certainty that we can defeat al Qaeda. Because the terrorists can only succeed if they swell their ranks and alienate America from our allies, and they will never be able to do that if we stay true to who we are, if we forge tough and durable approaches to fighting terrorism that are anchored in our timeless ideals. This must be our common purpose.
I ran for President because I believe that we cannot solve the challenges of our time unless we solve them together. We will not be safe if we see national security as a wedge that divides America — it can and must be a cause that unites us as one people and as one nation. We’ve done so before in times that were more perilous than ours. We will do so once again.
Thank you, God bless you, and God bless the United States of America. (Applause.)
11:17 A.M. EDT
by Oliver North
(November 20, 2009)
“Nobody has asked yet how many judges, prosecutors, prison guards and jurors will require such protection as a consequence of these decisions. They should. Otherwise, the actions taken this week by the Obama administration won’t just be labeled as political correctness; they will be called political suicide.”
Note: The following post SNIPPET is a quote:
Six critical reasons not to try Jihad Terrorists in U.S. criminal court
JEFFHEAD.COM | 19 Nov 2009 | Jeff Head
Posted on November 19, 2009 10:12:59 AM PST by Jeff Head
Six critical reasons to never try those who wage Jihad terror against America, or any other irregular enemy combatant, in any U.S. civilian criminal court:
It extends American juris prudence rights and procedure to enemy combatant irregulars who, according to the Geneva convention, don’t deserve prisoner of war status and deserve, according to the same, to be executed after a military tribunal.
It offers a very real prospect because of venue, how testimony was obtained, miranda readings to someone who deserves none, etc., etc. that terrorists will get either reduced sentences or be aquitted.
As a result of giving testimony at trial to try and convict, the prosecution will reveal methodologies, intelligence, processes and procedures that are classified and will benefit our enemies.
It will provide a platform and stage for vile terrorists to spout their message that will be covered by the press and glorified by other terrorist organizations and enemies, thereby further emboldening them.
It will put the public at greater risk by providing, and almost inviting, terrorists to disrupt the trial with terror attacks aimed at sensationally killing more Americans and trying to free their compatriots.
It will, in addition to the dangers, the potential for denied justice, the damage to national security, and the emboldening of our enemies, establish a horrible precedent for the future that our enemies and radicals within our own country will take advantage of to our detriment.
These are not difficult prinicples or conclusions to determine or reason out. That our own President and his advisors and appointees are not doing so, but choosing instead to carry forward with such an insane plan, reveals much about them and their own political and ideological motivations, aspirations, and leanings.
Intelwire exclusive: CIA Top Secret (declass), June 1, 2003: 11 September: The Plot and the Plotters http://intelwire.net/ML1M2X (large PDF)
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