tv [untitled] CSPAN June 17, 2009 10:00am-10:30am EDT
that will be on c-span2 -- the war-funding bill. a lot of action. enjoy the rest of your day. see you tomorrow. [captioning performed by national captioning institute] [captions copyright national cable satellite corp. 2009] [captioning made possible by the national captioning institute, inc., in cooperation with the united states house of representatives. any use of the closed-captioned coverage of the house proceedings for political or commercial purposes is expressly prohibited by the u.s. house of representatives.]
the speaker: the house will be in order. the speaker pro tempore: the prayer will be offered by the guest chaplain, the reverend bruce hagrave, theological seminary, dallas, texas. the chaplain: let us pray. god is in control of all things and allows each of us to have a measure of power and wisdom. we acknowledge your gifts to us and give you thanks. we thank you for the blessings you have point of order out
upon our country, its people and each of us in this house. o god, in these times of great challenge, we confess that in a rush to get things done, we sometimes forget to seek your guidance and wisdom. forgive us, we pray. we need your wisdom, guidance and direction today and ask you to grant it to each of us bountifully. o god, lead each of us to a common goal of doing our best, doing the best for our fellow americans and doing the best we can to promote love for all mankind, peace for all mankind, and justice for all mankind. we humbly ask all of this in the name of jesus christ. amen. the speaker pro tempore: pursuant to clause 12-a of rule 1, the house will stand
>> so i thought out a whole lot of things but i think it was an important hearing and i was talking -- i was waiting for senator sessions. i yield to senator sessions. >> thank you, mr. chairman. and i appreciate the opportunity to discuss with you some of the details on the confirmation hearing for judge sotomayor, and maybe we can develop a good plan for that. attorney general holder, i'm glad you're here today to
address the committee as we fulfill our oversight and responsibility for the department of justice. the department plays a critical role in protecting the rule of law and preserving national security and it must be free from political pressures and ideological success. i supported your nomination to be attorney general. i think i was a minority in my party that did so. but i did so because i believe that your previous experience within the department would serve to elevate the department and its mission above politics and bad policy, and i was assured by your promises during the confirmation process to that effect. so it is difficult for me to tell you this, i am disappointed. during your confirmation hearing you promised to adhere to the constitution and put the rule of law over political considerations. you said you had learned from the past and that you would not return to pre-9/11 criminal law
concepts in protecting the american people from terrorist attacks. you told senator lindsey graham that you agree with him that, quote, every person who commits to going to war against america or any other peaceful nation should be held off the battlefield as long as they're dangerous, closed quote. and i don't think your actions that we've seen so far are consistent with that commitment. since your confirmation you've done a number of things, i think, that you pledged not to do. time and again i find myself reading about political appointees who have overruled career department attorneys to further some agenda or left-wing activity. one such instance came when you rejected the office of legal counsel on its conclusion that congress' recent legislation on the district of columbia voting was unconstitutional as it
appears plainly to be. so during your confirmation hearing you emphasized that your review of o.l.c. opinions would not be apolitical process. so when o.l.c., office of legal counsel, who assigned this responsibility has prepared an opinion for you that said the congress' legislation was unconstitutional i would expect you to listen to their opinions and follow them or explain precisely why you do not. instead, you moved around them and sought a second opinion from the solicitor general's office, an office that's really required to defend whatever is passed and ask them what kind of -- asked them for their legal advice. you, again, i think followed pressure from the left to override common sense when you allowed the department of justice to release o.l.c. opinions regarding interrogation even though
high-profile members of the intelligence community warned you that it was unwise to do so. former attorney general mike mukasey, who tried terrorism cases and c.i.a. director michael hayden wrote a joint op-ed in the "wall street journal" stating that the release of the memos would be, quote, unnecessary as a legal matter, and i think they're clearly correct there and, quote, unsound as a matter of policy. and i think that's correct. they predicted that the effect of the memos, released, "will invite the kind of constitutional fear of recrim nation that weakened intelligence gathering in the past and then we came solely to regret on september 11, 2001." the lawful and wise thing to do would have been to keep -- would be to -- have been to keep our secrets secret.
yet, you did not. instead, you have now given a critical piece of information to our enemies. just in the last three weeks i received word again that -- on may 29, "the washington times" has reported that the department of justice voluntarily dismissed a case against three black panther members for voter intimidation outside a polling place in pennsylvania. in that case three black panthers, armed with a night stick and used racial slurs to scare would-be voters at the polling location. they called it the conduct, "an outrageous affront to american democracy and the rights of voters to participate in an election without fear." d.o.j. had been working on the case for months and had already
secured a default judgment on april 20, 2009. inexplicable political appointees at the d.o.j. overruled career attorneys, dropped the case, dismissing two of the men from the lawsuit entirely with no penalty and winning an order against the third man that simply prohibits him from bringing a weapon to future elections, something that's already prohibited. instead of supporting the career attorneys who fought to protect the civil rights of voters in pennsylvania, the political officials in the department of justice wiped out their good work. this flies in the face of your statement at your confirmation hearing about career attorneys at the department that you would, "listen to them, respect them and make them proud of the vital goals we will pursue together." also i think contradicts your statement during the
confirmation hearing that, "the justice department must also defend the civil rights of every american." another concern that this committee raised with you during confirmation was whether you would operate under pre-9/11 criminal law mindsets when fighting terrorists. you assured the committee that you learned from the past, that you would do your best to aggressively continue the war on terror. in fact, you lifted -- listed as your first priority as attorney general that you would, "work to strengthen the activities of the federal government and to protect the american people from terrorism." yet, instead of taking the lead in protecting the american people you have enacted some poor policies and stays silent on other issues of importance. one primary example of this pre-9/11 mindset is a recent report that the obama administration is requiring that enemy combatants in
afghanistan be given memoranda warnings. mike rogers revealed that administration had begun administering memoranda rights to any combatants detained in afghanistan. just in march in a "60 minutes" interview president obama mocked the giving of memoranda warnings against enemy combatants. he said, "now, do these folks deserve memoranda warnings? do they deserve to be treated like a shoplifter down the block? of course not." so what has changed in three months? the administration's new memoranda approach to battle detainees will inevitably hamper intelligence gathering on the war on terror. even if the new approach is something founded and intended to preserve a federal court criminal prosecution, which is not necessary because we can use and should use and
historically have used the military commission for battlefield captures. under the obama administration's global justice initiative approach, even captured high-level al qaeda operatives may be advised that they may remain silent and seek counsel before talking. according to congressman rogers, this has already begun to have an adverse affect to the inter-- the international red cross has advised the detainees, take the option, you want a standard. "the weekly standard" reported, "in one instance a high-level detainee has taken that advice and requested a lawyer rather than talking." likewise, the american people remain in limbo as they have waited for your word about whether detainees at guantanamo would be transferred into the united states. i think we got a letter from you either last night or this morning on that finally.
the solution you have suggested -- solutions i think are dangerous. in march you said some of the detainees could be released into the united states. a few days later the director of national intelligence expanded your statement to say, "some sort of public assistance for them is necessary to start a new life." the american people deserve to know what the plan is and how you're going to protect national security. i think you should have weighed in on the dangerous legislation such as the state secrets act and the media shield law that has been opposed by your predecessors, and you have stood silent on bills that need to be passed this year, such as the re-authorization of the patriot act. we need your support on that. so i think you need to take the lead on a number of these areas. so, mr. holder, i am
disappointed and i'm worried. i don't think the american people are happy with the agendas that we are seeing now. i think these are very serious matters. when the office of legal counsel, attorneys told you something was unconstitutional, i think i'm not happy that you ignored that and went around them. when security officials came to you and said we should keep our interrogation methods confidential you said no. when the civil rights of americans were trampled on by members of the black panther at the voting place you let the offenders get away. and as the american people look to you to lead in the war against terrorism you have remained too silent. you even granted the release of dangerous detainees, including ms. padilla's alleged accomplice and another detainee who reportedly killed an
american diplomat. there's some things that you are doing. i think that deserve commendation. your department has defended the nation's secrets. this year at least three times in federal courts by invoking the state secret privilege. that's something you need to do and right. and standing up for our nation's secrets, you faced a lot of criticism, i know, from the left but i think you did the right thing. i'm encouraged that you listened to members of congress and the intelligence community to oppose the release of interrogation photo. i thought that was an awfully unwise thing. the release of these photos is not necessary, and it will place american soldiers at greater risk. so even though i'm disappointed by your long delay in answering my question about the weekers, i am encouraged that -- by the uyghurs, i'm encouraged that you understood that you would not release them in the united states.
so i said -- as i said at the time of your confirmation, i respect you, you know this department well, i support you, i want you to sked, i want to do what -- succeed, i want to do what i can to help you. but some of these decisions you made are baffling to me. i don't think they're good. i think they'll set a precedent for the future that is also not good. i love the department of justice. i spent 15 years in it. i have the highest ideals for it. i hope that you will begin to evaluate some of these matters more critically, and sometimes you're going to have to tell people in the administration no, as you and i discussed during your confirmation. so i look forward to your testimony today. you'll be given full opportunity to respond. i want to tell you again, i believe we can work together on some pornography things but i am troubled at this time. >> as you may have gathered, attorney general holder, there is somewhat differing views by
the two leaders of this committee, but we'll let you speak for yourself. please go ahead. and your full statement made for the record. >> good morning, chairman leahy, ranking member sessions and members of the committee. i thank you for the opportunity to appear before you today to highlight the work and priorities of the united states department of justice. i'd also like to thank you for your ongoing support of the department. i look forward to working with the committee and appreciate your recognition of the department's commission and the important work that we do. in the 4 1/2 months that i have been in office we have begun to pursue a very specific set of goals. working to strengthen the activities of the federal government that protect the american people from terrorism within the letter and spirit of the constitution, working to restore the credibility of a department badly shaken by allegations of improper political interference and reinvigorating the traditional missions of the department in fighting crime, protecting
civil rights, protecting the environment and ensuring fairness in the marketplace. now, before answering my questions, let me talk briefly about several current initiatives. i also provide sd more detail in each of them in my written statement. the highest priority of the department is to protect the american people against acts of terrorism. working 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. we will continue to build our capacity to deter, detect and disrupt the terrorist plots and to identify terrorist cells that will seek to do america harm. and we're committed to doing so consistent, consistent with the rule of law and with american values. we are leading the work set up by the president to close guantanamo and to ensure that policies going forward for
detention, interrogation and transfer of detainees live up to our nation's values. congress has expressed strong views on this subject in the supplemental appropriations bills an elsewhere. we will continue to work with the legislative branch to ensure that the appropriate disposition of individuals currently detained at the guantanamo naval base occurs. the department has developed and begun to implement a multipronged approach to confront the threat posed by the excan cartels and to continue the protection of our southwest border. addressing the southwest border threat has two basic elements. intradict and deter the crossing of contraband goods and confronting the largest organizations on the border. our strategy involves using federal prosecutor led task force that brings together federal, state and local law enforcements to identify, disrupt and dismantle the mexican drug cartels through
investigation, prosecution and extradiction of their key leaders and facilitators and seizure and forfeiture of their assets. they're committed to defending the civil rights of every american, the department, and we are rededicating ourselves of implementing the range of federal laws at our disposal to protect rights at the workplace, in the voting booth. i have made restoring the proper functioning of the civil rights division a top priority for this justice department. now, as many americans face the adverse effects of a devastating economy and an unstable housing market, the administration announced a new coordinated effort across federal and state government and private sectors to target mortgage loan modification fraud and foreclosure rescue scams. the new effort aligns responses from federal law enforcement agencies, state investigators and prosecution, civil enforcement authorities and the private sector to protect homeowners seeking assistance under the amferings' making
homes affordable program from criminals looking to perpetrate predatory schemes. i appreciate the committee's work in enacting the fraud enforcement and recovery act which will enhance the department's criminal and civil tools and resources to combat mortgage fraud, securities and commodities fraud, money laundering and to protect taxpayer money that has been expended during the recent economic stimulus and rescue packages. with the tools and resources that the bill provides, the department and others will be better equipped to address the challenges that face this nation in difficult economic times and to do their part to help the nation respond to this challenge. in addition, the department has been investigating and prosecuting federal crimes aggressively and has been very successful in identifying, investigating and in prosecuting massive financial fraud schemes, during the scrutes and commodities market manipulation and ponzi schemes. now as part of the fiscal
responsibility and accountability, the department is working with the department of health and human services to combat the tens of billions of dollars that are lost every year 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. the secretary of health and human services kathleen sabalias and i have increased tools and resources in a sustained focus by senior leadership in both of our agencies. we recognize that health care fraud has been a debilitating impact on our most vulnerable citizens, the elderly and those in long-term care facilities. our elder justice and nursing home initiative coordinates the activities of our attorneys and agents throughout the country to better understand and address the abuse, neglect and financial exploitation of these victims and to bring to bear full weight of my d