tv [untitled] CSPAN June 18, 2009 1:30am-2:00am EDT
months and years to come. thank you very much everybody. with that, i will sign this executive order. there you go. [applause] thank you. >> in just a few minutes, attorney general eric holder testifies on capitol hill about issues facing the justice department, including the guantanamo bay detainees. in three hours, president obama's signs a bill extending certain benefits to same-sex partners of the federal employees.
after that, the senate debate on judge sonia sotomayor to the supreme court. later, a state department update on the situation in sudan. >> on "washington journal" tomorrow morning, we will discuss the situation in iran with a visiting scholar from johns hopkins university. you'll hear from it to members of the house financial services committee -- you'll hear from two members of the house financial services committee, and we will also hear from george will. "washington journal" is live on c-span every day at 7:00 a.m. eastern. the senate health committee continues work on health-care legislation tomorrow morning. live coverage is on c-span3 at
10:00 eastern. >> how is c-span funded? >> i have no clue. >> may be some government grants? >> i would say the nation. >> advertising for products? >> public money, i am sure. >> my taxes? >> how was c-span funded? 30 years ago, america's cable companies created c-span as a public service, a private business initiative, no government mandate, no government money. >> attorney general eric holder testified before the senate judiciary committee tuesday in a justice department oversight hearing. questions included the future of the detention center at guantanamo bay. this is three hours.
>> good morning, and i was talking with senator sessions just a couple minutes ago. like so many of us, he has to vote and another committee -- in another committee. i told him for a traditional opening, once we rise, we will yield to him. but he had no objection to was going ahead. i do welcome senator -- i do welcome attorney general eric holder back. i want to commend you, mr. attorney general, and your team for your hard work and your
commitment to the task, the vital task of this country to restore the department of justice back to being the department of justice. we have all talked, both sides of the aisle, about the political manipulation that had occurred previously within the department of justice, particularly in its law enforcement civil-rights functions, that struck a devastating blow to the credibility of federal law enforcement. actually undermine the people's faith in our system of justice, something that if that happens in a democracy, it can be almost a fatal blow to democracy. you have been given the job of restoring that trust, and i thank you for the start. you have recommitted the department to investigation and prosecution of mortgage and financial fraud. i am confident you will implement the enforcement of the
recovery act, which was signed into law by the president a couple weeks ago, backed by virtually everybody on this committee. the attorney general also recognized the need to include federal assistance to state law enforcement in the economic recovery act, working hard to get needed resources to the states and cities and towns to keep our communities safe and to strengthen our economic recovery. it is vital that the justice department work with this committee, the judiciary committee on such important issues as the state secrets privilege, shielding members of the press from being forced to reveal their sources, passing hate crime legislation, and effectively cracking down on health care fraud. in addition, our subcommittees are hard at work on a wide range of issues, ranging from comprehensive immigration reform to the reauthorization of the patriot act.
i made no bones of the fact i am troubled to see the continuation of the bush administration's practice saving the state secrets privilege and attempt to shut down lawsuits. i believe accountability is important. access to reports for those alleging wrongdoing by the government is crucial. i support making use of the many procedures available to the courts to protect national security. rather than completely shutting down important cases without traditional review -- true judicial review. i hope you will work with me and others on the committee to find a mutually extendible solution for what i find to be an unacceptable situation. an issue which i believe attorney general holder has shown great courage in the face of political pressure is his commitment to the process of safely and effectively closing the detention facility at guantanamo bay.
i think this step will bring to an end a disgraceful period in our country's history, and more important will help restore our commitment to the rule of law and our reputation with the rest of the world. i believe strongly we can assure safety and security, bring enemies to justice, do it in ways that are consistent with our laws and values. when we stray from that approach, when we torture people in our custody, we send people to other countries to be tortured or hold people for years without even giving them the chance to go to court or even argue, look, you pick up the wrong person, we have hurt our national security immeasurably. changing our interrogation policies on torture was an essential first that. shutting the guantanamo facility down and restoring top
procedures, i think we can restore our image around the world, and we have to do that if we want to have a strong national security policy. recent debate has focused on keeping all guantanamo detainees out of the united states. i believe in that debate, political rhetoric has drowned out reason and reality. our criminal justice system handles extremely dangerous criminals. more than a few terrorists, and does so safely and effectively. we are the most powerful nation on earth. we ought to be able to handle the worst of criminals. we have tried very dangerous people in our courts, which hold dangerous people in our jails and prisons. in my own state of vermont and throughout the nation, we have tried terrorists of all stripes in our federal court system. think of oklahoma city bomber timothy mcveigh, shake omar and others to planned the 1993 world trade center bombings.
senator graham said recently, " the idea we cannot find a place to securely house 250-plus detainees within the united states is not rational." we have spent billions of dollars on high-security facilities. we can do that. our key facilities are being discussed by the administration, carrying with them the risk of abuse. i suspect that you and president obama will face these issues with the same commitment to our constitution, laws, and values, and the same jet it -- in the same dedication that you have shown so far. i trust you will find a resolution to these problems. another area where we have to
come together is the sadly resurgent problem of hate crimes. last week's tragedy at the holocaust museum together with other incidents have made to clear that violence of bias and hatred remains a serious problem with the tragic real-world consequences. senator kennedy and i, together with a strong bipartisan group of co-sponsors across the political spectrum, once again introduced a bill that makes substantially important steps to strengthen our steps of the heat based violence. it has crafted into consideration the first amendment to only those who engage in a brutal acts of violence will be culpable. in stock -- has been stalled too long. i think it is time to act on this. you have made important steps to ensuring a more open and transparent government and implemented a much improved
freedom of information act. we have worked together on this for years, and i hope the direction will continue. i have run out a lot of things, but i think this is an important hearing. i'm sorry, a little bit longer, but i was waiting for senator sessions to come back. i put my full statement on record and i yield to senator sessions. >> thank you, mr. chairman, and i appreciate the confirmation hearings with judge sotomayor, and maybe we can develop a good plan for that. attorney general holder, i am glad you are here today to address the committee as we fulfil our oversight responsibility with the department of justice. the department plays a critical role protecting the rule of law and preserving national security, and must be free from political pressures and ideological excess. mr. holder, i support 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 a confirmation hearing, you promised to hear to the constitution and put the role all over political or other consideration -- and put the role of law political or other consideration. he said do not return to pre- 9/11 criminal concepts and protecting the american people. you told senator lindsey gramm that you agree with him, that "every person who commits to going to war against america or any of a peaceful nation should be held off the battlefield as
long as they are dangerous." i do not think your actions that we have seen so far are consistent with that commitment. accenture confirmation, you have done a number of things that i think you have -- since the nomination, i have seen you a number of things that i think our against what you pledged to do. one such instance came when he 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. during a confirmation hearing, you emphasize your review of olc opinions would not be a political process. when the office of legal counsel, who has this responsibility, has prepared an
opinion for you and said that 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 have moved around them and sought a second opinion from this list -- from the solicitor general's office, an office that is really required to defend whatever his past and ask them for their legal thoughts. you began to think followed pressure from the left to override a common sense when you allow the department of justice to release ols opinions regarding interrogation, even though high-profile members of the intelligence community warned you that it was not wise to do so. former attorney general michael mukasey, a former federal judge who has tried terrorism cases, and michael hagan wrote hagan wroteop/ed in the wall street
journal saying that the release of the memos would be not necessary as a legal matter, and i think they're correct there, and "and sound as a matter of policy," -- "unsound as a matter of policy." they said it would it and fight institutional fear of recrimination that has weakened intelligence gathering in the past and that we have come to regret on september 11, 2001. the lawful and wise thing to do would 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 have received word again that on may 29, "the washington times" 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 were military-style uniforms, armed with a nightstick, and used racial slurs to scare would be voters at the polling location. and longtime civil rights activists called the conduct "an outrageous affront to american democracy and the rights of voters to participate in an election without fear." doj had been working on the case for months and had already secured a default judgment on april 20, 2009. inexplicably, political appointees at the doj overruled career attorneys, drop the case, dismissing two men from the lawsuit entirely, and winning an order against the third man that simply prohibits him from
bringing a weapon to future elections. something that is already prohibited. instead of supporting a career attorneys to fall 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 a statement about career attorneys at the department that you would "listen to them, respect them, make them proud of the vital goals we pursued together." it also i think copter disch your statement during a confirmation hearing -- it also contradicts your statement during your confirmation hearing that you will 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 have learned from the past, that you would do your best to aggressively continue the war on terror. in fact, you listed as your first priority as attorney general that you would "work to strengthen the activities of the federal government and protect the american people from terrorism." yet instead of taking the lead in protecting the american people, you have enacted poor policies and stayed silent on other issues of importance. one primer example of this pre- 9/11 mind set is a recent report that the obama administration is requiring that enemy combatants in afghanistan be given miranda warnings. last week, michigan congressman mike rogers revealed the administration had begun administering ran the warnings to enemy combatants detained in afghanistan -- had begun administering miranda right
warnings to enemy combatants detained in afghanistan. president obama previously said, "do these folks deserve our brand awareness? but do they deserve to be treated like a shoplifter down the block? of course not." what has changed in three months? the administration's new miranda approach will inevitably hamper intelligence gathering in the war on terror, even if the new approach is something found it and intended to preserve -- something founded and intended to preserve criminal court prosecution, which is not necessary, because we could use and is shortly have used military commissions for battlefield captures. under the obama administration's global justice initiative approach, even captured high level out qaeda operatives may be advised that they may remain silent and seek counsel before
talking -- even captured high level al qaeda i. yes. the international red cross has begun advising detainees, take the option. the weekly standard reported, "and at least one instance, a high level detainee has taken that advice and requested a lawyer." 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 that you have suggested, the 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 expand your statement to say, "some sort of public assistance is necessary for them 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 he 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 reauthorization of the patriot act. we need your support on that. i think you need to take the lead on a number of these areas. mr. holder, i'm disappointed and i am worried. i do not think the american people are happy with the agenda as we are seeing now. i think these are very serious matters. when the office of legal counsel attorneys told you something was not constitutional, i am not
happy that you ignore 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 fact -- of the black panthers at the polling 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 detainees, including an alleged accomplice and another detainee reportedly killed an american diplomat. there are 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's secrets privilege. that is something you need to do and is right.
standing up for our nation's secrets, he faced a lot of criticism, i know, from the left. but i think he did the right thing. i am encouraged that you listen to members of congress and the intelligence community to oppose the release of interrogation photos. i thought that was awfully on lies. the release of these photos is not necessary and will place american soldiers at greater risk. -- i thought it was awfully unwise. i am encouraged that you understood there was not a legal authority to release the photos to the united states. as i said at the time of your confirmation, i respect you. you know this department well. i support you. i want you to succeed. i want to do what i can to help you. but some of these decisions you have made are baffling to me. i do not think they're good. i think it will set a precedent
for the feature that is also not good. i love the department of justice. i spent 15 years and it. i have the highest ideals for it. i hope that you begin to evaluate some of these matters more critically, and sometimes you have to tell people in the administration no, as you and i discussed during your confirmation. 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 important things, but i am troubled at this time. >> as you may have gathered, attorney-general holder, there is somewhat different -- somewhat differing views by the leaders of this committee, but we will let you speak for yourself. please go ahead. careful statement will be made part of the record. >> good morning, chairman leahy, ranking member sessions, and members of the committee. i think for the opportunity to appear before you to highlight
the priorities of the united states department of justice. also like to thank you for ongoing support of the department. i the forward to working with the committee and appreciate your recognition of the mission and the import work we do. in the over four months 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 the department badly shaken by allegations of improper political interference, and reinvigorating the traditional member -- the traditional manneissues of the department, insuring federal marketplace. allow me to talk briefly about several of our current initiatives. i have provided more detail in my written statements. the highest priority of the department is to protect the american people against acts of
terrorism. working with the federal, state, and local partners and 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 terrorist plots an unidentified terrorist cells that would seek to do america harm. we are committed to doing so consistent with the rule of law and with american values. consistent with our commitment to national security, as the department's number one priority, we are leading the worked set up by the president to close down, mo -- we are leading the work set up by the president to close down guantanamo and transfer of detainees. congress has expressed strong views on the subject in its supplemental appropriations bill. we will continue to work with the legislative branch to ensure the appropriate disposition of individuals currently detained at guantanamo naval base occurs.
the department has begun to deploy a multipronged approach to confront the threat posed by the mexican cartels and ensure the security of our southwest border. addressing the southwest border threat has two basic elements, policing the actual border to interdict and deter the crossing of contraband goods and confronting the large criminal organizations operating on both sides of the border. our strategy involves using federal prosecutor-led task force is that bring together federal, state, and local law- enforcement agencies to identify, disrupt, and dismantle mexican drug cartels for investigation, prosecution, and extradition of the key leaders and facilitators and seizure and forfeiture of their assets. the department is also fully committed to defending the civil rights of every american, and we are rededicating ourselves to implementing the range of federal laws that are disposal to protect rights in the
workplace, housing market, and voting booth. i have made restoring the proper functioning of the civil rights division a top priority for this justice department. 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 sector to target mortgage loan modifications fraud and foreclosure rescue stamps. the new effort aligns responses from federal law enforcement agencies, state investigators and prosecutors, civil enforcement authorities, and the private sector to protect homeowners seeking assistance under the administration's making homes affordable program from criminals looking to perpetrate predatory schemes. i appreciate the committee's work enacting the fraud enforcement and recovery act, which will enhance the department of criminal and civil tools and resources to combat mortgage fraud, securities and commodities fraud, money laundering, and
protect taxpayer money that has been expended on 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 do their part to help the nation respond to this challenge. in addition, the department has been investigating and prosecuting financial crimes aggressively, and has been very successful identifying, investigating, and prosecuting massive financial fraud schemes, including securities and commodity market manipulation and ponzi schemes. as part of the administration's ongoing 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 money that could be spent on services for medicare and medicaid beneficiaries, but instead are