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Overview  

The Department of Justice (DOJ) is a cabinet-level agency responsible for enforcing the laws of the United States federal government. DOJ ensures public safety against foreign and domestic threats, including terrorism, and preventing crime. The department includes such venerable law enforcement agencies as the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI), US Marshals, the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco and Firearms (ATF) and the Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA). DOJ is led by the United States Attorney General, the nation’s top law enforcement official and chief legal adviser to the President. Another top DOJ official is the Solicitor General, who represents the federal government in cases heard before the US Supreme Court. In spite of its mandate to enforce the law, Justice Department officials have been accused at times of bending or breaking the law to suit the political whims of an administration. This has been especially true during the current reign of President George W. Bush, whose attorneys general and solicitors general have been deeply involved with extralegal aspects the Global War on Terrorism campaign.

 
History  

The Judiciary Act of 1789 created the Office of the Attorney General (AG) to represent the federal government in cases before the US Supreme Court and to give legal advice to the President and the heads of cabinet-level departments. For most of the 19th century, the AG was the only cabinet official not to preside over an executive department.

 
The Judiciary Act of 1789 made no provision for a Department of Justice or even for subsidiary officers or clerical staff to assist the attorney general in his duties. As a result of this oversight, the AG’s office struggled in the beginning to keep up with its duties, even though several legislative efforts were made during the 1800s to expand the resources and available staff for the AG.
 
After several failed attempts to convince Congress to expand the office of the Attorney General, legislation was adopted in 1829. But the measure, led by Senator Daniel Webster, did not bolster the capability of the AG. Instead, it created a Solicitor of the Treasury with authority over all Treasury lawsuits and to provide rules for the district attorneys around the country to follow in regard to all civil litigation in which the United States was a party. Supporters of the AG were not happy with Webster’s legislation and continued over the next several decades to advocate, both in Congress and for a presidential executive order, to give greater legal authority to the Attorney General, including placing the oversight of the district attorneys under the AG.
 
It was not until 1870 that legislation was adopted that created the Department of Justice under the authority of the AG that finally gave the nation’s top legal officer a full staff to work with. Another important provision of the 1870 legislation was the creation of the Office of Solicitor General, who took over the responsibilities of representing the government in cases before the Supreme Court. From then on out, the AG was required to appear before the court only “in matters of exceptional gravity or importance.”
 
During the 20th Century, the AG evolved into the public image of the Justice Department, becoming as much a political figure as a legal one. When President John F. Kennedy was elected to the White House in 1960, he appointed his brother, Robert Kennedy, to serve as attorney general. The decision was criticized by Kennedy’s opponents as blatant nepotism. A decade later, President Richard Nixon’s first attorney general, John Mitchell, stepped down to run the president’s 1972 re-election campaign and was later implicated in the infamous Watergate scandal.
 
During the second term of President Ronald Reagan, Edwin Meese III became one of the most controversial figures of the administration because of his role in the Iran Contra scandal.
 
The 1990s witnessed the first woman to lead the Justice Department. Janet Reno, who also was the longest serving attorney general in the 20th Century, lasted throughout President Bill Clinton’s eight years in office. During this time period, legal controversies surrounded the Clinton White House, from Whitewater to Monica Lewinsky to impeachment, which required Reno to make difficult decisions as to whether to appoint special prosecutors to investigate claims of illegal or improper behavior by the President.
 
The current administration of George W. Bush also has pulled the attorney general into controversial matters stemming from the White House’s bypassing legal channels in its efforts to combat terrorist threats against the country (see Controversies).
 

FBI History: A Time Line

 

What it Does  

The Department of Justice (DOJ) enforces federal laws, prevents crime, protects the public’s safety from all threats, including terrorism, and operates the federal prison system. Key figures and agencies that perform these duties include the FBI, DEA, US Marshals, US Attorneys and the Attorney General of the United States. DOJ employs more than 100,000 attorneys, special agents, other law enforcement personnel and various staff.

 
DOJ Bureaus, Offices and Agencies
 
The Office of the AGis the lead entity within the Department of Justice that oversees all operations of the department. In addition to leading DOJ, the attorney general is the chief law enforcement officer and lawyer of the US government and a member of the President’s cabinet. The AG is the only cabinet department head who is not given the title of “Secretary.” The Office of the Attorney General supervises and directs the administration and operation of all Department of Justice offices, including the FBI, Drug Enforcement Administration, Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives, Bureau of Prisons, Office of Justice Programs, the US Attorneys and US Marshals Service, among others. Although the AG post is held by a lawyer, the attorney general is often viewed as much as a political figure as a legal one. Over the years there have been numerous attorneys general who have been lightning rods for controversy. This includes the three men who have served as AG under President George W. Bush and have been involved with the administration’s controversial policies to combat terrorism.
 
Law Enforcement
The FBI is the federal government’s top law enforcement agency. From investigating organized crime to snooping on would-be terrorists, the FBI carries out critical police activities while enforcing federal laws. The FBI operates 56 field offices in major US cities and more than 400 resident agencies that support the work at field offices. The FBI’s crime-fighting reputation was forged during the era of Prohibition when special agents brought down famed gangsters like John Dillinger. But over time numerous controversies have tarnished the once-legendary operation. The last 10 years have been especially unkind to the FBI as botched police operations and the failure to prevent the 9/11 terrorist attacks have produced a bevy of complaints. Even after making substantial changes to its intelligence gathering operations, the FBI is still under threat of losing some of its authority.
 
The US Marshals represent the nation’s oldest federal law enforcement agency. Federal marshals have been serving the country since 1789, and today direct the 94 individual federal judicial districts. Among the agency’s duties are apprehension of more than half of all federal fugitives, protection of the federal judiciary, operation of the Witness Security Program, transportation of federal prisoners and seizure of property illegally obtained by criminals. Marshals also have been accused of bending, and in some cases breaking, the law, resulting in numerous controversies.
 
ATF is a federal law enforcement and regulatory agency with a substantial history in the federal government dating back to the tax-collecting bureaucracy of the 1800s. Historically, the agency has struggled to maintain a balance between its law enforcement duties and its mandate to collect taxes. When the Homeland Security Bill transferred ATF and its law enforcement functions from the Treasury Department to the Justice Department, its former tax and trade responsibilities remained in the Treasury under the new Alcohol and Tobacco Tax and Trade Bureau. Accordingly, the new ATF mission aims more at preventing violent crime involving firearms and engaging in other anti-criminal activities. The agency is responsible for investigating and preventing crimes involving the unlawful use, manufacture and possession of firearms and explosives, arson and bombings and illegal trafficking or manufacture of alcohol and tobacco products. As the agency responsible for regulation of the gun industry, ATF’s efforts at gun safety reform and regulation have become the target of vehement attacks from right-wing supporters of gun ownership and commerce rights.
 
DEA is the leading law enforcement operation in the country for combating the sale and distribution of narcotics and other illegal drugs. DEA enforces federal anti-drug laws, such as the Controlled Substances Act, which pertain to the manufacture, distribution and dispensing of legally produced controlled substances. DEA investigates major violators of controlled substance laws operating at interstate and international levels. Major violators include criminals and drug gangs, both in the US and in foreign countries. As part of its national drug intelligence program, DEA works with federal, state, local and foreign law enforcement officials to collect, analyze and disseminate strategic and operational drug intelligence information. DEA also works with other law enforcement operations through non-enforcement methods such as crop eradication, crop substitution and training of foreign officials. DEA has been in the thick of the national controversy over medical marijuana, serving as the federal government’s enforcer in going after local cannabis clubs that distribute marijuana to individuals suffering from serious illnesses. In addition, its effectiveness in curtailing the use of illegal drugs has been questioned.
 
Operating under the authority of the DEA, the Organized Crime and Drug Enforcement Task Force (OCDETF) was formed in 1982 to fight major drug trafficking and money laundering organizations. OCDETF works with the DEA, FBI, Bureau of Immigration and Customs Enforcement, Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives, US Marshals Service, Internal Revenue Service, US Coast Guard, Department of Justice’s Criminal Division and Tax Division and the 93 US Attorney’s offices to identify, disrupt and dismantle the most serious drug trafficking organizations. These efforts are targeted at decreasing the nation’s drug supply and cutting off financial resources potentially directed to terrorist groups around the world.
 
OJP is the main administrative body that manages many Justice Department programs and initiatives focusing on crime prevention. These programs provide economic, technological and research assistance to state and local governments, law enforcement programs and criminal justice agencies. OJP oversees 13 bureaus and offices, as well as 21 initiatives that focus on many program areas including Bureau of Justice Assistance; Bureau of Justice Statistics; Community Capacity Development Office; National Institute of Justice; Office of Juvenile Justice and Delinquency Prevention; Office for Victims of Crime; Office for Civil Rights; Office of Sex Offender Sentencing, Monitoring, Apprehending, Registering, and Tracking; as well as programs covering corrections, courts, juvenile justice, law enforcement, research, statistics and evaluation, substance abuse and crime, technology to fight crime, terrorism and domestic preparedness and victims of crime.
 
COPS promotes a community-based approach to law enforcement that encourages preventing crime rather than responding once crime has been committed. Created during the Clinton administration in response to a series of violent crime incidents throughout the country, COPS aims to improve public safety by addressing both the roots of crime and the culture of fear created by it which helps perpetuate criminal activity. The concept of acting locally and addressing the roots of crime is carried out by community policing officers who work within their own communities to develop relationships and build trust with community members. COPS provides funding and training for community policing programs.
 
Prisoners
BOP is responsible for the administration of the federal prison system. Headquartered in Washington, DC, the bureau oversees 114 prisons, six regional offices, two staff training centers and 28 community corrections offices. BOP is responsible for the custody and care of all 200,000 or so federal inmates—85% of whom are incarcerated in government facilities, while the remaining 15% are in private prisons. The bureau is also responsible for carrying out all legally mandated federal executions, and it maintains a lethal injections center in Terre Haute, Indiana, where, in 2001, Oklahoma City Bomber Timothy McVeigh was the first federal prisoner to be executed in almost 40 years. In addition to its use of capital punishment, BOP has been subject to criticism over budget and program cuts, privatization and agency contracting practices.  
 
OFDT oversees and coordinates detention activities for the Justice Department, the Department of Homeland Security’s Immigration and Customs Enforcement. OFDT is in charge of seeing that detained persons are provided safe, secure and humane confinement in the most cost-effective manner, and that they appear when required for judicial proceedings or confinement. In addition, it monitors facilities to make sure their performance level is up to agreed standards; develops and implements strategies to deal with potential detention crises; negotiates and awards contracts in support of operational needs; and formulates recommendations and projections on population trends, bed space availability, and costs of state and local government, versus private facilities.
 
USPC is a semi-autonomous agency within the Justice Department that decides parole cases involving certain federal and District of Columbia (DC) prisoners. The USPC makes parole release decisions; authorizes method of release and the condition under which release occurs; issues warrants for violation of supervision; determines probable cause for revocation process; prescribes, modifies and monitors compliance with the terms and conditions governing offender’s behavior while on parole or mandatory or supervised release; revokes parole, mandatory or supervised release of offenders; releases from supervision those offenders who no longer pose a risk to public safety; issues rules, regulations and guidelines pertaining to the national parole policy. A much larger commission at one time, the USPC has seen its role shrink and its very existence threatened over the past 20 years following a landmark change in sentencing laws in the 1980s.
 
Lawyers
US Attorneys serve as the nation’s principal litigators under the direction of the Attorney General. Ninety-three attorneys are stationed throughout the US, Puerto Rico, the Virgin Islands, Guam and the Northern Mariana Islands, representing the chief federal law enforcement officer within their jurisdiction. US Attorney’s Office districts are synonymous with the judicial districts within the United States. US Attorneys are all appointed by the President for four-year terms, and thus they serve at his pleasure. In 2007, the US Attorneys became the focal point of the one of the biggest controversies of the Bush administration when it was revealed that several prosecutors were allegedly fired for political reasons. The scandal resulted in the resignation of then-Attorney General Alberto Gonzales.
 
One of the top officials in the Department of Justice, the United States Solicitor General represents the federal government in cases before the US Supreme Court. The solicitor general also decides when the United States should appeal a case it has lost in lower federal and state courts, when it should file a brief amicus curiae and when the United States should intervene to defend the constitutionality of an act of Congress. During the years of the Bush administration, the solicitor general has been deeply involved in legal proceedings designed to expand the White House’s efforts to spy on and indefinitely jail terrorism suspects.
 
OPR investigates allegations of professional misconduct by any of the Department of Justice’s 10,000 attorneys. OPR receives several hundred complaints about US Attorneys per year, from judges, defense attorneys, other DOJ attorneys and staff. Approximately two-thirds of these complaints are determined not to warrant further investigation because the complaints are vague and unsupported by evidence or because they are outside OPR’s jurisdiction. Of the remaining 250 or so, about two-thirds of these are handled as inquiries, resolved by review of written records, including case transcripts and the accused attorney’s written response to the complaint. The remaining third, including some 15% of inquiries that do not resolve the complaint, become full investigations. OPR also refers cases of intentional misconduct to state bar associations. In addition to investigations, OPR engages trains US Attorneys in proper conduct.
 
Spying
As the most secretive judicial body in the United States, the FISC hears requests by federal law enforcement officials to conduct surveillance of Americans or foreigners in the US who are deemed a threat to national security. FISC operates under the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act of 1978, which was adopted in the wake of governmental abuses of power by the Nixon administration, the Army and the CIA during the 1960s and 1970s. Few Americans had ever heard of the FISC until 2005 when media reports exposed actions by the National Security Agency, operating under orders from President George W. Bush, to monitor phone calls, emails and other electronic communications that may contain information about terrorist activities. The wiretapping was conducted without approval by FISC, setting off a firestorm of debate on Capitol Hill and resulting in changes to FISA to accommodate President Bush’s wishes to continue spying on foreign and domestic communications.
 
NSD represents the primary national security functions of the Department of Justice: Counterterrorism and Counterespionage, the Office of Intelligence Policy and Review, and the new Law and Policy Office. The establishment of NSD was recommended by the 2005 Report of the WMD Commission (Commission on the Intelligence Capabilities of the US Regarding Weapons of Mass Destruction). However, the division immediately became embroiled in controversy, raising serious questions about the erosion of traditional civil liberties.
 
International
USNCB is the American branch of the international police organization, INTERPOL, serving as a communications clearing-house for police seeking assistance in criminal investigations that cross international boundaries. Directed by the Attorney General and working under the Justice Department in conjunction with the Department of the Treasury, the USNCB focuses on fugitives, financial fraud, drug violations, terrorism and violent crimes. It can refuse to respond to any of the 200,000 annual inquiries from other nations and, as required by INTERPOL bylaws, does not assist in the capture of suspects.
 
A quasi-judicial agency, FCSC determines the validity and monetary value of claims by US nationals for loss or damage of property, or personal injury, in foreign countries. Claims fall either under specific jurisdiction conferred by Congress or in accordance with international claims settlement agreements. Funds for payment come out of Congressional appropriations, international claim settlements or liquidation of foreign assets in the United States by the Departments of Justice or Treasury. To date, FCSC and its predecessors have compiled and administered 43 international and war-related claims programs against more than a dozen countries, including Albania, Bulgaria, China, Cuba, Czechoslovakia, East Germany, West Germany, Egypt, Ethiopia, Hungary, Iran, Italy, Panama, Poland, Romania, the Soviet Union, Vietnam and Yugoslavia. There was also a claims program for some American survivors of the Holocaust, and FCSC is currently engaged in preliminary planning for a possible future program involving claims against Iraq.
 
Victims of Uranium Mining and Nuclear Testing 

RECP provides financial restitution to individuals who became seriously ill as a result of nuclear testing and uranium mining during the Cold War. RECP is managed by the Department of Justice’s Civil Division, Torts Branch, which draws money from a special trust fund to make payments to eligible claimants. Compensation ranges from $50,000 to $100,000 depending upon which category an individual falls under. As of May 8, 2008, the RECP had approved 19,420 claims and rejected 8,071. Most of the successful claimants have been Downwinders (12,063) and Uranium Miners (4,819). The rest have been Onsite Participants, Uranium Millers and Ore Transporters. Onsite Participants have had the hardest time winning claims, with an approval rate of only 44.7% compared to more than 70% for the other categories.

 

Where Does the Money Go  

The Justice Department has collectively spent almost $35 billion since 2000 on contracts given to private companies and others. According to USAspending.gov, more than 55,000 contractors have done business with DOJ by helping to build prisons, provide social services, guard inmates, and provide legal services.

 
The biggest spenders within the Justice Department are the Bureau of Prisoners/Federal Prison System ($14.1 billion), the FBI ($4.4 billion), US Marshals Service ($3.3 billion) and the DEA ($2.2 billion).
 
The top 10 recipients of DOJ contracts are:
Corrections Corporation of America
$1,535,448,982
Akal Security, Inc
$1,407,120,423
Lockheed Martin
$1,054,131,149
The Geo Group Inc
$885,805,769
CACI International Inc
$751,161,504
Computer Sciences Corporation
$645,829,589
Hensel Phelps Construction Co
$639,466,641
Small Business Consolidated Reporting
$605,897,689
L-3 Communications Holdings, Inc.
$503,525,992
Krueger International, Inc.
$479,452,087
 
Examples of contracts:
Lockheed Martin won a $1 billion contract to develop a new Next Generation Identification System. A 10-year contract, the new system will expand fingerprinting capability, doubling the size of the current FBI database. It will also include palm prints, iris and facial recognition capabilities. In addition, Lockheed won a $305 million contract to help the FBI improve its information technology capability.
 
Lockheed Martin also has won lucrative contracts to help DEA with drug enforcement operations. In September 2007 Lockheed Martin was among five companies—including Raytheon, Lockheed Martin, Northrop Grumman, Arinc Inc., and Blackwater USA—that were awarded $15 billion in contracts by the Defense Department to help support the war on drugs while the government focuses on the war on terrorism. The companies will develop and deploy new surveillance technologies, train and equip foreign security forces and provide key administrative, logistical and operational support to the Pentagon and other agencies, including DEA.
 
McDonald Bradley Inc. was among 10 firms to win contracts on the FBI’s Technical Support and Development Project (TSDP). The five-year contract has a potential value of $42.5 million. McDonald Bradley will compete for task orders against AlphaInsight Corp., Comso Inc., Data Computer Corp. of America, Glotech Inc., InfoPro Inc., Innovative Management and Technology Approaches Inc., Pragmatics Inc., Project Performance Corp. and Staffing Alternatives Inc. Task orders cover various IT support services, including cyber security.
 

Unisys Corporation was awarded a

$50 million contract

for the development and deployment of the Next-Generation Combined DNA Index System. Under the contract, Unisys will provide the FBI with software development, deployment and optional operations and maintenance support. Unisys will partner with the University of Tennessee, Laboratory of Information Technologies; IBM; the University of Cincinnati and iSYS LLC to provide the Next-Generation DNA system. Unisys will provide a highly sophisticated search engine that will accelerate the DNA matching process.

 

Controversies  

Firing of US Attorneys Brings Down AG

In 2007 all of Washington, DC, was abuzz over revelations that Attorney General Alberto Gonzales had fired eight US Attorneys, some for apparent political reasons. The dismissed attorneys had all been appointed by President George W. Bush more than four years earlier.
 
The saga began in the White House in 2005 when Bush’s top political advisor, Karl Rove, and Deputy Chief of Staff Kyle Sampson discussed ways of removing several US Attorneys. In March 2005, Sampson came up with a “checklist” on which he rated each of the US Attorneys with criteria that appeared to value political allegiance as much as job performance. He recommended retaining “strong” attorneys who demonstrated loyalty to the Republican Party and removing “weak” ones who had gone against administration initiatives
 
One of the fired attorneys was Carol Lam, US Attorney for San Diego, who successfully prosecuted Republican Rep. Randy “Duke” Cunningham. Another was Bud Cummins, US Attorney for Little Rock, AR, whom Rove wanted to replace with a loyal GOP lawyer. Paul Charlton, US Attorney in Arizona, had investigated allegations of corruption against Republican Rep. Rick Renzi.
 
As a result of the scandal, numerous Department of Justice officials were forced to resign, including Gonzales, Deputy Attorney General Paul McNulty, acting Associate Attorney General William W. Mercer, Sampson and Chief of Staff for the Deputy Attorney General Michael Elston.
 
Gonzales was singled out for criticism by officials from all sides. Cummins called the firings “horrible,” while Republican Senator Charles Grassley of Iowa said the AG “did a lot of stupid things.”
An Investigation into the Removal of Nine U.S. Attorneys in 2006 (office of Professional Responsibilty) (PDF)
Gonzales Defends Actions on U.S. Attorney Firings (by William Branigin, Washington Post)
Alberto Gonzales’ coup d'etat (by Joe Conason, Salon News)
More scrutiny, secrecy at Justice Department (by Richard B. Schmitt, Los Angeles Times)
 
Only Conservative Loyalists Need Apply
Throughout the eight years of President Bush’s tenure in the White House, the Justice Department became increasingly politicized, as administration officials and DOJ leaders worked to fill the department’s ranks with judicial conservatives and political loyalists. This development became a huge political controversy in 2007 when news broke of the firings of US Attorneys who didn’t toe the party line (see below), and it prompted several investigations into how procedures have changed within DOJ this decade.
 
In July 2008, the Washington Post reported that President Bush’s first Attorney General, John Ashcroft, submitted to the White House in 2003 a list of five potential candidates to head the Office of Legal Counsel. Then-White House Chief of Staff Andrew Card rejected all five nominees and lobbied instead for John Yoo, a DOJ subordinate who had helped officials in the Oval Office craft the administration’s legal justifications for torturing terrorism suspects and carrying out warrantless wiretapping of US communications sources.
 
The ordeal caused Ashcroft and Card to lock horns, forcing President Bush to step in to resolve the personnel matter. Among the five candidates Ashcroft offered up, one was Paul D. Clement, who went on to become solicitor general.
 
In addition to the Washington Post’s findings, the Justice Department’s inspector general reported in June 2008 that DOJ leaders had illegally used political or ideological factors to hire new lawyers into an elite recruitment program. The IG discovered that the department went out of its way to hire law school graduates with conservative credentials instead of those perceived to have liberal-oriented backgrounds.
 
The effort to hire more conservatives began under Ashcroft. The manner in which Ashcroft’s subordinates went about choosing conservative candidates “constituted misconduct and also violated the department’s policies and civil service law that prohibit discrimination in hiring based on political or ideological affiliations,” the IG reported.
Report Sees Illegal Hiring Practices at Justice Dept. (by Eric Lichtblau, New York Times)
 
Olson Presents Case for Secret Wire Taps
Created in 1978, the ultra-secret Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court of Review did not conduct its first hearing until 2002 when the Bush administration challenged a FISC ruling. Leading a high-powered group of attorneys and administration officials was then Solicitor General Theodore Olson, who pleaded for permission to expand the jurisdiction of the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act to allow prosecutors and local law enforcement agencies to be involved in the administration’s surveillance program of suspected terrorists and to have access to confidential information.
 
Olson also argued that by approving the administration’s surveillance requests, the FISC would help law enforcement uncover information about suspects that, even if it was unrelated to terrorism, might be useful to blackmail or intimidate a terrorism suspect into cooperating with the authorities.
 
The solicitor general further asked for the court to allow an important change in the wording of warrants that could have allowed the government to greatly expand its spying targets. When the FISC judges questioned Olson on what the expanded surveillance powers would be used for, the solicitor general avoided answering directly, much to the frustration of one judge.
What is the Bush Administration Trying to Hide? (by David Wallechinsky, Huffington Post)
 
Waco
The 1993 “Waco Massacre” occurred when the ATF attempted to execute a search warrant on the Branch Davidian compound near Waco, Texas. The Branch Davidians were a cult led by David Koresh and suspected of stockpiling large amounts of weapons. After four ATF officers and six Branch Davidians were killed in the initial raid, the FBI and US Marshals were called in and a 51-day siege ensued until the order was given to raid the compound. The second assault triggered the collective suicide and/or murder of all but a handful of the Branch Davidian members. During subsequent investigations of the handling of the Waco siege, it was revealed that the FBI withheld key information and had lied about its use of gas in the final raid.
Who tipped off the media about the Waco raid? (by Robert Bryce, Jim Moore and Joe Ellis, Salon News)
 
Ruby Ridge
In August 1992, the FBI was called in to help with the siege at Ruby Ridge, Idaho. The incident began when ATF agents and US Marshals tried to arrest Randall Weaver on federal weapons charges. A gunfight left one Marshal and Weaver’s fourteen-year-old son dead. When the stand-off settled into a siege, the marshals requested backup from the FBI, which sent in its Hostage Rescue Team (HRT). Initially, the head of the HRT, Richard Rogers, wanted to demolish the cabin that Weaver and others were holed up in by using a special assault vehicle in the HRT’s mobile arsenal. Rogers’ superiors in Washington rejected this plan. But they did authorize an aggressive, shoot-to-kill order that led to an FBI sniper killing Weaver’s wife. The siege ended after Weaver gave himself up.
 
The handling of the Ruby Ridge incident by federal law enforcement led to one of the most intensive and controversial investigations in recent history. The FBI faced widespread resentment and Attorney General Janet Reno established a Justice Department task force to investigate what had happened. National debates on the case were said to have fueled anti-government sentiments, such as the bombing of a federal building in Oklahoma City in 1995.
Ruby Ridge Lawyer Offers Help in Montana (by Dirk Johnson, New York Times)
Separatist Family Given $3.1 million from Government (by Stephen Labaton, New York Times)
Weaver’s Last Stand (by Virginia Heffernan, Slate)
 
Privatization of Criminal Justice
Since the 1980s, expanding prison populations and fiscal constraints have led to increased privatization of the federal prison system, with DOJ agencies including the Bureau of Prisons relying on state, local and private prisons to house federal inmates. The government has come under criticism for its contracting practices, which increased the risk of default among private service providers typically contracted for management and construction—thereby increasing security risks. In a 2000/2001 report, the DOJ’s inspector general found that the state and local providers consistently overcharged the government. The report criticized the BOP for relying too heavily on a few private contractors, and pointed to an unstable procurement practice. In response, Congress passed legislation authorizing DOJ to procure private prison services through “nontraditional” or “innovative” agreements—meaning more flexible terms. Under the law, agencies are allowed to procure services independently of traditional government contracting rules.
The Department of Justice's Reliance on Private Contractors for Prison Services (Report No. 01-16 from the National Institute of Justice)
Cost, Performance Studies Look at Prison Privatization (by Gerry Gaes, National Institute of Justice)
 
Truscott and Domenech Whistleblower Controversy
Edgar A. Domenech, a 23-year veteran of the ATF, filed a complaint with the Office of Special Counsel in March 2008 alleging that the Justice Department had punished him for questioning the performance of former ATF director Carl J. Truscott. Domenech alleged that his complaints about Truscott, beginning in 2005, were ignored by officials because of Truscott’s ties to the White House (He was the former head of President Bush’s Secret Service detail before taking over ATF). Truscott resigned in 2006 while under investigation for alleged financial mismanagement.
ATF Whistle-Blower Alleges Backlash (by Dan Eggen, Washington Post)
 
FBI Disregards FISC Ruling
According to a Justice Department investigation, twice in 2006 FBI officials went before the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court to obtain warrants and were rebuffed. Instead of abiding by the court’s decision, the FBI went around it to obtain the information it was seeking through national security letters, an administrative procedure that doesn’t require court approval. The FBI’s top lawyer later told Justice investigators that it was appropriate for her agency to issue the letters because she disagreed with the court's conclusions.
 
The discovery came as part of a larger examination by the bureau’s inspector general into the FBI’s abuse of national security letters to spy on numerous individuals, including Americans. The FBI issued almost 200,000 national security letters from 2003 through 2006. The AG identified hundreds of possible violations of laws or internal guidelines in the use of the letters, including cases in which FBI agents made improper requests, collected more data than they were allowed to, or did not have proper authorization to proceed with the case.
FBI Found to Misuse Security Letters (by Dan Eggen, Washington Post)
Debate  

AG Role in Eavesdropping, Guantanamo Campaigns

Following the terrorist attacks on Sept. 11, 2001, the Bush administration embarked on aggressive and illegal strategies to pursue and imprison suspected terrorists using means that fell outside the American system of jurisprudence, not to mention common decency. The tactics employed under the Global War on Terrorism campaign provoked a fiery debate that sometimes lined up conservatives and Bush administration officials on one side and civil libertarians and Democrats on the other. But not always. At times, members of Bush’s inner circle privately or publicly expressed reservations regarding the strategies employed on behalf of protecting the country.
 
Firmly entrenched in the Bush camp was the Attorney General, a position first held by John Ashcroft and then by Alberto Gonzales, who played a key role as White House counsel while Ashcroft led the Department of Justice during Bush’s first term in office. While both men held the office of Attorney General, they appeared to be stout believers in President Bush’s plans to conduct domestic spying operations involving the National Security Agency, the indefinite jailing of terrorism suspects at the Navy base on Guantanamo Bay, Cuba, and the use of military tribunals, instead of civilian courts, to try detainees.
 
Ashcroft played a key role in the formulation and passage of the Patriot Act and its sequel, Patriot II or the Domestic Security Act of 2003. However, after he stepped down as AG, it was learned that Ashcroft wasn’t as gung-ho about other radical steps being pushed by administration officials, such as Gonzales. Ashcroft reportedly was cool to broadening the president’s ability to expand domestic eavesdropping authority to monitor communications among suspected terrorists—which Gonzales wholeheartedly supported. Ashcroft also had some reservations about the indefinite imprisonment of detainees at Guantanamo Bay, while Gonzales drafted the rules for military tribunals and oversaw a 2005 Justice Department opinion that granted CIA agents carte blanche to utilize extreme techniques of interrogation, including head-slapping, exposure to cold and simulated drowning (known as “waterboarding”), on terrorism suspects.
Ashcroft's Complex Tenure At Justice (by Peter Baker and Susan Schmidt, Washington Post)
Congress Seeks Justice Dept. Documents on Interrogation (by David Johnston and Scott Shane, New York Times)
 
Pro
When members of al Qaeda hijacked commercial airliners on 9/11 and crashed them into the World Trade Center and the Pentagon, these terrorists essentially declared war on America, according to supporters of the Bush administration. This situation established special circumstances upon which the government could pursue attackers, their supporters and would-be terrorists with any means available to protect the United States from future attacks and to bring those responsible for 9/11 to justice. In 2002, Gonzales wrote to the president telling him that the Geneva Conventions did not apply to members of Al Qaeda or members of the former Taliban government in Afghanistan because they had systematically violated the laws of war. This rationale set the legal foundation for holding detainees offshore in Cuba and employing harsh interrogation methods to extract timely intelligence.
 
In the war on terror, information is at a premium, and it is critical that government agents and other officials have all the necessary means available to go after those who pose a threat to the US, according to supporters. Gonzales added that it was important not to limit the tools available to America’s guardians, for if the administration began “ruling out speculated interrogation practices,” he wrote, “we would fairly rapidly provide Al Qaeda with a road map concerning the interrogation that captured terrorists can expect to face and would enable Al Qaeda to improve its counter-interrogation training to match it.”
 
Con
Civil libertarians and some law experts expressed concerns from the very beginning of the Bush administration’s answer to combating terrorist threats, beginning with the passage of the Patriot Act. What concerned opponents the most was, in essence, that in order to save the country, the administration was undermining the very constitutional basis and system of laws that make America special in the world. For human rights experts, the messages put forth by Ashcroft, Gonzales and others were appalling, demonstrating no political conscience for what their policies would ultimately mean for the nation’s present and future form of democracy.
 
The president and his close advisors thought they could win this war by “acting tough” and treating the rule of law and constitutional freedoms as optional. Fearmongering has become a means to an equally frightful end, where legal standards are upheld only for the sake of political convenience, or simply discarded altogether. By taking the country down this path, the administration is playing right into Al Qaeda’s hands by further alienating America from the world.
Taking Liberties (by David Cole, Nation)
John Ashcroft: Minister of Fear (by Dick Meyer, CBS News)
 
Getting Intelligence
Ever since the 9/11 terrorist attacks, the FBI’s intelligence gathering ability has been questioned. The aftermath of the World Trade Center and Pentagon assaults produced heated calls to strip the FBI of all intelligence-gathering capability. FBI leadership asked for a second chance, and while changes have been attempted, some critics still aren’t satisfied.
 
At the core is the FBI’s historic lack of a strong intelligence operation. It never has relied on such duties as strategic analysis or effectively collecting, analyzing and disseminating domestic intelligence that can alert other law enforcement agencies of potential threats.
 
Critics
Including both Democrats and Republicans on Capitol Hill, critics contend the FBI will never get it right, that the bureau’s intelligence reforms are too slow and too limited. The FBI’s deeply rooted law enforcement culture and its reactive practice of investigating crimes after the fact make impossible for the bureau to change its spots, to use the leopard analogy. Critics also question whether Director Robert Mueller, who has an extensive background in criminal prosecution but lacks experience in the intelligence field, sufficiently understands the role of intelligence to be able to lead an overhaul of the FBI’s intelligence operation.
 
Supporters
Consisting primarily of President George W. Bush and other administration officials, supporters counter that they believe the FBI can change, that its shortcomings are fixable and that Mueller’s reforms will work in the long run. They also argue that a successful war against terrorism demands that law enforcement and intelligence be closely linked. And they maintain that the FBI is institutionally able to provide an integrated approach, because it already combines both law enforcement and intelligence functions.
 
Suggested Reforms  

US Attorneys Scandal Forces AG to Accept Changes

While the controversy over the firing of US Attorneys raged, then-Attorney General Alberto Gonzales agreed to change the way US Attorneys can be replaced. Initially, Gonzales and the Bush administration refused to consider the change put forth by Congressional Democrats. But threats from a senior Republican senator caused Gonzales to reconsider.
 
Gonzales was able to fire eight US Attorneys, following a little-noticed change in federal law in 2006 that allowed the AG to appoint interim federal prosecutors to indefinite terms. Under the previous system, the local federal district court would appoint a temporary replacement after 120 days until a permanent candidate was named and confirmed by the Senate.
 
Democrats led by Sen. Patrick Leahy (D-VT) introduced legislation that would eliminate the 2006 change and thus limit the power of future attorneys general to appoint interim prosecutors.
 
The capitulation by Gonzales came just hours after Sen. Arlen Specter (R-PA.), the top Republican on the Judiciary Committee, seemed to suggest that Gonzales’s tenure may not last through the remainder of President Bush’s term. “One day there will be a new attorney general, maybe sooner rather than later,” Specter said. As it turned out, Gonzales resigned anyway later that year.
Gonzales Yields On Hiring Interim U.S. Attorneys (by Paul Kane and Dan Eggen, Washington Post)
 
“Sweetheart Deal” for Ashcroft Leads to Changes
After serving under former Attorney General John Ashcroft, a US Attorney in New Jersey steered a lucrative contract to his former boss in 2007. With no public notice and no bidding, Ashcroft received an 18-month contract worth $28 million to $52 million to monitor an out-of-court settlement agreed to by a medical supply company. The New Jersey prosecutor, US Attorney Christopher Christie, directed similar monitoring contracts to two other former Justice Department colleagues from the Bush administration, as well as to a former Republican state attorney general in New Jersey.
 
The revelation provoked outrage among Congressional Democrats, one of whom called the contract a “backroom sweetheart deal” for Ashcroft. Leaders of the House and Senate Judiciary committees called for the Government Accountability Office to review how Justice Department monitors are selected and paid. In addition, legislation was introduced that would require judges to supervise monitors and force administration officials to follow specific guidelines when choosing monitors.
 
To head off the effort by lawmakers, Attorney General Michael Mukasey ordered an internal review to determine whether national standards should be imposed to avoid the appearance of impropriety. Mukasey did so even though he stated publicly that the deals to Ashcroft and others were “perfectly appropriate,” adding “people deserve to get paid, particularly people who have talent and ability and experience.”
 
Three months after the controversy became public, the Justice Department announced internal guidelines for the selection of monitors in out-of-court settlements with large companies. The guidelines were intended to avoid future conflict-of-interest accusations. But some lawmakers still weren’t satisfied with Mukasey’s actions. The chairman of the House Judiciary Committee, Rep. John Conyers Jr. (D-MI), suggested the new guidelines may not have gone far enough and warned that new legislation might be in order to impose new rules on monitor selection.
 
“We must assure the public that the Department of Justice is not rewarding political allies in a forum where prosecutorial independence is absolutely necessary,” said Conyers.
Ashcroft Deal Brings Scrutiny in Justice Dept (by Philip Shenon, New York Times)
Mukasey Had Been Overseer Finalist (by Carrie Johnson, Washington Post)
Ashcroft Defends Contract That U.S. Steered to Him (by Philip Shenon, New York Times)
 
Congress Threatens to Reign in FBI Powers
Having overstepped its bounds, the FBI is now faced with threats by lawmakers and even President Bush to clamp down on the bureau’s domestic spying. Following 9/11, the federal government adopted the Patriot Act which, among other things, gave the FBI increasing leeway to investigate suspected terrorists without court approval.
 
At the center of concerns are what’s known as Letters of National Security, which the FBI used to demand information from businesses and individuals without a court order. Lawmakers from both parties called for new limits that would curtail the FBI from improperly obtaining telephone logs, banking records and other personal information on thousands of Americans.
 
Details of the FBI’s work were revealed by the Department of Justice’s Inspector General, Glenn A. Fine, whose report mentioned widespread abuse of the FBI’s authority to seize personal details about tens of thousands of people without court oversight through the use of national security letters. Fine also found that the FBI had arranged for several leading telephone companies to allow the agency to ask for information on more than 3,000 phone numbers, often without a subpoena, without an emergency or even without an investigative case. In 2006, the FBI then issued blanket letters authorizing many of the requests retroactively.
 
Both Democratic Sen. Charles Schumer of New York and Republican Sen. Arlen Specter of Pennsylvania threatened to introduce legislation to amend the Patriot Act to prevent the FBI or other federal law enforcement offices from abusing the Letters of National Security.
Bush Pledges Swift Action on FBI Reform (by Dan Eggen, John Solomon and Peter Baker, Washington Post)
Congressional Oversight  
Former Directors  

Comments  
MARK PATRICK SEYMOUR - 8/4/2012 10:20:18 AM              
we the people must regain control of the white house my voice is the voice of we the people republican president elect mark patrick seymour president as of july 20th because of disqualification of barry soetoro

Alson Lee - 5/30/2012 9:41:02 AM              
state of hawaii, circuit courts i need to talk to someone who can help me on understanding why - the local state courts are using creative lawyering vs. follow the law to make money from their clients. by bringing in more attorenys into the mix to help them they increase the legal fees for all by making the victim pay unnecessary. this creative system is bad, we are at the mercy of the courts. it destroy people's inheritance, rights, if we disagree with the judges direction, who are helping the fraternity against us on a problem they created and blame this on us by not following the law. this is a real estate matter. three judges are involved to help them.

pamela wymbs - 2/7/2012 9:25:54 AM              
hi i'm trying to get answer on how to get help with assisting my son with an mri he is currently at petersburg low in va, he has a spinal cord injury and we can not seen to get any treatment or outside hospital to get my son simple mri he has been in excruciating pain since jan 16 2012 i talk with someone at the bop and they help me with contacting the prison, and she talk wiith medical services mrs aponte, and she order them to assist him with a exray and urine culture, and observe that he had a bladder infection and he was given antibotic, to treat it but he has continued to this pain in his right side and can not get help it is something internallly and it could cause him to be paralyzed totally if not check out immediately can some please help register number is 94320020 please help us pamelawymbs345@msn.com contact me

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Table of Contents

Founded: 1870
Annual Budget: $25 billion
Employees: 105,000

Department of Justice
Holder, Eric
Attorney General

Eric H. Holder, Jr. was confirmed as Attorney General on February 2, 2009. Holder’s father, an immigrant from Barbados, sold real estate, and his mother worked as a secretary. Born in the Bronx in 1951, Holder grew up in East Elmhurst, a neighborhood in Queens. In the fourth grade he was selected to be part of a program for gifted children at a predominately Jewish school. He later received a scholarship to attend Stuyvesant High School in Manhattan, an hour-and-a-half commute away. An American History major, Holder graduated from Columbia College in 1973 and earned his J.D. from Columbia Law School in 1976. While at Columbia, Holder took part in student protests, including a sit-in at the dean’s office. He is currently a Columbia trustee.

 
After graduation from law school, Holder landed a job at the Justice Department’s newly-created Public Integrity Section, where he prosecuted such targets as a corrupt judge in Philadelphia, the Treasurer of the state of Florida, the Ambassador from the Dominican Republic, FBI agents, organized crime members and Rep. John Jenrette (D-South Carolina) in the 1980 Abscam scandal. Holder stayed with Public Integrity for 12 years.
 
In 1988 President Reagan nominated Holder to be an Associate Judge of the Supreme Court of the District of Columbia. Three years later, Deputy U.S. Marshall Michael Artis told the Washington Post that Holden was “the coolest judge on the whole bench. He’s smooth….Call him silky.” Of his five years as associate judge, Holder himself said, “I presided over hundreds of criminal trials and witnessed the devastation that can be traced to two simple elements: illegal drugs and senseless violence. As a judge, I also saw how poverty, despair, and failure to take personal responsibility for one's life and one's family tended to intensify the negative conditions that too many of our fellow citizens, particularly our young people, must endure.”
 
On October 8, 1993, Holder was sworn in as U.S. Attorney for the District of Columbia, the first African-American to hold the position. He was immediately given the high-profile case of corruption charges against Rep. Dan Rostenkowski (D-Illinois). Rostenkowski was indicted and went to prison after pleading guilty to mail fraud. In addition to dealing with federal cases, the position of U.S. Attorney for D.C. also includes responsibility for local crimes in Washington, a city with an unusually high crime rate. Holder is credited with a creative innovation: making prosecutors responsible for a particular area in the city and urging them to meet with local police and church leaders and to attend community meetings.
 
In 1997, President Clinton nominated Holder to serve as Deputy Attorney General, the number two position in the Justice Department. The Senate approved his nomination 100-0, and he assumed office in July 1997. As the effective chief operating officer of the Justice Department, Holder dealt with enormous responsibilities, and it was Holder who advised Attorney General Janet Reno to expand the investigation into the Monica Lewinsky affair.
 
The biggest blot on Holder’s career happened at the very end of the Clinton presidency, when he was asked to help obtain a presidential pardon for Marc Rich, a commodities trader who had been a fugitive for 17 years after being indicted by U.S. Attorney Rudolph Giuliani for tax evasion and illegal trading with Iran. On President Clinton’s final full day in office, Holder informed Clinton that his own opinion on the pardon was “neutral leaning towards favorable.” Clinton went ahead with the pardon. When it was revealed that Rich’s ex-wife had made large donations to the Clinton Presidential Library, Holder, on February 8, 2001, was sharply questioned by the House Committee on Oversight and Reform.
 
After George W. Bush took over the presidency, Holder went into private practice with the Washington, D.C. law firm of Covington & Burling. Among the clients he represented were the National Football League, including its investigation of Michael Vick for dogfighting; Merck, the pharmaceutical company, to negotiate a settlement with the U.S. government and five states for Medicaid fraud; and Chiquita Brands, for whom he negotiated a $25 million fine after it was proved that Chiquita officials had paid protection money to a Colombian group that was on the U.S. government list of terrorist organizations. Holder also served on the board of MCI prior to and during its merger with Verizon.
 
Holder met Barack Obama at a dinner party in Washington in 2004. In the spring of 2007, Obama called Holder and asked him to join his presidential campaign. Holder agreed immediately.
 
Holder has publically stated that he opposes capital punishment, but, as a representative of the U.S. government, he would enforce the death penalty when it is imposed.
 
Making History (by Andrew Longstreth, American Lawyer) (PDF)
The Feds’ Increasing Focus on the Pharmaceutical Industry (by Eric H. Holder, Jr. and Ethan M. Posner) (PDF)
 
Mukasey, Michael
Previous Attorney General

A native of the Bronx, New York, Michael Mukasey served as the United States Attorney General from November 2007 until the end of the administration of George W. Bush. Mukasey graduated from Columbia College and Yale Law School, where he was on the Board of Editors of the Yale Law Journal.

 
Mukasey served as an Assistant United States Attorney from 1972 to 1976 in New York. From 1975 to 1976 he also served as chief of his district’s Official Corruption Unit. From 1976 to 1987 he was an associate, and then member, of the law firm Patterson, Belknap, Webb & Tyler.
 
In 1988, President Ronald Reagan appointed Mukasey to the US District Court for the Southern District of New York, where he served until 2006, the last six years as chief judge. During that time, Judge Mukasey presided over hundreds of cases, including the trial of Sheik Omar Abdel Rahman and 11 co-defendants charged with conspiring to blow up numerous sites in New York.
 
After retiring from the bench, Mukasey returned to Patterson, Belknap, Webb & Tyler in the firm’s litigation group.
 
Like his predecessors, Ashcroft and Gonzales, Mukasey was a source of controversy. His remarks regarding the legality of waterboarding (see Controversies) almost derailed his confirmation, and while testifying before the Senate, he almost implicated President Bush in the torture scandal. It was also revealed that while serving as a federal judge, Mukasey took advantage of the US Marshals charged with protecting his safety by having them take out the garbage, carry groceries and tote golf clubs.
 
 
 
 


 
 
 
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