|For Immediate Release
May 3, 2011
Contact: Kim Smith Hicks, 202-225-3951
Statement of Judiciary Committee Chairman Lamar Smith
Oversight Hearing on the U.S. Department of Justice
Chairman Smith: This morning we welcome Attorney General Eric Holder to the Committee for an oversight hearing on the U.S. Department of Justice.
First I would like to thank the Attorney General for supporting the reauthorization of the expiring PATRIOT Act provisions.
I also appreciate his support of a mandatory data retention policy to help law enforcement officials track dangerous pedophiles and keep children safe.
Although he may not want to take credit for this next item, I should also thank the Attorney General for the decision not to try certain terrorists in the U.S. It is the right decision and will ensure justice for the families of the 9-11 victims.
Terrorists remain intent on carrying out their plots to destroy America. The killing of Osama Bin Laden is a significant victory in America’s efforts to combat terrorism. But the terrorist threat does not end with Bin Laden’s death.
In the years since 9-11, al Qaeda has expanded and splintered into smaller groups and rogue terrorists around the world. This makes it harder for us to detect and deter plots against Americans both here at home and abroad.
Despite Sunday’s victory, we cannot afford to leave our intelligence community without the resources it needs to dismantle terrorist organizations, identify threats from groups and individuals, and interrupt terrorist plots. So Congress must reauthorize the PATRIOT Act.
Our laws must keep pace with the evolving terrorist threat, but they must also keep pace with rapidly changing technology.
Nowhere is this more apparent than with the dramatic increase in the proliferation and exchange of child pornography.
Today, pedophiles can purchase, view, or exchange this disturbing material with near impunity. Child pornography on the Internet may be our fastest growing crime, increasing by an average of 150% a year.
Better data retention will assist law enforcement officers with the investigation of child pornography and other Internet-based crimes.
When investigators develop leads that might save a child or apprehend a pornographer, their efforts should not be impeded because vital records were destroyed.
While I appreciate the Department’s support on these important matters, I am concerned that in some cases this administration may have placed political and ideological considerations above enforcing the law.
Earlier this year, the Department abandoned its obligation to defend the Defense of Marriage Act, a federal law enacted by Congress and signed by President Clinton to protect the institution of marriage.
It seems the President’s personal, political views regarding the law may have trumped the obligations of the Department of Justice.
Another example of selective enforcement is the administration’s views when it comes to immigration laws enacted by the states. The Justice Department sued Arizona for enacting a law that mirrors federal immigration law. The administration justifies its actions by claiming that the Arizona law wrongly supersedes federal authority.
But what about a law recently enacted in Utah that creates a guest worker program for illegal immigrants? This undermines federal immigration law and yet the administration has taken no action.
Similarly, the Justice Department refuses to defend Congress’s constitutional authority to determine national drug policy. Marijuana distribution is illegal under federal law, regardless of whether it is used recreationally or medicinally.
But rather than enforce federal drug laws, the Department directed federal prosecutors not to bring charges against marijuana dispensaries in the states that have taken it upon themselves to legalize medical marijuana.
And just last week it was reported that the Department has dropped its criminal probe of a lawyer who admitted leaking classified information on the Terrorist Surveillance Program.
This case should have been a slam dunk for the Department since the attorney admitted to violating the law. But the President’s ideological opposition to the TSP program may have stopped a legitimate criminal investigation.
The Justice Department has a solemn duty to defend the laws of the land as enacted by Congress without politics or prejudice.
I am concerned that there seems to be a pattern of selectively enforcing the law based on the administration’s political ideology.