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U.S. Department of Justice

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Department of Justice
US-DeptOfJustice-Seal.svg
Secretary:Eric Holder
Deputy Secretary:James M. Cole
Annual budget:$31.2 billion (2013)
Total employed:114,347
Year created:1789
Official website:http://www.justice.gov/

FederalAffairsLogo-01.png

Executive Departments of the United States

Executive Departments
Department of DefenseDepartment of StateDepartment of Homeland SecurityDepartment of JusticeDepartment of CommerceDepartment of EducationDepartment of the TreasuryDepartment of AgricultureDepartment of EnergyDepartment of LaborDepartment of TransportationDepartment of the InteriorDepartment of Health and Human ServicesDepartment of Veterans AffairsDepartment of Housing and Urban Development

Department Secretaries
Chuck HagelJohn KerryJeh JohnsonEric HolderPenny PritzkerArne DuncanJack LewTom VilsackErnest MonizTom PerezAnthony FoxxSally JewellSylvia Mathews BurwellRobert McDonaldJulian Castro
The Department of Justice (DoJ) is a United States executive department formed in 1789 to assist the president and cabinet in matters concerning the law and to prosecute Supreme Court cases for the federal government. Edmund Randolph was the first attorney general appointed by President Washington in 1789.[1] The current attorney general is Eric Holder, who was confirmed by the Senate on February 2, 2009.[2]

The Department of Justice currently employs 114,347 people both in the U.S. and abroad.[3] Among the agencies overseen by the department are the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI), Drug Enforcement Agency (DEA), Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives (ATF), U.S. Marshals Service, Bureau of Prisons and Interpol Washington.[4]

History

The Office of the Attorney General was formed under the Judiciary Act of 1789 in order to advise the president on law and to prosecute cases in the Supreme Court.[5] Gradually the office began adding assistants and hiring private lawyers to handle an increasing number of federal cases until 1870, when Congress enacted An Act to Establish the Department of Justice. The department became official on July 1, 1870, and covered all criminal prosecutions and civil suits in which the United States had an interest, became the enforcer of all federal laws and created the office of solicitor general.[5] The foundation of the department is still based on that act, though it has grown into the largest law office and central enforcer of federal laws in the world.[5]

Structure

Mission

The official department mission statement is as follows:

To enforce the law and defend the interests of the United States according to the law; to ensure public safety against threats foreign and domestic; to provide federal leadership in preventing and controlling crime; to seek just punishment for those guilty of unlawful behavior; and to ensure fair and impartial administration of justice for all Americans.[5][6]

Leadership

The attorney general is the top law enforcement officer in the U.S. Attorney General Eric Holder currently holds the position.

Recent Attorney Generals
Attorney General Years in office Nominated by Confirmation vote
Janet Reno 1993-2001 Bill Clinton 98-0
John Ashcroft 2001-2005 George W. Bush 58-42
Alberto Gonzalez 2005-2007 George W. Bush 60-36
Michael Mukasey 2007-2009 George W. Bush 53-40
Eric Holder 2009-Present Barack Obama 75-21


Note: Votes marked "N/A" represent voice votes or unrecorded votes. Missing votes will be filled as they are researched.

Organizational chart

DOJ org chart.jpg

Issues

Obama administration

Ex-felon voting rights

On February 11, 2014, Holder urged states to repeal or amend laws prohibiting ex-felons from voting. While the federal government cannot force the changes, Holder stated, "Whenever we tell citizens who have paid their debts and rejoined their communities that they are not entitled to take part in the democratic process, we fall short of the bedrock promise – of equal opportunity and equal justice – that has always served as the foundation of our legal system." Republican Sen. Rand Paul supported the push by the Justice Department, claiming, "There are Republicans on our side who will work with Democrats who will do the right thing on this."[7]

Same-sex marriage

On February 10, 2014, Holder announced increased protection of same-sex spouses, including equal treatment as opposite-sex spouses in "court proceedings, prison visitation and law-enforcement benefit programs even in states that don’t recognize same-sex marriages."[8] The benefits covered the 34 states in which same-sex marriages are not recognized at the state level, but they only apply to situations in which the federal government has jurisdiction. Holder stated in a memo, "It is the (Justice Department's) policy to recognize lawful same-sex marriages as broadly as possible, to ensure equal treatment for all members of society regardless of sexual orientation."[9]

Mandatory minimum sentencing


Holder explains the changes to the justice system.

On August 12, 2013, Holder announced a directive to federal prosecutors lowering the number of convictions that mandate minimum sentences. Holder's directive stated the mandatory minimum sentences for low-level, non-violent drug offenders have been a contributing factor in the prison population that has grown 800% since 1980.[10] The "Smart on Crime" initiative has five main principles which the plan claimed will help the Department of Justice "become both smarter and tougher on crime." The five principles are as follows:[11]

  • Prioritize prosecutions to focus on most serious cases
  • Reform sentencing to eliminate unfair disparities and reduce overburdened prisons
  • Pursue alternatives to incarceration for low-level, non-violent crimes
  • Improve reentry to curb repeat offenses and re-victimization
  • 'Surge' resources to violence prevention and protecting most vulnerable populations

Silk Road

On October 2, 2013, the Justice Department announced the seizure of the black market website, Silk Road, where users coordinated drug trafficking and other illegal activities using digital currency. The criminal complaint listed the total estimated transactions on the website at about $1.2 billion.[12] Ross William Ulbright was arrested as the alleged site owner. According to an FBI spokesperson, "basically he made a simple mistake and we were able to identify him."[13]

On May 19, 2014, the DOJ announced an investigation stemming from the Silk Road drug bust into the use of the crypto-currency Bitcoin and its involvement in the Silk Road drug trade. The Mt. Gox bitcoin exchange, one of the world most popular exchanges, was issued subpoenas for customer transaction logs and information about the solicitation of investors to determine if the exchange was involved with the Silk Road drug exchange. The exchange filed for Chapter 15 bankruptcy shortly after halting exchanges on February 15, 2014. The DOJ suggested that the exchange of federal currency for the crypto-currency could fall under money laundering laws in the United States.[14] Charles Shrem and Robert Faiella, in charge of separate Bitcoin exchanges were charged with money laundering in January 2014, allegedly dealing with the Silk Road drug exchange.[15]

Texas voting rights

A U.S. Supreme Court decision on June 25, 2013, released 16 jurisdictions from federal voting rights oversight set in place by the Voting Rights Act of 1965. The Court's decision required Congress to pass new standards of determining which jurisdictions should have federal oversight.[16] After the decision was made, Texas officials stated a previously blocked Voter ID law would be enforced.[17]

On July 25, Holder announced the Department of Justice would attempt to regain oversight by using another section of the Voting Rights Act, known as bail-in. If the Department can provide evidence of unconstitutional voting practices in the state to federal courts, oversight can be restored. However, it would not have the strength or coverage of the original legislation. Holder also pushed Congress to reimpose clear guidelines for jurisdictions needing federal oversight.[17]

The Justice Department announced on August 22, that it would challenge Texas' Voter ID law as well as the redistricting plan passed by the Republican majority legislature in separate cases.[18] In a statement released, Holder said, "We will not allow the Supreme Court’s recent decision to be interpreted as open season for states to pursue measures that suppress voting rights. The Department will take action against jurisdictions that attempt to hinder access to the ballot box, no matter where it occurs. We will keep fighting aggressively to prevent voter disenfranchisement."[19] The Department announced they would also challenge a law passed in North Carolina which includes voter ID language.[18]

Controversies

Obama administration

Chinese military hacking charges

On May 19, 2014, the Justice Department charged five members of the Chinese military of hacking into the systems of U.S. companies and a union. U.S. Steel Corp., Allegheny Technologies, Inc., Westinghouse Electric Co., Alcoa, Inc., Solar World Industries American, Inc. and the United Steel, Paper and Forestry, Rubber, Manufacturing, Energy, Allied Industrial and Service Workers International Union (USW) were the alleged targets of the hacking operation aimed at uncovering trade secrets. The indictment, based on the judgement of a grand jury in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania named five individuals for conspiracy to commit computer fraud and abuse. They were Wang Dong, Sun Kailiang, Wen Xinyu, Huang Zhenyu and Gu Chunhui.[20]

Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesperson Qin Gang disputed the claims, stating, "The Chinese government, the Chinese military and their relevant personnel have never engaged or participated in cyber theft of trade secrets. The U.S. accusation against Chinese personnel is purely ungrounded and absurd."[21] The Chinese government demanded that the charges be withdrawn and announced their intention to suspend their involvement in the U.S.-China Cyber Working Group. The group was formed in 2013 by Secretary of State John Kerry and Chinese Foreign Minister Wang Yi to address the accusations of hacking between the two countries.[20]

Operation Fast and Furious

From 2009-2011, the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives (ATF) ran Operation Fast and Furious, intended to get guns into the black market and sold to Mexican drug cartels. The guns were to be tracked, allowing the ATF to halt drug trafficking and catch the traffickers along the U.S.-Mexico border. The operation was part of an overarching border patrol initiative, Project Gunrunner, run by the U.S. Department of Justice "to combat Mexico-based trafficking groups." However, an estimated 1,400 guns were lost in the operation. A total of 34 trafficking suspects were indicted.On December 14, 2010, about a month before the end of Operation Fast and Furious, Border Patrol Agent Brian Terry was killed in Arizona and two guns from the operation were found near his body.[22]

Holder testified before Congress on May 3, 2011, stating he, "probably heard about Fast and Furious for the first time over the last few weeks." Sens. Chuck Grassley and Darrell Issa have led the investigations into the scandal, and subpoenas were issued to the Justice Department on October 12, 2011, in order to secure documents between the White House and the Department regarding Operation Fast and Furious.[23]

On June 20, 2012, President Barack Obama used his executive privilege over documents sought by the congressional investigative committee, saving Holder from possible charges in the investigation. On June 28, 2012, the House voted to hold Holder in contempt for failure to disclose the documents.[22] It was the first time in U.S. history a sitting cabinet member was held in contempt by Congress.[24]

The House Oversight Committee filed a civil lawsuit over the documents on August 13, 2012.[22] Holder asked U.S. District Court Judge Amy Burman Jackson for the case to be dismissed on September 30, 2013, which she denied. Holder requested an immediate appeal, which was turned down November 18, 2013.[25]

Congressional impeachment measures

On October 5, 2013, Rep. Ted Yoho, (R-FL) announced a House Republican attempt to impeach Attorney General Eric Holder by the end of 2013.[26] Yoho's Chief of Staff responded to an inquiry about the motion for impeachment, stating, "Obviously there is a lot frustration with our attorney general. You can name the botched programs. Fast and Furious has been one of the number one complaints we get in our office and why no one has been held accountable."

On November 14, 2013, 20 House Republicans signed a proposal calling for the impeachment of Holder. The leader of the group, Rep. Pete Olson, stated, "For nearly five years, Attorney General Holder has systematically deceived Congress and destroyed the credibility of the Justice Department in the eyes of the American people."[27]

Only one cabinet member has been impeached in the nation's history, Secretary of War William Belknap in 1876. He was impeached by the House and acquitted by the Senate when he chose to resign.[28]

DEA use of hidden evidence

A Reuters report released August 5, 2013, revealed a connection in the use of evidence gathered by the National Security Agency (NSA) for the purpose of anti-terrorism and evidence used in Drug Enforcement Agency (DEA) investigations.[29] Using evidence gathered by the NSA, the DEA created what is called "parallel construction" by the DEA's Special Operations Division. The parallel construction allowed the DEA to form an investigation based on NSA evidence but act as if the investigation began on a smaller charge initiated by the DEA or other law enforcement.[30] Defense lawyers believe the tactic could be in violation of pretrial law because it essentially hides the evidence that began the investigation.[29]

On August 26, 2013, eight Democrats and two Republicans requested Holder answer questions about the process in a classified briefing. Sens. Tammy Baldwin (D-WI), Ron Wyden (D-OR), Tom Udall (D-NM), Richard Blumenthal (D-CT) and Sherrod Brown (D-OH) signed a letter stating, "These allegations raise serious concerns that gps in the policy and law are allowing overreach by the federal government's intelligence gathering apparatus." House Republican Bob Goodlatte stated, "I think we need to have a very careful examination of this. I think that the trust of the American people in their government is what's at stake here."[30]

Drone strikes

Predator drone in 2011

On May 22, 2013, Holder acknowledged in a letter to Senate Judiciary Committee Chairman Patrick Leahy that four United States citizens have been killed in unmanned droned strikes since 2009. One of those citizens, Anwar al-Awlaki, was targeted, but three others were not targeted by the strikes.[31] Attention to drone strikes was greatly increased when U.S. Senator Rand Paul filibustered the nomination of John Brennan to CIA Director, lasting nearly 13 hours, with concerns of the government's use of unmanned drones and asking for clarification.

On May 20, 2014, the DOJ announced the secret 2011 memo allowing the legal killing of American terrorism suspects would be released. The department opted not to appeal a court order to release the memo to the public. Both democrats and Republicans in the Senate claimed they would fight the nomination of federal judge David J. Barron if the information was not released to the public. The U.S. Court of Appeals overturned a ruling that the Central Intelligence Agency and U.S. Department of Defense did not have to answer FOIA requests for the documents allowing the drone strikes.[32]

Wiretapping journalists

Over a two month period, federal prosecutors obtained phone records of Associated Press journalists, their headquarters and offices in New York, Hartford, Washington, and the House of Representatives during an investigation in early 2012 of leaked, sensitive information. The AP released a story in May 2012, which is believed to be linked to the wiretapping, connecting a CIA counterterrorism operation in Yemen to the killing of Osama bin Laden in May 2011. At least 20 phone lines were believed to be monitored by federal prosecutors with the Department of Justice.[33]

On May 19, 2013, another case of federal investigators wiretapping journalists was uncovered when a Fox News employee, James Rosen, had his personal email correspondence seized in relation to a story published on June 11, 2009. The investigation into leaked documents from the State Department's Stephen Jin-Woo Kim, led them to Rosen through phone and email communication leading up to the publishing of Rosen's story.[34] In the affidavit, an FBI agent named Rosen a "co-conspirator" under the Espionage Act in order to obtain the warrant. All correspondence with Kim was seized along with two additional days of personal correspondence. Fox News also claimed the Justice Department seized several phone records, including one listed as Rosen's parents.[35]

The U.S. Attorney's Office for the District of Columbia released a statement on May 22, 2013 denying the use of wiretaps on phones and the seizure of any computer records of any news organization.[36]

IRS targeting

On May 10, 2013, news broke that various branches of the Internal Revenue Service had specifically targeted conservative groups' applications for tax-exempt status. It began during the tea party surge in 2010. The agency was separating tax-exempt applications by searching for political terms such as "tea party" and "patriot." In June 2011, an IRS official was briefed on these transgressions and asked that this practice end. The flagging continued, however, when the criteria was changed in January 2012 to look out for groups educating on the Constitution and the Bill of Rights.[37]

The targeting included allegations that tea party groups were forced to provide information not asked of other tax exempt groups. Examples of this were requests for donor information, Facebook posts, resumes and political intentions of group officials and connections to other groups.[38][39]

Testifying on May 15, Holder promised a criminal investigation spearheaded by the FBI and federal prosecutors into the Cincinnati office that has been blamed for the extra attention paid to conservative organizations, but he made it clear that the investigation would span more than just Cincinnati in order to find out where the "enforcement gaps" in the IRS's policies lie. Holder also added that groups paying for legal representation during the controversy would be reimbursed for legal costs.[40]

On May 16, IRS Commissioner Steven Miller announced his resignation. He still testified at the hearings the next day.[41] Lois Lerner, the head of the tax-exempt organizations division throughout the targeting scandal retired on September 23, 2013, when an IRS review board informed her she would be removed from her position due to "neglect of duties."[42]

In January 2014, the FBI announced no criminal charges would be filed over the IRS targeting scandal unless new evidence came to light.[43] On April 9, 2014, emails from Lerner, expressing her interest in denying the Crossroads GPS 501(c)(4) tax-exempt status, were released to the public, and a letter was sent by the House Ways and Means Committee urging prosecutors to hold Lerner accountable. Fourteen committee democrats voted against sending the letter with Rep. Sandy Levin stating the intention of the letter was to "declare this a scandal and keep it going until November."[44]

On May 7, 2014, the U.S. House voted to hold Lois Lerner in contempt of Congress due to her refusal to answer questions during her hearing. The criminal contempt charge carries a jail sentence and fine, but the Justice Department must first decide whether or not to pursue the charge. If the department opts not to pursue the charge, the House can bring up a civil suit demanding Lerner to testify or face time in jail. Lerner would not necessarily be forced to testify if the criminal charge is pursued.[45]

The House Oversight and Government Reform Committee received information from the Justice Department that the IRS provided the FBI with a 1.1 million page database of information on tax-exempt organizations. The files, announced by the committee on June 9, 2014, were to be used by the FBI to investigate the political activity of the tax-exempt organizations. In a letter to IRS Commissioner John Koskinen, Reps. Darrell Issa (R-CA) and Jim Jordan (R-OH) wrote, "We were extremely troubled by this new information, and by the fact that the IRS has withheld it from the committee for over a year. We were astonished to learn days ago from the Justice Department that these 21 disks contained confidential taxpayer information protected by federal law." The IRS claimed most of the information was publicly available with the exception of 33 organizations for which it accidentally released non-public information to the FBI. Republican representatives are looking into whether any wrongdoing occurred.[46]

The House Ways and Means Committee announced on June 13, 2014, that emails from Lerner between January 2009 and April 2011 to those outside of the IRS were lost due to a computer crash. Koskinen promised all documentation from Lerner would be handed over for investigation, but it was revealed in a letter that emails from that period could not be found. Chairman Dave Camp (R-MI) released a response, stating, "The Administration has repeatedly referred us back to the IRS for production of materials. It is clear that is wholly insufficient when it comes to determining the full scope of the violation of taxpayer rights." Chairman of the Oversight Subcommittee Charles Boustany, Jr., (D-LA) questioned the administration's transparency claiming, "This is not the transparency promised to the American people. If there is no smidgeon of corruption what is the Administration hiding?"[47]

Analysis

Budget

Obama administration

U.S. Department of Justice Annual Budget
YearBudget (in billions)% Difference from previous year
2014$31.82.58%
2013$31.0-5.78%
2012$32.98.22%
2011$30.4-0.33%
2010$30.56.64%
2009$28.6N/A
  • Note: 2014 only represents the Department's budget request, not an enacted budget.

Employment

The Best Places to work in the Federal Government is a website that tracks workforce trends in federal agencies. According to their analysis, from 2005-2011, the Department of Justice has added an average of 1,150 jobs per year.[48]

Sequester

The Department of Justice's budget was cut by $1.6 billion due to sequestration beginning in March 2013. No furloughs were ordered for civilian employees.[49][50]

Recent news

This section displays the most recent stories in a Google news search for the term U.S. + Department + Justice

All stories may not be relevant to this page due to the nature of the search engine.

U.S. Department of Justice News Feed

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See also

External links

References

  1. U.S. Department of Justice, "Edmund Jennings Randolph," accessed August 22, 2013
  2. New York Times, "Holder Is Confirmed as Attorney General," February 2, 2009
  3. Department of Justice, "U.S. Department of Justice Overview" accessed August 22, 2013
  4. Department of Justice, "Department of Justice Agencies," accessed August 22, 2013
  5. 5.0 5.1 5.2 5.3 Department of Justice, "About DOJ," accessed August 22, 2013
  6. Note: This text is quoted verbatim from the original source. Any inconsistencies are attributed to the original source.
  7. Christian Science Monitor, "Eric Holder: Barring ex-felons from voting is unfair, counterproductive," February 11, 2014
  8. Politico, "Eric Holder to accord more recognition to same-sex couples," February 12, 2013
  9. CNN, "U.S. expands legal benefits, services for same-sex marriages," February 10, 2014
  10. NBC News, "Holder: 'New approach' to reduce mandatory drug sentences," August 12, 2013
  11. Department of Justice, "Smart on Crime: Reforming The Criminal Justice System for the 21st Century," August 12, 2013
  12. Time, "Feds Raid Online Drug Market Silk Road," October 2, 2013
  13. Forbes, "End Of The Silk Road: FBI Busts The Web's Biggest Anonymous Drug Black Market," October 2, 2013
  14. Wall Street Journal, "Bitcoin Exchanges Probed Over Shuttered Drug Market," May 19, 2014
  15. Wall Street Journal, "Two Charged in Alleged Bitcoin-Laundering Scheme," January 27, 2014
  16. Miami Herald, "A guide to voting rights lawsuits in Texas," July 25, 2013
  17. 17.0 17.1 New York Times, "U.S. Asks Court to Limit Texas on Ballot Rules," July 25, 2013
  18. 18.0 18.1 Washington Post, "Justice Department will challenge Texas Voter ID law," August 22, 2013
  19. Department of Justice, "Justice Department to File New Lawsuit Against State of Texas Over Voter I.D. Law," August 22, 2013
  20. 20.0 20.1 Wall Street Journal, "U.S. Charges Five in Chinese Army With Hacking," May 19, 2014
  21. L.A. Times, "China blasts 'absurd' U.S. charges of cyber-espionage," May 19, 2014
  22. 22.0 22.1 22.2 CNN, "Operation Fast and Furious Fast Facts," August 27, 2013
  23. Fox News, "Issa Issues Subpoena to Holder in Fast and Furious Investigation," October 12, 2011
  24. New York Times, "House Finds Holder in Contempt Over Inquiry on Guns," June 28, 2012
  25. Politico, "Judge won't allow Holder appeal now in contempt case," November 18, 2013
  26. Roll Call, "Resolution to Impeach Holder Being Drafted, Yoho Says," November 6, 2013
  27. The Hill, "Twenty House Republicans call for Holder impeachment," November 14, 2013
  28. Huffington Post, "Ted Yoho Tells Of Republican Plan To Impeach Eric Holder," November 7, 2013
  29. 29.0 29.1 Reuters, "Exclusive: U.S. directs agents to cover up program used to investigate Americans," August 5, 2013
  30. 30.0 30.1 Reuters, "Holder pressed on U.S. drug agency use of hidden data evidence," August 26, 2013
  31. Fox News, "Four Americans killed since 2009 in drone strikes, Holder says," May 22, 2013
  32. Washington Post, "U.S. to reveal justification for drone strikes against American citizens," May 20, 2014
  33. News Day, "AP files complaint over federal wiretaps," May 13, 2013
  34. Washington Post, "A rare peek into a Justice Department leak probe," May 19, 2013
  35. Fox News, "DOJ seized phone records for Fox News numbers, reporter's parents," May 23, 2013
  36. Huffington Post, "DOJ: We Did Not Wiretap Reporters' Phones," May 22, 2013
  37. USA Today, "IRS knew of Tea Party profiling in 2011, report shows," accessed May 16, 2013
  38. Politico, "The IRS wants YOU- to share everything," accessed May 16, 2013
  39. Washington Post, "IRS officials in Washington were involved in targeting of conservative groups," accessed May 16, 2013
  40. Los Angeles Times, "Holder pledges to probe IRS handling of conservative groups," May 15, 2013
  41. CNN, "'Angry' Obama announces IRS leader's ouster after conservatives targeted," accessed May 16, 2013
  42. Wall Street Journal, "Lois Lerner, at Center of IRS Investigation, Retires," September 23, 2013
  43. Reuters, "FBI doesn't plan charges over IRS scrutiny of Tea Party: WSJ," January 13, 2014
  44. Time, "Emails Point to IRS Official’s Role in Targeting Conservative Groups," April 9, 2014
  45. Politico, "Republicans dare White House to ignore Lerner contempt," May 7, 2014
  46. Wall Street Journal, "IRS Sent FBI Database on Nonprofit Groups in 2010, GOP Lawmakers Say," June 9, 2014
  47. Ways and Means Committee, "IRS Claims to Have Lost Over 2 Years of Lerner Emails," June 13, 2014
  48. The Best Places to work in the Federal Government, "Agency Report: Department of Justice," accessed August 22, 2013
  49. Department of Justice, "Notice to Vendors Regarding Sequestration," accessed August 22, 2013
  50. Government Executive, "Furlough Watch: Agency-by-Agency Impacts of Sequestration," May 30, 2013