Remarks Prepared for Delivery by Attorney General Michael B. Mukasey Before the House Committee on the Judiciary

WASHINGTON, Feb. 7 /PRNewswire-USNewswire/ -- The following prepared remarks were released today by the U.S. Department of Justice: Chairman Conyers , Ranking Members Smith, and Members of the Committee. Thank you for the opportunity to...

WASHINGTON, Feb. 7 /PRNewswire-USNewswire/ -- The following prepared remarks were released today by the U.S. Department of Justice:

Chairman Conyers , Ranking Members Smith, and Members of the Committee. Thank you for the opportunity to testify about the important work being carried out by the men and women of the Department of Justice and for permitting me to highlight key challenges that lie ahead.

In the short time that I have been at the Department, I have confirmed what I had hoped and expected to find: men and women who are talented, committed, and dedicated to fulfilling its historic mission. That mission is to advance justice by defending the interests of the United States according to the law; to protect Americans against foreign and domestic threats; to seek just punishment for those who violate our laws; to assist our State and local partners in combating violent crime and other challenges; and to ensure the fair and impartial administration of justice by protecting the civil rights and liberties that are the birthright of all Americans.

These values are central to the mission of the Department and defining features of our democracy, and I thank the Committee for its efforts to help realize them.

During my tenure, I have sought opportunities to work with Congress to ensure that the Department is provided the statutory tools necessary to fulfill the Department's crucial mandate. I have also sought to keep Congress apprised of the Department's activities and policy positions where possible, and to respond to the Committee's oversight requests in a spirit of inter-branch comity that respects the institutional interests of the Department and Congress. I pledge to maintain this commitment throughout my tenure as Attorney General of the United States .

I would like to focus on two crucial legislative issues pending before the Congress: the impending expiration of the Protect America Act, and the impending effective date of the United States Sentencing Commission's decision to make a wide range of violent drug offenders eligible for a retroactive reduction in their sentence. I hope to work with Members of this Committee to address each of these problems.

As this Committee is aware, the Protect America Act will soon sunset, but threats to our national security will not expire with it. I urge Congress to pass long-term legislation to update the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act (FISA) to ensure that this statute addresses present and emerging threats to our national security. S. 2248, the FISA Amendments Act of 2008, includes tools contained in the Protect America Act that have allowed us to close critical intelligence gaps. In addition, this legislation protects telecommunications companies now under legal assault because they are believed to have responded to the Government's call for assistance in the aftermath of September 11 .

The Protect America Act is set to expire in just days, and it is vital that Congress enact long-term FISA modernization legislation, with retroactive immunity, before that Act expires.

S. 2248, which is a strong bipartisan bill reported out of the Senate Select Committee on Intelligence by a 13-2 margin, is a balanced bill that includes many sound provisions that would allow our Intelligence Community to continue obtaining the information it needs to protect the security of America, while protecting the civil liberties of Americans. Modernization of FISA is a critical part of this vital effort.

The Department would have grave concerns about any legislative proposal that ignores the continuing nature of the terrorist threat and denies the Intelligence Community and law enforcement the long-term statutory tools necessary to defend the United States . The Department respects the oversight authority of Congress, but sunset provisions create uncertainty in the Intelligence Community and stifle the development of stable partnerships necessary to detect, deter, and disrupt threats to our national security.

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