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eral court system with the opportunity for one definitive consideration of any constitutional questions that might command the attention of the Federal court system, even in a State case.
Senator HATCH. I am going to submit a number of other questions on the habeas corpus issue because I think it is an important issue and one that we have a chance of reforming.
The consolidation of the organized crime strike forces within the U.S. attorneys' offices has caused considerable debate here in our committee and among other circles.
When the Senate turns to the crime legislation in the near future, we are again likely to address this matter. And while we are only a few months past the effective date of December 31, 1989, would you give us, if you can, an evaluation of the consolidation effort so far, and do you have any further plans with respect to this particular reorganization?
Attorney General THORNBURGH. The merger of the strike forces into the U.S. attorneys' offices has gone very smoothly. We have been successful in recruiting almost all of the experienced prosecutors that we wanted to make available within the Department as a strategic reserve to serve those areas that are not served by an organized crime unit in the U.S. attorney's office.
The Organized Crime Council held its first meeting in January. The U.S. attorneys are devising their strategic plans within their districts, which will be sent to the Organized Crime Council for consideration in devising the first national organized crime strategy which will focus not only on the traditional organized crime families, but the new, emerging groups that are, in particular, controlling much of the organized crime drug trafficking-the Medellin and Cali cartels; the Cripps and Bloods gangs centered in Los Angeles; new, emerging Asian organized crime groups; the Jamaican posses, and the like.
And the finishing touches on that strategy, we feel, will give for the first time a national overview of where resources ought to be focused in dealing with the continuing problem of organized crime.
At the same time, the effort has not diminished, as some feared. In fact, in certain areas it has increased. We have had major indictments against the organized crime family in Chicago and in New England, civil action filed under the racketeer-influenced and corrupt organizations statute against the hold that organized crime has had on the waterfront in New York, all of these taken since the first of the year.
My sense is that those involved in the organized crime effort are at a very high level of commitment and enthusiasm about the new format that is being utilized to increase our fire power against organized crime.
Senator HATCH. Thank you, General. We have to make a vote, but I do want to clarify that you endorse the Thurmond approach in S. 1971, as well as the Powell Committee bill with regard to Federal habeas corpus.
Attorney General THORNBURGH. Yes.
The CHAIRMAN. Let me understand that. You endorse the Powell Committee bill, is that correct, in terms of habeas corpus?
Attorney General THORNBURGH. We supported the findings of the Powell Committee and the tenor of the recommendations. We have expressed our support for S. 197—or S.
The CHAIRMAN. Well, the Thurmond-
The CHAIRMAN. The Thurmond bill goes much further than the Powell Commission report. You are aware of that, and you do support that, is that correct?
Attorney General THORNBURGH. That is S.-wait a minute. That is in 1971.
The CHAIRMAN. 1971 is the Thurmond bill, and 1760 is the Powell bill.
Attorney General THORNBURGH. 1760, I am sorry; that is the Powell bill, yes.
The CHAIRMAN. The Powell bill is more in line with what I have proposed. And the Judicial Conference, you are aware, went along and further modified the Powell Commission—the Judicial Conference. You are aware of that?
Attorney General THORNBURGH. Yes.
Attorney General THORNBURGH. We do support Senator Thurmond's bill. I didn't mean to mislead. I was looking at the principles that were embodied in the Powell Committee report.
The CHAIRMAN. I was being more hopeful than was warranted.
Attorney General THORNBURGH. There is always room for discussion.
The CHAIRMAN. I yield to my colleague from Pennsylvania, and will be right back after this vote.
Senator SPECTER. Thank you, Mr. Chairman.
As you know, Mr. Attorney General, when these votes come up back and forth-this is an especially heavy day for the votes with the final day on the Clean Air Act, so that accounts for all of the absences and the returns.
Attorney General THORNBURGH. I don't take it personally.
Mr. Attorney General, I would like to pick up on a point where I ended, and that is on the question of congressional oversight. It seems to us on this end that we don't have very much of it because of the press of other business, and I would be interested in your view.
I do not share the comments which my colleague from Vermont made after I had finished my session. I know the kind of volume of mail you have. When I discuss with you the example, for instance, on the Hastings impeachment matter, I know what happens and how many issues you have, and there are 535 of us in the Congress, although only 14 on this committee.
I would be interested in your own view as to whether you think there is excessive congressional oversight.
Attorney General THORNBURGH. Let me perhaps take a minute to explain how we try to cope with the inquiries that come from 535 Members of the Congress, Senator, because it may be of some interest, and perhaps you would quarrel with our procedure.
I don't read personally every letter that comes to me from the Congress. I hope that is not a revelation, but every day I receive what those persons who process the mail that comes to the Department of Justice from the Congress and elsewhere their judgment as to what significant matters require my personal attention. And I do read those, and they sometimes will number as many as 15 or 20 letters a day.
Senator SPECTER. Are you able to read the letters from the Judiciary Committees, for example?
Attorney General THORNBURGH. It would depend. If it was an inquiry about something routine in nature, it wouldn't necessarily come to me. But if it was a matter of substance, and those are always difficult judgments to make, then it does come to me. And at the end of every day, I receive a rather sizable packet of corre spondence across the board, but the legislative correspondence is always the top on the file. And I look through it and occasionally will scribble some notes on it, and it is then referred for response.
On a matter of particular moment, I would review that response. But, again, I must in all candor tell you I do not review every response. And subject to the judgment of those persons who serve me in the processing of an enormous volume of mail, we try as best we can to be responsive. Obviously, we fall short in some instances, and I have had letters from your colleagues raising again an issue that they felt had been improperly dealt with, and we make every effort to rectify whatever may be the case.
I am not telling you much about the Department of Justice. What I am telling you about is trying to manage an organization of 75,000 employees with an $8 billion-a-year budget, dealing as best we can with 535 very interested, committed, and involved Members of the Congress.
I am not about to tell you that our performance in that respect is perfect, but I do tell you that we make a good-faith effort to perform a kind of triage on the correspondence that brings to my personal attention those matters which require that.
Other matters are referred out to component heads. They will go to the head of the FBI, the DEA, the head of the Criminal Division, the head of the Environmental Division, what have you, for their scrutiny and response.
One of the things that concerned me at the beginning of this year after a year in office was the enormous backlog that we had built up in responding, and I directed that specific steps be taken to reduce that backlog. And I was informed last week that it has been reduced by some 75 percent, and we hope to keep more current on those responses.
But with regard to timeliness and with regard to total responsiveness, no, I don't think we are ever going to perform up to the maximum expectations. But in that I think we are no different from any other institution of government or the private sector which has to deal with an enormous volume of correspondence.
Senator SPECTER. Well, Mr. Attorney General, I understand the problem. When you review the correspondence that I sent to you and that your deputy sent back to me on the Judge Hastings matter, I would be interested in your comment as to whether you think that was adequately handled. I understand your considerations.
Attorney General THORNBURGH. I will be glad to do that, Senator.
Senator SPECTER. Let me turn to the subject of the war on drugs, Mr. Attorney General, and the very considerable allocations of resources which have come from the Congress and the subject as to how, if at all, we might expedite the use of those resources and those moneys.
I compliment your Director of Prisons, Michael Quinlan, on an outstanding job which he is doing. He has been taking a look at the very serious problem of detention facilities, and my request has been to try to have a detention facility in eastern Pennsylvania, hopefully in Philadelphia, like the one which is present in Los Angeles.
I was surprised to find even with my familiarity with the District of Columbia, where I served as chairman of the Appropriations Subcommittee, that there are some 300 prisoners in D.C. jails who are Federal detainees, and the long distances which accompany prisoners who come from upstate New York to come down to Philadelphia.
And I would ask that you would take a look at the detention issue because there is an urgent need for a detention facility for the region which extends as far south as Washington, Baltimore, and Philadelphia.
Attorney General THORNBURGH. It is a serious problem and it is one that we hope to address. There are always siting problems, but I think what Director Quinlan may have told you is that we regard there being a substantial potential in using the Cooperative Agreement Program, which makes Federal funds available to local authorities to build structures and to guarantee us certain access to those, to cut down this travel time which is really becoming an enormous burden on the system.
Senator SPECTER. That is a good program, Mr. Attorney General, and I would invite your attention to the limited funding available there. There is only $25 million there, and last year I offered a floor amendment and got into quite a disagreement with Senator Hollings, who chairs the Appropriations Subcommittee.
That works in some places. There is an application pending, for example, in Green County, PA, an area which you know intimately. But in the allocation of $1.4 billion which we put up for prisons last year, acceding to the President's very, very good request which you had, I know, endorsed, there is very little money in that specific account.
Let me touch another matter which I would like to draw your attention to, and that is on DEA agents. We have put up a considerable sum of money for the Drug Enforcement Agency, and I was surprised, and perhaps you will be, too, to know that Erie, PA, for example, does not have a Drug Enforcement Agency representative in a very tough area with a triangle among Baltimore, Cleveland and Erie.
Nor is there a DEA agent in Newcastle, PA, nor is there a DEA agent in either Allentown—they are in Allentown. I was about to say in Wilkes-Barre or Scranton. I know there is some lag time and this may be a problem as to how fast we can utilize the funds and go through the training period.
But taking my State-and, of course, that is my principal responsibility, and I am sure it is a nationwide issue-when you have major areas like that, it seems to me, on a priority scale where we do have those funds allocated, there ought to be personnel in those locations.
Well, I see my yellow light is up and my colleagues are waiting, so I thank you, Mr. Attorney General. Attorney General THORNBURGH. Thank you.
OPENING STATEMENT OF SENATOR METZENBAUM Senator METZENBAUM. Mr. Attorney General, it is nice to see you again. I am concerned, and I have expressed myself publicly, about the fact that some poor guy in a poor neighborhood steals a $510 Social Security check, maybe forges and cashes just a personal check and violates a Federal law, and that individual winds up going to the slammer.
White collar criminals are involved in acts that sometimes involve tens of millions of dollars, sometimes hundreds of millions of dollars. And I am aware of the fact that you have increased resources in this area. But, frankly, I believe the Department-and I am not making this personal, but I think it is across the boardhas been lenient and weak when it comes to putting white collar criminals behind bars. Frankly, I think that the prosecutors pleabargain away too many charges, and huge corporations get off with pathetically small fines. I have spoken on this subject to bar associations and other places, so it is not a new subject with me.
My question is, Can't you do more than you are doing to send the word out to your prosecutors and people on your staff that plea bargaining and giving an opportunity to do community service, 200 hours of community service, which is really nothing, is really not the way white-collar criminals should be treated? Frankly, if you put some of them away, then a lot of them won't continue some of the actions in which they have been engaged in the past.
That was a lengthy speech and I apologize, but I would like you to address yourself to the subject.
Attorney General THORNBURGH. I share your concerns precisely, Senator. I have addressed myself to it in all-too-lengthy speeches from time to time. We do see a much greater receptivity on the part of judges through an educational process, we hope, to impose these kinds of sentences.
And my expectation is that with the additional resources that we have available and the increased number of cases that indicate the severity of these white collar crime cases as they affect important institutions in our society-business, finance and governmentthat more courts will become attuned to imposing the proper kind of sentences.
I have made it clear to the U.S. attorneys and to their assistants in personal meetings across the country that this is a very high priority for the President and for the Attorney General, and that these crimes should not be taken lightly and that they should be prosecuted to the full extent of the law.
Senator METZENBAUM. And then not plea bargained in the sentence.