FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
TUESDAY, FEBRUARY 25, 2003
TDD (202) 514-1888
STATEMENT OF BARBARA COMSTOCK, DIRECTOR OF PUBLIC AFFAIRS:
"The Justice Department has fully addressed the FISA problems that occurred almost entirely prior to this Administration. This report is old news and inexplicably focuses on the FISA District Court decision that was overturned by the FISA appellate court. In fact, Judge Lamberth, the former Presiding Judge of the FISA Court, stated publicly that 'we consistently find the [FISA] applications "well-scrubbed" by the Attorney General and his staff before they are presented to us,' and that 'the process is working. It is working in part because the Attorney General is conscientiously doing his job, as is his staff.'"
ADDITIONAL BACKGROUND INFORMATION:
The report issued by Senators Leahy, Specter, and Grassley is not an official Judiciary Committee report and has not been endorsed by the Chairman or the majority of the Committee. These minority views recite matters that have already been discussed authoritatively elsewhere and omit information that is essential to any fair and balanced account of the issues, particularly with respect to the question of Congressional oversight.
The report unfairly criticizes the Department of Justice for an alleged lack of responsiveness to Judiciary Committee oversight requests. Since September 11th, 2001 the Attorney General, the FBI Director, and other senior Justice officials have conducted more than 140 classified and unclassified briefings for Congress on FISA, terrorism, FBI reorganization, and related matters. During the three months immediately following the September 11th attacks, the Department and FBI briefed or met with Congressional Members or staff on average more than once a day. From September 2002 through February 2003, there have been more than twenty briefings for the Judiciary and Intelligence Committees on matters related to, or addressed, in the report. Department and FBI officials, often at the most senior levels, testified at 29 formal oversight hearings on these matters since September 11, 2001.
In addition to providing vast numbers of pre-existing documents to Congress, the Department submitted written answers to more than 300 questions for the record, with hundreds of additional questions set forth in sub-parts. The Department has also responded to other inquiries from the Judiciary Committees concerning general Department oversight, intelligence matters, FISA, and the war on terrorism, the answers to which comprise approximately 300 pages.
The report repeats dated criticisms of the FBI for errors contained in 75 FISA applications filed with the FISC between January 1997 and July 2000, but the report never acknowledges the steps taken by the Department to address and improve accuracy which began prior to September 11th through the "Woods Procedures." That omission is puzzling because accuracy was addressed at length in open hearings held by the Senate Judiciary Committee on September 10, 2002.