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In many cases, the end of the year gives you time to step back and take stock of the last 12 months. This is when many of us take a hard look at what worked and what did not, complete performance reviews, and formulate plans for the coming year. For me, it is all of those things plus a time when I u...
SYS-CON.TV
Transcript of Reporters Roundtable Discussion With Attorney General Michael B. Mukasey

WASHINGTON, Dec. 3 /PRNewswire-USNewswire/ -- The following is a transcript of a reporters roundtable discussion with Attorney General Michael B. Mukasey:

10:35 A.M. EST

ATTORNEY GENERAL MUKASEY: Good morning.

QUESTION: Good morning.

ATTORNEY GENERAL MUKASEY: Nice crowd.

QUESTION: How do you feel?

QUESTION: Yeah. We want to take your blood pressure.

(Laughter.)

ATTORNEY GENERAL MUKASEY: Shall I pass out now or --

(Laughter.)

ATTORNEY GENERAL MUKASEY: -- I'm fine, thank you. I really am.

QUESTION: Well, I suppose we should get it past us, but what happened?

ATTORNEY GENERAL MUKASEY: What happened? What happened was I got down to the last paragraph of my speech and the lights went out. I mean, I don't want to dwell on this for the whole of the time any more than you want me to, but I then woke up, realized what had happened, was absolutely mortified because I asked somebody whether the people were still in the room. The lights were dim. It was obvious people were still in the room. There was dead silence. And it was clear that I had traumatized the whole room full of people who had come for a nice evening and were witnessing God knows what. And then that was that.

I mean, you know, then I got hauled off to the hospital much against my will, kept asking for my glasses. Finally, somebody got them for me, and I spent the rest of the evening arguing with the doctors about when I was going to get out.

(Laughter.)

QUESTION: Do you think it was just fatigue, working too hard?

ATTORNEY GENERAL MUKASEY: Pardon?

QUESTION: Do you think it was fatigue, just working too hard?

ATTORNEY GENERAL MUKASEY: No. It was not fatigue from working too -- I don't -- look, the short of it is, I don't know what it was. I have a deal with the doctors. They don't practice law, I don't practice medicine. I'm sorry it happened under the circumstances. Nothing I can do to change that.

QUESTION: Mumbai. Can you give us your assessment of the situation as it is and offer whatever guidance you can at this point?

ATTORNEY GENERAL MUKASEY: I can't. I mean, it's obviously a horrible incident, a horrific incident, nothing we ever want to see happen here. And to the extent it's an object lesson, it's an object lesson in maintaining vigilance and in the need for surveillance, electronic surveillance and other kinds of surveillance and the need for protection.

QUESTION: Do you think that at this point from what you know, are you getting the kind of cooperation or is the FBI getting the level of cooperation that would allow them to gather evidence that would allow you to bring charges in the United States against the surviving member of the attack team or others who may be involved in the conspiracy?

ATTORNEY GENERAL MUKASEY: I don't yet have that level of detail and I don't think I could share it if I had it. I know -- I mean, I can confirm finally that the FBI is over there, that they're working with the Indian police on gathering evidence.

QUESTION: Why is the FBI there?

ATTORNEY GENERAL MUKASEY: To provide assistance, and to gather evidence.

QUESTION: What was the -- I assume there was a request, obviously, from the Indian government. What was the nature of the request? What did they want?

ATTORNEY GENERAL MUKASEY: I don't know what the nature was of the request.

QUESTION: As a general matter, inasmuch as six Americans died there, do you have a desire that some charges eventually be brought by U.S. authorities?

ATTORNEY GENERAL MUKASEY: It's not a question of my desire. We have jurisdiction.

QUESTION: You do have jurisdiction?

ATTORNEY GENERAL MUKASEY: I believe we have jurisdiction over violence committed against Americans in connection with acts of terrorism like this.

QUESTION: Is the FBI also working with the Pakistani government to --

ATTORNEY GENERAL MUKASEY: I can't comment on that.

QUESTION: Is there any indication at this point that the people involved in the attack in Mumbai had any contact with people in the U.S. in furtherance of this act?

ATTORNEY GENERAL MUKASEY: I can't comment on that either.

QUESTION: But is that something you're looking into?

ATTORNEY GENERAL MUKASEY: The FBI is looking into whatever evidence it can get.

QUESTION: Was there any indication before this happened, did you have any intelligence or any chatter? Was anything heard that would tip us off that this was coming?

ATTORNEY GENERAL MUKASEY: I can't comment on that.

QUESTION: Beyond the generalized need for vigilance -- and I realize it's quite early yet, but are there any other lessons to be learned from this? For example, about the need for private facilities like hotels to maintain greater security? Or is that just an impossible?

ATTORNEY GENERAL MUKASEY: It's impossible to fully protect every target. Total security is an impossibility. You try to anticipate and to get the best, essentially the best in the way of intelligence that you can get so that you can anticipate where the events might occur and provide security in those places. But you can't provide universal security.

QUESTION: One of the things that's been sort of dramatic about this is that it appears that some Indian security forces, police forces, didn't really do anything. They were -- they felt afraid or didn't have enough training. Are you confident that that would not be the reaction here?

ATTORNEY GENERAL MUKASEY: I'm confident that the people who respond to events like this in the United States are well trained, well disciplined and well able to respond fully. As far as the performance of the Indian authorities, I'm not in a position to comment on that.

QUESTION: General, the President and the President-elect have both mentioned this notion of transitions being periods of vulnerability. Your thoughts on that and the need to be vigilant during this upcoming few months?

ATTORNEY GENERAL MUKASEY: My thoughts on that are that, and I think experience bears this out, that terrorist groups strike when they're ready to strike. We are doing everything we can to provide for a smooth transition. We are keeping in place the continuation of operations plan of the Justice Department such that every essential position is filled so that we don't fall into a situation where there's a gap.

But that said, I think that terrorist groups strike when they believe the moment is right, not when -- not according to the calendar, the political calendar or any other calendar that we follow.

QUESTION: And I guess a very quick follow-up, your assessment of the nature of the threat right now as we speak?

ATTORNEY GENERAL MUKASEY: The nature of --

QUESTION: Of terrorism.

ATTORNEY GENERAL MUKASEY: -- the threat? The nature of the threat is what it's been, which is that there are a lot of people out there who, if they had a refrigerator to post the list on, would put at the top of their list: strike American interests and the interests of those allied with the United States wherever they can.

QUESTION: Is there any indication that the group that's suspect of the attacks, the LeT, is planning attacks of Indian allies or outside of India?

ATTORNEY GENERAL MUKASEY: I can't comment on that.

QUESTION: Mr. Attorney General, we've been reading some of your correspondence with the chief of police in New York.

ATTORNEY GENERAL MUKASEY: You have?

QUESTION: Would you --

ATTORNEY GENERAL MUKASEY: A former Secretary of State once said gentlemen don't read one another's correspondence.

QUESTION: -- good enough. Could you give us an update on where that situation stands and whether or not there's any cause for concern? Is there anything could be missed or anything like that?

ATTORNEY GENERAL MUKASEY: As far as I know, that situation is at rest.

QUESTION: At rest?

ATTORNEY GENERAL MUKASEY: Yes.

QUESTION: What does that mean?

ATTORNEY GENERAL MUKASEY: Which means that we continue to work well with the NYPD through the Joint Terrorism Task Force as we do with other police departments. New York City provides valuable information to us and we do to them.

QUESTION: Have you met with Eric Holder yet?

ATTORNEY GENERAL MUKASEY: Not yet.

QUESTION: Would you like to?

ATTORNEY GENERAL MUKASEY: I'm certainly -- I certainly think it's going to happen.

QUESTION: But it hasn't been set up?

ATTORNEY GENERAL MUKASEY: It hasn't been set up yet.

QUESTION: Do you know him at all?

ATTORNEY GENERAL MUKASEY: I don't know him. I know people who know him. I know he's served in this building, which since I haven't served in this building (inaudible) to the extent that (inaudible) there may be some things to unlearn. He's had a lot of experience. He's a good lawyer.

QUESTION: But in your meeting with him, generally speaking, what are you going to try to impress upon him? What are some of the areas that you feel necessary to communicate?

ATTORNEY GENERAL MUKASEY: I think what I'm going to tell him in my meeting with him is best told in my meeting with him and not anticipated --

QUESTION: We won't tell him.

(Laughter.)

ATTORNEY GENERAL MUKASEY: -- just tell everybody else.

QUESTION: Before he received the nomination, he had been an outspoken advocate for more federal involvement with state and local law enforcement, sort of re-funding grants like the COPS program and so on, just saying that this whole attitude towards national security didn't have to be terrorism versus local law enforcement, but could be seen sort of one animal.

What's your take on that?

ATTORNEY GENERAL MUKASEY: First of all, whatever polices the new administration pursues are for the new administration to decide. But I think you will find, as I have, that it is one animal. We do work very strongly with the state and locals on a whole array of topics, including terrorism. We've cracked a number of terrorism cases with the assistance of state and locals that have begun with a state cop pulling over a car, and lo and behold, a terrorism case. And I think you'll find that that is already in place. What tweaks they choose to make in programs are really their decision.

QUESTION: You said the building had changed since Eric Holder worked here. Can you tell us a little bit --

ATTORNEY GENERAL MUKASEY: Well, the National Security Division, for example, did not exist at the time that he was here, and various responsibilities have been transferred to it that existed elsewhere. And so I think that's a substantial change.

QUESTION: If the transition team -- in here now it will have access to the memos by the Office of Legal Counsel?

ATTORNEY GENERAL MUKASEY: Without getting into particular things that they've requested, they are getting as much as they can, as quickly as they can and one of the things that we need to do when, and particularly as to OLC, which you referred to, they don't simply get issued just for the heck of it. They get issued generally at the request of another agency and so, there's bound to be another agency that has its own equity or interest in the information. And so what we try to do is determine whether, and to what extent, we can clear that information and try to do it as quickly as we can so as to get it to the transition team so that they're aware of all the things that they need when they take over on the 21st.

QUESTION: So, for instance, if something were classified or a DOD or a CIA matter, it might involve additional layers of negotiation.

ATTORNEY GENERAL MUKASEY: That's another, that raises another issue, which is that people on the transition team are not yet themselves members of government and classification is a whole separate layer.

QUESTION: Quick question on the surveillance. Do you think the state of our surveillance techniques would have picked up something like the Indian attack in advance? Are you satisfied that they would've? If that attack was going to happen in the United States?

ATTORNEY GENERAL MUKASEY: I can't conjecture in that way, I really can't.

QUESTION: But it really goes to whether you're satisfied with the techniques that are now in place.

ATTORNEY GENERAL MUKASEY: The techniques that are now in place are, the President has said that the revision of, the 2008 revision of the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act has put in place all of the surveillance techniques that we need to keep us safe. And that's good enough for me.

QUESTION: Just to get back to the transition for a second. You said, the fact that the transition people are not yet members of government makes a difference. We've been told that there was extensive security clearances before the election. So, are you saying even people with Top Secret security clearances who are on the transition team may not have access to some things because they are not yet part of the government?

ATTORNEY GENERAL MUKASEY: That's a possibility. It's an abstract possibility and I don't want to get into --

QUESTION: I guess what I'm wondering is, are there documents that the President-elect's people will not see until January 20th?

ATTORNEY GENERAL MUKASEY: There may very well be.

QUESTION: Has your term here, while it's not up, can you give us a sense of what the highlights and the lowlights have been in this past year?

ATTORNEY GENERAL MUKASEY: Other than this one. This of course is one of the highlights.

QUESTION: Yeah, sure.

ATTORNEY GENERAL MUKASEY: As I think I told you previously, I don't do a sort of on-going highlights film, or lowlights film. When I got here, I said that my top priorities were going to be national security and then, in no particular order, civil rights enforcement, violent crime enforcement, including drugs, guns and gangs, public corruption and the Southwest Border. And I think we've made some progress, and I've tried to push in each of those areas.

One of the highlights, if you want to call it a highlight, certainly has been the satisfaction of working with the intelligence community and with Congress on getting the revision of, 2008 revision of the FISA bill passed. And also, on putting in place consolidated FBI guidelines that allow the Bureau to function as a fully functioning member of the intelligence community and to do its work in a more orderly way.

QUESTION: And those took effect two days ago, Monday.

ATTORNEY GENERAL MUKASEY: Right.

QUESTION: Okay. And no chance that they'd be subject to rollback by the new administration under regulatory procedures?

ATTORNEY GENERAL MUKASEY: That's really up to the new administration. They went into effect.

QUESTION: Let me ask you a little bit about the subject you wrote about in The Wall Street Journal on the day that you upstaged yourself. The -- because we're going to face, obviously, both presidential candidates said they wanted to close Guantanamo. Eric Holder's talked about it. The incoming President has talked about it, so what's the right way to do this and what does Congress need to do? How does Congress need to contribute?

ATTORNEY GENERAL MUKASEY: I think what I've urged is that Congress pass legislation to help us deal with habeas corpus procedures in a way that allows the use of classified information in a fair way and yet in a way that protects the classification of that information.

The President, himself, has said he wants to close Guantanamo, but he wants to do it in a responsible way that doesn't result in the compromise of the security of this country. But Congress can contribute, certainly, by passing legislation that allows at least for uniform standards in habeas cases so that we don't get a widespread of cases with resulting appeals with yet more delay of the sort that was condemned by the Supreme Court.

QUESTION: If closing Guantanamo requires the release of more people who are there, do you think the United States, or the administration, should remain opposed to the release of any of them into the U.S.? Or should that be on a case by case basis?

ATTORNEY GENERAL MUKASEY: I think that the records of the Guantanamo detainees, in the large, reflect that they are not people who should be released into the United States.

QUESTION: But doesn't it make it hard for the U.S. to ask other countries to accept them if we're not willing to accept any of them ourselves?

ATTORNEY GENERAL MUKASEY: It may make it hard. There are techniques that can be used in foreign countries to keep these people in a situation that doesn't threaten the security either of this country or of their own.

QUESTION: General, if it came down to it, could probable members of Al Qaeda who are currently being housed in Gitmo, could the civil system, could the American court system, federal court system, deal with it? Or would you prefer now not to fight with them?

ATTORNEY GENERAL MUKASEY: Before I got here, I wrote a column on the unsuitability of Article 3 courts to deal with terrorism cases in general for reasons that I outlined in that article. And I think it would be particularly difficult with high value detainees who, you know, who would have to see evidence and could use, make use of that, make use of the proceedings for their own purposes.

QUESTION: Judge, did you see any problems in the way that the Moussaoui case was brought to trial?

ATTORNEY GENERAL MUKASEY: I'm not going to criticize --

QUESTION: Duration?

ATTORNEY GENERAL MUKASEY: I'm not going to criticize that case.

QUESTION: But do you think that that case had a, the judges' decision, you think there was a problem the way that that case was pursued?

ATTORNEY GENERAL MUKASEY: I'm not going to identify any particular problems with any particular case.

QUESTION: What is the right way to put the people on trial if Guantanamo is closed, though? Military commissions? The current system of courts martial? If you think Article 3 courts are unsuitable or some version yet to be discovered?

ATTORNEY GENERAL MUKASEY: I think that we've opted for military commissions for those who are charged with committing war crimes. As to others, their status is that, if they are found to be unlawful combatants, that is, people who do not fight according to a recognized chain of command, do not carry their arms openly, target civilians, they can be, according to the law, detained for the duration of the conflict. How do you determine that? It's what's going on now in habeas procedures.

QUESTION: Do you see any problem, though, with the commission system as it exists now, as the military has explained it, where somebody could be tried, convicted, sentenced to say, two years, confined, and at the end of that time, not be released, still be an enemy combatant and held for the rest of their lifetime? Is there anything that strikes you as unjust or unfair about that system as it is in place today?

ATTORNEY GENERAL MUKASEY: The only current detainee who has been tried, gotten a short sentence, has been sent back to Yemen and that is Hamdan.

QUESTION: But the policy is in place?

ATTORNEY GENERAL MUKASEY: The policy is in place. And if it were to happen that somebody who had, in fact, committed very serious acts, remained a very serious danger, got a short sentence, it would be suicidal to release that person.

QUESTION: Is that justice, though?

ATTORNEY GENERAL MUKASEY: Yes.

QUESTION: That is a hard one to explain.

ATTORNEY GENERAL MUKASEY: I think it was a very famous Justice of the Supreme Court who said that the Bill of Rights -- the Constitution is not a suicide pact.

QUESTION: Judge, there has been a lot of sniping in the last couple of months about backlogs at the Office of the Pardon Attorney. Do you feel like the next administration should revisit the way that office is structured, the numbers of people tasked to process applications and the like?

ATTORNEY GENERAL MUKASEY: I know that that office has been processing applications as quickly as it can. How a future administration treats that office is up to it.

QUESTION: There has been some criticism though among people who are applying for clemency that they have to go -- almost have to go straight to the White House counsel's office because the DOJ process takes too long.

ATTORNEY GENERAL MUKASEY: Ideally the process should work so that -- go up to the Deputy's Office and to the White House in a timely fashion. If it doesn't work that way, it is not ideal.

QUESTION: On the night of your speech, the entire speech contained some language that seemed to be a warning to the next administration about the issue of prosecuting people who were involved in some of the anti-terror policies that came into place after 9/11. Can you tell us anything about whether or not you have consulted on any of these issues, whether or not there should be pardons, and whether or not -- any thoughts you have on this?

ATTORNEY GENERAL MUKASEY: I certainly haven't been consulted. I mean I have -- What I have said is that there is absolutely no evidence that anybody who rendered a legal opinion, either with respect to surveillance or with respect to interrogation policies, did so for any reason other than to protect the security in the country and in the belief that he or she was doing something lawful. In those circumstances, there is no occasion to consider prosecution and there is no occasion to consider pardon. If the word goes out to the contrary, then people are going to get the message, which is that if you come up with an answer that is not considered desirable in the future you might face prosecution, and that creates an incentive not to give an honest answer but to give an answer that may be acceptable in the future. It also creates some incentive in people not to ask in the first place.

QUESTION: But is water boarding torture, do you think?

ATTORNEY GENERAL MUKASEY: I have been asked that twice.

QUESTION: Really?

ATTORNEY GENERAL MUKASEY: Yes. Once during my confirmation hearings when I was not read in on the CIA program as it then existed, and so -- although I had heard of the process, did not know how and what safeguards and so on, so I couldn't comment. Thereafter, I learned, as I testified, and as I believe General Hayden confirmed it, it was no longer part of the program. Not only that, there have been since a number of other statutes including the Detainee Treatment Act and the Military Commissions Act that overlay the standards of the anti-torture statute. So the short answer is there is no occasion for me to comment on that. It is not part of any program that is currently in existence.

QUESTION: I'm sorry to step on your line. I don't think, though, that the Detainee Treatment Act nor the Military Commission Act apply to the CIA specifically.

ATTORNEY GENERAL MUKASEY: But their standards apply, of course.

QUESTION: I'm sorry, we couldn't hear you.

ATTORNEY GENERAL MUKASEY: I'm sorry. I thought their standards applied across the board.

QUESTION: What are you going to do in February?

ATTORNEY GENERAL MUKASEY: Something different from what I'm doing now.

QUESTION: Are you going to go back to your firm?

ATTORNEY GENERAL MUKASEY: I have no idea. I really don't. And I'm not -- It has gone through my head, but I haven't --

QUESTION: Attorney General, can I get back to the transition, the practicalities of this transition? You said you haven't spoken with the man who is to be your successor, but who have you spoke with? For example, David Ogden is supposed to be the point person here. Have you met with him, have you met with any others from the transition team? Have you provided space for them in your office? What is the level of cooperation and communication at this point?

ATTORNEY GENERAL MUKASEY: I think the level of cooperation and communication is very high. I have met with David Ogden and one or two others. The people principally in charge of the transition are my chief of staff and Lee Lofthus, who is the Assistant Attorney General for Administration. Brian Benczkowski, by the way, is, as you know, my chief of staff. And they have been dealing on a day-to-day basis with Mr. Ogden and the remainder of the transition staff and trying to provide them with as much information as they can. As far as office space, as far as I know, they have got all they need. We have provided -- I mean, you want to know whether they have got space in my office? The answer is no.

(Laughter.)

ATTORNEY GENERAL MUKASEY: I would say not yet.

QUESTION: Not directly in your office, near your office, in the vicinity, because we have seen members of the transition team wandering around the building.

ATTORNEY GENERAL MUKASEY: They have space. My understanding is that a large amount of space was made available for them outside the building for the entire transition team, not just the transition team of the Justice Department, and that was done because movement of one of the units within this department was delayed so that they could have that large space. But I believe they have space in the building as well.

QUESTION: There is still some outstanding issues, Blackwater for example. Do you anticipate any indictment, prosecution, before you are to go on your merry way?

ATTORNEY GENERAL MUKASEY: I can't comment on that.

QUESTION: In that category two months ago you named Nora Dennehy to follow up on the Inspector General's -- Has she now come to you with her status report and does her mandate remain that she can work for as long as possible in looking to the firings?

ATTORNEY GENERAL MUKASEY: Not yet, and so far as I know, yes.

QUESTION: Judge, on that line, your predecessor has been disclosed -- has several private attorneys whose fees have been paid for by the Justice Department, and as you know, some of the folks on Capital Hill who do oversight aren't very happy. My question is about that. How do you justify or explain paying those legal fess?

ATTORNEY GENERAL MUKASEY: There are so far as I know regulations to deal with the payment of outside lawyers in situations where people get sued after they have left the government, and so far as I know, those regulations were followed. There is a form contract that was entered into with those lawyers. And that is the explanation.

QUESTION: So that is appropriate?

ATTORNEY GENERAL MUKASEY: The regulations were in place for a reason and they applied to this case.

QUESTION: Back on Guantanamo for a moment. You mentioned that you think Congress ought to pass some legislation to clarify the habeas procedures and be able to safeguard classified information. Is that all you think Congress needs to do to further the closing of Guantanamo, or have you thought about other things that Congress could helpfully do to make this process better?

ATTORNEY GENERAL MUKASEY: Back in July I gave a speech after Boumediene suggesting various steps that Congress could take. Regrettably, I haven't memorized that speech. I still think that I have all of the steps referred to in that speech could well be taken and would be helpful.

QUESTION: But nothing has come up since then that you think would be another thing you would add to the list?

ATTORNEY GENERAL MUKASEY: It was a pretty comprehensive list.

QUESTION: Okay. Have you seen anyone in Congress move in that direction? Are you taking note from what they are doing or will do?

ATTORNEY GENERAL MUKASEY: There was a bill introduced, I believe by Senators McConnell* and Lieberman, after I gave the speech. I don't know whether any action has been taken with respect to it.

QUESTION: General, when the Inspector General's report came out about the firings, you had a pretty forceful written statement that was released that talked about performances in the department in general in relation to that. How do you feel that your predecessor performed during that process?

ATTORNEY GENERAL MUKASEY: That report says what it says and I made the statements that I made. I am not going to sit here, as I have said in other settings, and penalize my predecessor.

QUESTION: I know you don't want to talk about specific cases, but are there decisions perhaps about high-profile cases or policies that you believe should go to the next administration?

ATTORNEY GENERAL MUKASEY: I think what -- I mean I'm sworn to do this job until my term is up. I think cases ought to be decided and brought when they are ready to be decided and brought, regardless of whether a new administration is going to take office or not, and we're going to continue to do that, high-profile, low-profile, mid-profile, and we have.

I don't think that simply because a case is high-profile and there's a new administration coming that that takes away our obligation to continue to serve, and part of continuing to serve is to make decisions, including prosecuting decisions.

QUESTION: When you took over, do you feel you were taking over a damaged department?

ATTORNEY GENERAL MUKASEY: I felt when I got here that I found in place some of the most able, superb lawyers I had ever met. And I know that there were allegations, some of which have been discussed in the IG reports, of what went on before.

I was advised by some people 'Bring your own team,' and so on and so forth. I found when I got here that the people who were here, who I had met some, many of whom I appointed, were people I could rely on, and that faith has been fully justified.

I told the department in the Great Hall when I first got here that everybody's job was to do law. That sounds very prosaic, but what I have found is that they have continued to do that regardless of some of the controversy swirling outside, and everybody has remained true to the oath. And it has been a great privilege. I have found people who wanted to me to succeed, and to the extent I have succeeded, it has been partly their doing.

QUESTION: You refer to controversies that were swirling outside. Weren't there controversies swirling inside up to the time you took over?

ATTORNEY GENERAL MUKASEY: There may have been, but my feeling when I got here was that I had -- I was able to put in place people who at the department kept the department running.

QUESTION: Senator Leahy has talked about certainly there's -- he says a morale problem with your attorneys here. Do you think he has exaggerated that or is that something that you have had to do deal with and that your successor is going to have to deal with because of the allegations?

ATTORNEY GENERAL MUKASEY: My experience with career attorneys is that they have continued to do their job and do it well. I have visited many components, I have tried to talk to career attorneys, sometimes in the lunch room, sometimes in my visits to the components, and I have found them to be well motivated, well interested in their cases. And to say that there is some sort of heavy cloud hanging over them I think is an exaggeration.

Now I guess you could argue, well, this is sort of the Potemkin village effect, you know, if the tsar goes around and all the happy peasants are down -- I don't think so.

QUESTION: Now you said in May that -- Go ahead, I'm sorry.

In May you told our editorial board that you considered the reports of the morale problems to be one of the great consumer frauds of 2007 and after you issued a statement to the employees -- I believe you acknowledged, the word you used was 'pain.'

ATTORNEY GENERAL MUKASEY: What?

QUESTION: You issued a statement to employees some months later when the IG reports came out and you seemed to acknowledge that things that the IG had discovered were, you know, some of the political shenanigans and were actually true that had been reported and that may have caused morale problems. That seemed to be what I -- if I was reading your message to the employees correctly, you were saying -- But you still now feel that there was no cloud, there was no morale issue?

ATTORNEY GENERAL MUKASEY: I think you are talking about two different things. One is the feeling that you are working with a department that is troubled where people are applying rules they shouldn't apply.

Another is to find out that in the past things happened and people are again -- your department is again in the news in an unpleasant way. That creates a morale problem because nobody likes to read those stories. That is very different from saying that you are continuing to function in a setting where you feel that you are not being allowed to make decisions on your merits and where your work is adversely affected because of it.

QUESTION: So the department turned a corner when you came aboard, in effect?

ATTORNEY GENERAL MUKASEY: I'm not prepared to say that. I think the department functioned well.

QUESTION: Judging by all accounts, the number of people who attend this coming inauguration will be just enormous and possibly the biggest crowd ever. In that sense, will we see the largest amount of security ever for a public event in America? We love phrases like that, you know.

(Laughter.)

ATTORNEY GENERAL MUKASEY: I know you do, and I am also not qualified to comment on phrases like that.

QUESTION: Well, come up with your own.

ATTORNEY GENERAL MUKASEY: There will be plenty of security. There will be a lot of people, there will be plenty of security. It will be secure.

(Laughter.)

QUESTION: That's not going to make it, Judge. I'm going to try again. As you look at the -- Seriously, though, as you look at the planning for it, do you get the sense that in response to the anticipated crowd that there is a lot of additional resources that will be brought in that haven't been in past years?

ATTORNEY GENERAL MUKASEY: Fair to say. I have not looked in detail at the plan, but my understanding is that there is going to be plenty of security.

QUESTION: Are you planning to attend?

ATTORNEY GENERAL MUKASEY: Not right now, no.

QUESTION: One of the things that you said were going to be priorities were the civil rights and voting rights issues, and we have just gone through a big election where we have recorded lots of votes. Can you give us an assessment of how that relates to the fact that you will be (inaudible) voter fraud policies or anything like that?

ATTORNEY GENERAL MUKASEY: I can't comment on what lawsuits may or may not be brought. I can't comment on matters under investigation. I think the election went by and large well, which is to say, from our standpoint, by and large uneventfully, which is good news for us. There have been allegations of voter fraud in particular places and those are taken seriously.

QUESTION: Were those overblown?

ATTORNEY GENERAL MUKASEY: I'm not going to comment on whether they were overblown or underblown or whatever. We take allegations of voter fraud seriously, and they are followed up.

QUESTION: Judge, what have you learned about Washington in your -- what is it? Has it been year and a half? Almost 18 months? -- and what do you wish you hadn't learned?

ATTORNEY GENERAL MUKASEY: It is an interesting town. I think people are cordial. Some people are friendly.

QUESTION: What has been your favorite place to go when you have a free hour? Is there a museum, a national park, the monuments, some place that you have --

ATTORNEY GENERAL MUKASEY: The one I have enjoyed the most is the Archives.

QUESTION: Do you wish you had done more (inaudible) while you were attorney?

ATTORNEY GENERAL MUKASEY: Oh god.

(Laughter.)

ATTORNEY GENERAL MUKASEY: I wish I had the time to do more. I have run into people, but, you know, I haven't --

MODERATOR: We have time for, perhaps, two more questions.

QUESTION: You have experience arguing in front of the Supreme Court. Congratulations on winning the case. How did the --

ATTORNEY GENERAL MUKASEY: There was a --

QUESTION: How did that come about and was it the experience that you had expected it would be?

ATTORNEY GENERAL MUKASEY: I didn't have any real window -- Well actually, I had watched two arguments when I was first presented to the Court, and it came about, as I recall it, on a ride back, the Solicitor General said 'You know, some Attorneys General have made a custom or arguing -- or a practice of arguing a case in the Court. Would you like to do that?' Gulp, yes. So the cap was over the wall and that became a matter of selecting the case.

QUESTION: And the experience of being there in front of the --

ATTORNEY GENERAL MUKASEY: It has been said that you make three arguments. You make one in preparation, you make one before the court, and you make another one when you walk up the steps, and that is true. It was unlike anything I have ever experienced. I mean I have argued cases before appellate courts before, but nothing --

QUESTION: What is the state of the federal judiciary today? Good, bad, underpaid?

ATTORNEY GENERAL MUKASEY: Good and underpaid. Good is not meant to modify underpaid.

QUESTION: There was an 'and' in there.

ATTORNEY GENERAL MUKASEY: Yes.

MODERATOR: Thanks very much.

ATTORNEY GENERAL MUKASEY: Thank you.

END: 11:25 A.M. EST

[* The bill was introduced by Senators Graham and Lieberman.]

SOURCE U.S. Department of Justice

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