Six Russian GRU Officers Charged in Connection with Worldwide Deployment of Destructive Malware and Other Disruptive Actions in Cyberspace

On Oct. 15, 2020, a federal grand jury in Pittsburgh returned an indictment charging six computer hackers, all of whom were residents and nationals of the Russian Federation (Russia) and officers in Unit 74455 of the Russian Main Intelligence Directorate (GRU), a military intelligence agency of the General Staff of the Armed Forces. 

These GRU hackers and their co-conspirators engaged in computer intrusions and attacks intended to support Russian government efforts to undermine, retaliate against, or otherwise destabilize: (1) Ukraine; (2) Georgia; (3) elections in France; (4) efforts to hold Russia accountable for its use of a weapons-grade nerve agent, Novichok, on foreign soil; and (5) the 2018 PyeongChang Winter Olympic Games after Russian athletes were banned from participating under their nation’s flag, as a consequence of Russian government-sponsored doping effort. 

Their computer attacks used some of the world’s most destructive malware to date, including: KillDisk and Industroyer, which each caused blackouts in Ukraine; NotPetya, which caused nearly $1 billion in losses to the three victims identified in the indictment alone; and Olympic Destroyer, which disrupted thousands of computers used to support the 2018 PyeongChang Winter Olympics.  The indictment charges the defendants with conspiracy, computer hacking, wire fraud, aggravated identity theft, and false registration of a domain name.

According to the indictment, beginning in or around November 2015 and continuing until at least in or around October 2019, the defendants and their co-conspirators deployed destructive malware and took other disruptive actions, for the strategic benefit of Russia, through unauthorized access  to victim computers (hacking).  As alleged, the conspiracy was responsible for the following destructive, disruptive, or otherwise destabilizing computer intrusions and attacks:

  • Ukrainian Government & Critical Infrastructure: December 2015 through December 2016 destructive malware attacks against Ukraine’s electric power grid, Ministry of Finance, and State Treasury Service, using malware known as BlackEnergy, Industroyer, and KillDisk;
  • French Elections: April and May 2017 spearphishing campaigns and related hack-and-leak efforts targeting French President Macron’s “La République En Marche!” (En Marche!) political party, French politicians, and local French governments prior to the 2017 French elections;
  • Worldwide Businesses and Critical Infrastructure (NotPetya): June 27, 2017 destructive malware attacks that infected computers worldwide using malware known as NotPetya, including hospitals and other medical facilities in the Heritage Valley Health System (Heritage Valley) in the Western District of Pennsylvania; a FedEx Corporation subsidiary, TNT Express B.V.; and a large U.S. pharmaceutical manufacturer, which together suffered nearly $1 billion in losses from the attacks;
  • PyeongChang Winter Olympics Hosts, Participants, Partners, and Attendees: December 2017 through February 2018 spearphishing campaigns and malicious mobile applications targeting South Korean citizens and officials, Olympic athletes, partners, and visitors, and International Olympic Committee (IOC) officials;
  • PyeongChang Winter Olympics IT Systems (Olympic Destroyer): December 2017 through February 2018 intrusions into computers supporting the 2018 PyeongChang Winter Olympic Games, which culminated in the Feb. 9, 2018, destructive malware attack against the opening ceremony, using malware known as Olympic Destroyer;
  • Novichok Poisoning Investigations: April 2018 spearphishing campaigns targeting investigations by the Organisation for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons (OPCW) and the United Kingdom’s Defence Science and Technology Laboratory (DSTL) into the nerve agent poisoning of Sergei Skripal, his daughter, and several U.K. citizens; and
  • Georgian Companies and Government Entities: a 2018 spearphishing campaign targeting a major media company, 2019 efforts to compromise the network of Parliament, and a wide-ranging website defacement campaign in 2019.

Cybersecurity researchers have tracked the Conspirators and their malicious activity using the labels “Sandworm Team,” “Telebots,” “Voodoo Bear,” and “Iron Viking.”

The charges were announced by Assistant Attorney General John C. Demers; FBI Deputy Director David Bowdich; U.S. Attorney for the Western District of Pennsylvania Scott W. Brady; and Special Agents in Charge of the FBI’s Atlanta, Oklahoma City, and Pittsburgh Field Offices, J.C. “Chris” Hacker, Melissa R. Godbold, and Michael A. Christman, respectively.

“No country has weaponized its cyber capabilities as maliciously or irresponsibly as Russia, wantonly causing unprecedented damage to pursue small tactical advantages and to satisfy fits of spite,” said Assistant Attorney General for National Security John C. Demers.  “Today the department has charged these Russian officers with conducting the most disruptive and destructive series of computer attacks ever attributed to a single group, including by unleashing the NotPetya malware.  No nation will recapture greatness while behaving in this way.”

“The FBI has repeatedly warned that Russia is a highly capable cyber adversary, and the information revealed in this indictment illustrates how pervasive and destructive Russia’s cyber activities truly are,” said FBI Deputy Director David Bowdich.  “But this indictment also highlights the FBI’s capabilities.  We have the tools to investigate these malicious malware attacks, identify the perpetrators, and then impose risks and consequences on them.  As demonstrated today, we will relentlessly pursue those who threaten the United States and its citizens.”

“For more than two years we have worked tirelessly to expose these Russian GRU Officers who engaged in a global campaign of hacking, disruption and destabilization, representing the most destructive and costly cyber-attacks in history,” said U.S. Attorney Scott W. Brady for the Western District of Pennsylvania.  “The crimes committed by Russian government officials were against real victims who suffered real harm.  We have an obligation to hold accountable those who commit crimes – no matter where they reside and no matter for whom they work – in order to seek justice on behalf of these victims.” 

“The exceptional talent and dedication of our teams in Pittsburgh, Atlanta and Oklahoma City who spent years tracking these members of the GRU is unmatched,” said FBI Pittsburgh Special Agent in Charge Michael A. Christman.  “These criminals underestimated the power of shared intelligence, resources and expertise through law enforcement, private sector and international partnerships.”

The defendants, Yuriy Sergeyevich Andrienko (Юрий Сергеевич Андриенко), 32; Sergey Vladimirovich Detistov (Сергей Владимирович Детистов), 35; Pavel Valeryevich Frolov (Павел Валерьевич Фролов), 28; Anatoliy Sergeyevich Kovalev (Анатолий Сергеевич Ковалев), 29; Artem Valeryevich Ochichenko (Артем Валерьевич Очиченко), 27; and Petr Nikolayevich Pliskin (Петр Николаевич Плискин), 32, are all charged in seven counts: conspiracy to conduct computer fraud and abuse, conspiracy to commit wire fraud, wire fraud, damaging protected computers, and aggravated identity theft.  Each defendant is charged in every count.  The charges contained in the indictment are merely accusations, however, and the defendants are presumed innocent unless and until proven guilty beyond a reasonable doubt.

The indictment accuses each defendant of committing the following overt acts in furtherance of the charged crimes:

Defendant Summary of Overt Acts
Yuriy Sergeyevich Andrienko ·      Developed components of the NotPetya and Olympic Destroyer malware.
Sergey Vladimirovich Detistov ·      Developed components of the NotPetya malware; and

·      Prepared spearphishing campaigns targeting the 2018 PyeongChang Winter Olympic Games. 

Pavel Valeryevich Frolov ·       Developed components of the KillDisk and NotPetya malware.
Anatoliy Sergeyevich Kovalev ·       Developed spearphishing techniques and messages used to target:

–       En Marche! officials;

–       employees of the DSTL;

–       members of the IOC and Olympic athletes; and

–       employees of a Georgian media entity.

Artem Valeryevich Ochichenko ·       Participated in spearphishing campaigns targeting 2018 PyeongChang Winter Olympic Games partners; and

·       Conducted technical reconnaissance of the Parliament of Georgia official domain and attempted to gain unauthorized access to its network.

Petr Nikolayevich Pliskin ·       Developed components of the NotPetya and Olympic Destroyer malware. 

The defendants and their co-conspirators caused damage and disruption to computer networks worldwide, including in France, Georgia, the Netherlands, Republic of Korea, Ukraine, the United Kingdom, and the United States. 

The NotPetya malware, for example, spread worldwide, damaged computers used in critical infrastructure, and caused enormous financial losses.  Those losses were only part of the harm, however.  For example, the NotPetya malware impaired Heritage Valley’s provision of critical medical services to citizens of the Western District of Pennsylvania through its two hospitals, 60 offices, and 18 community satellite facilities.  The attack caused the unavailability of patient lists, patient history, physical examination files, and laboratory records.  Heritage Valley lost access to its mission-critical computer systems (such as those relating to cardiology, nuclear medicine, radiology, and surgery) for approximately one week and administrative computer systems for almost one month, thereby causing a threat to public health and safety.

The conspiracy to commit computer fraud and abuse carries a maximum sentence of five years in prison; conspiracy to commit wire fraud carries a maximum sentence of 20 years in prison; the two counts of wire fraud carry a maximum sentence of 20 years in prison; intentional damage to a protected computer carries a maximum sentence of 10 years in prison; and the two counts of aggravated identity theft carry a mandatory sentence of two years in prison.  The indictment also alleges false registration of domain names, which would increase the maximum sentence of imprisonment for wire fraud to 27 years in prison; the maximum sentence of imprisonment for intentional damage to a protected computer to 17 years in prison; and the mandatory sentence of imprisonment for aggravated identity theft to four years in prison.  These maximum potential sentences are prescribed by Congress, however, and are provided here for informational purposes only, as the assigned judge will determine any sentence of a defendant.

Defendant Kovalev was previously charged in federal indictment number CR 18-215, in the District of Columbia, with conspiring to gain unauthorized access into the computers of U.S. persons and entities involved in the administration of the 2016 U.S. elections.

Trial Attorney Heather Alpino and Deputy Chief Sean Newell of the National Security Division’s Counterintelligence and Export Control Section and Assistant U.S. Attorneys Charles Eberle and Jessica Smolar of the U.S. Attorney’s Office for the Western District of Pennsylvania are prosecuting this case.  The FBI’s Atlanta, Oklahoma City, and Pittsburgh field offices conducted the investigation, with the assistance of the FBI’s Cyber Division.

The Criminal Division’s Office of International Affairs provided critical assistance in this case.  The department also appreciates the significant cooperation and assistance provided by Ukrainian authorities, the Governments of the Republic of Korea and New Zealand, Georgian authorities, and the United Kingdom’s intelligence services, as well as many of the FBI’s Legal Attachés and other foreign authorities around the world.  Numerous victims cooperated and provided valuable assistance in the investigation.

The department is also grateful to Google, including its Threat Analysis Group (TAG); Cisco, including its Talos Intelligence Group; Facebook; and Twitter, for the assistance they provided in this investigation.  Some private sector companies independently disabled numerous accounts for violations of the companies’ terms of service.

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Author: October 19, 2020

Remarks By Assistant Attorney General For National Security John C. Demers On Announcement of Charges Against Russian Military Intelligence Officers

As Prepared For Delivery

Good afternoon.  Today, we announce criminal charges against a conspiracy of Russian military intelligence officers who stand accused of conducting the most disruptive and destructive series of computer attacks ever attributed to a single group.

I am joined in this announcement by FBI Deputy Director David Bowdich, U.S. Attorney for the Western District of Pennsylvania Scott W. Brady, and Special Agent in Charge of the FBI’s Pittsburgh Field Office Michael A. Christman. 

In the past three months alone, the Department has charged computer intrusions or taken legal action related to the activities of China, Iran and North Korea.  Each of these cases charged significant malicious conduct that we have called out, in part, to reinforce norms of responsible nation state behavior in cyberspace.  But as this case shows, no country has weaponized its cyber capabilities as maliciously and irresponsibly as Russia, wantonly causing unprecedented collateral damage to pursue small tactical advantages and to satisfy fits of spite. 

The defendants in this case were all members of Military Unit 74455 of the Russian Main Intelligence Directorate, an intelligence agency known as the GRU. The Department previously charged members of this same unit, also known to cybersecurity researchers as “Sandworm Team,” for their role in Russia’s efforts to interfere in the 2016 U.S. elections.  We make no election interference allegations here.  Rather, today’s charges illustrate  how Unit 74455’s election activities were but one part of the work of a persistent, sophisticated hacking group busy sabotaging perceived enemies or detractors of the Russian Federation, regardless of the consequences to innocent bystanders or their destabilizing effect.

Six current and former officers in Unit 74455 are accused of the following disruptive and destructive attacks alleged in the indictment:

In December of 2015 and 2016, the conspirators launched destructive malware attacks against the electric power grid in Ukraine.  These were the first reported destructive malware attacks against the control systems of civilian critical infrastructure. These attacks turned out the lights and turned off the heat in the middle of the Eastern European winter, as the lives of hundreds of thousands of Ukrainian men, women and children went dark and cold. 

From there, the conspirators’ destructive path, still putatively aimed at Ukraine, widened to encompass virtually the whole world.  In what is commonly referred to as the most destructive and costly cyber attack ever, the conspirators unleashed the “NotPetya” malware. Although it masqueraded as ransomware, designed to extort money, this was a false flag: the co-conspirators designed the malware to spread with devastating and indiscriminate alacrity – bringing down entire networks in seconds and searching for remote computer connections through which to attack additional innocent victims, all without hope of recovery or repair.  The entirely foreseeable result was that the worm quickly spread globally, shutting down companies and inflicting immense financial harm.  This irresponsible conduct impaired the ability of companies in critical sectors, such as transportation and health, to provide services to the public–not only in Ukraine, but as far away as Western Pennsylvania.  As alleged, for just three U.S.-related victims—three of at least hundreds of victims—monetary losses reached nearly one billion dollars.

Rather than express remorse for the damage they inflicted against victims worldwide, the conspirators callously celebrated their success.

Next, the conspirators turned their sights on the Winter Olympics, a forum where the international community, despite recurring conflict, comes together to celebrate the common pursuit of physical excellence and mental toughness.  The conspirators, feeling the embarrassment of international penalties related to Russia’s state-sponsored doping program, i.e., cheating, took it upon themselves to undermine the games.  Their cyber attack combined the emotional maturity of a petulant child with the resources of a nation state.  They conducted spearphishing campaigns against South Korea, the host of the 2018 PyeongChang Winter Olympic Games, as well as the International Olympic Committee, Olympic partners, and athletes.  Then, during the opening ceremony, they launched the “Olympic Destroyer” malware attack, which deleted data from thousands of computers supporting the Games, rendering them inoperable.  Although the conspirators took steps to pin the Olympic Destroyer attack on North Korea, this second false-flag attempt also failed.  Cybersecurity researchers ultimately attributed the attack to Sandworm Team, as we do today. 

These destructive and disruptive malware attacks, and related preparations, were not the conspirators’ only malicious conduct alleged in the indictment.  The conspirators also supported a hack-and-leak operation in the days leading up to the 2017 French elections.  And the conspirators continued their disruptive attacks as recently as October 2019, targeting government and non-government websites in the country of Georgia. 

Today’s allegations, in their entirety, provide a useful lens for evaluating Russia’s offer two weeks ago of a cyber “reset” between Russia and the United States.  Russia is certainly right that technologically sophisticated nations that aspire to lead have a special responsibility to secure the world order and contribute to widely accepted norms, peace and stability.  That’s what we’re doing here today.  But this indictment lays bare Russia’s use of its cyber capabilities to destabilize and interfere with the domestic political and economic systems of other countries, thus providing a cold reminder of why its proposal is nothing more than dishonest rhetoric and cynical and cheap propaganda.

Before I wrap up my remarks, I’d like to thank the team of prosecutors and FBI agents whose diligence and perseverance has led to these charges and the kind of evidence that would allow us to hold these defendants accountable in a court of law.

I’d also like to express the Department’s appreciation for assistance from the private sector, such as Cisco’s Talos Intelligence Group, Facebook, Google, and Twitter in investigating and disrupting the Unit 74455 cyber threat.  We also appreciate the hard work and dedication of our foreign law enforcement or intelligence partners, including in Ukraine, Georgia, South Korea, the United Kingdom and New Zealand, who have also pursued these conspirators after attacks and intrusions within their own countries or otherwise assisted in our investigation. All of these partnerships send a clear message that responsible nations and the private sector are prepared to work together to defend against and disrupt significant cyber threats.

Now, I will turn the podium over to U.S. Attorney Scott W. Brady, who will discuss the allegations in the indictment in greater detail.

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Author: October 19, 2020

Remarks as Delivered by Attorney General William P. Barr at the Major Cities Chiefs Association Conference

I appreciate the invitation to address this group.  I want to start by thanking you, and the men and women you lead, for serving in what I think is the most noble profession in our country – enforcing the law and keeping our communities safe. 

Even in the best of times, there is no more challenging profession.  It requires skill, courage and the patience of Job.  But the climate today has made the job 10 times more difficult than it has to be.  It is a climate in which politicians are sometimes inclined not to support the police and sometimes they throw the police to the dogs. And it is also characterized by a deceitful national media that seizes on a relatively few incidents to scapegoat police as a whole and cultivate a false narrative that our police are systemically evil.  It’s a media that seems to countenance the throwing of bricks and rocks at our police officers, capable of killing them or seriously injuring them. That countenance is slowly veneering that all police are bastards or cops are bastards, or that they should be thrown and fried in a pan like bacon. These are the men and women who put their lives on the line to serve their communities to protect people they do not know at great risk to themselves. And yet, this is perfectly countenanced in our society by the media.

So I salute you, and your departments for standing tall in these times and continuing to carry out your duty of protecting the public.  America is fortunate to have the professional police leaders and departments we have today, and despite the constant propaganda of the media, the American people recognize that.  The police, along with military, remain among the most respected institutions in our country and they deserve to be. 

I want to say something initially about the core of our mission which is protecting our communities from violent, predatory crime.  This is not discretionary, this is not a discretionary function of government.  This is the reason we establish governments in the first place.

Let me first put things in context.  As you know, I served as Attorney General in the early 90’s, ’91 and ’92, when violent crime rates were at an all-time high – twice the level it is today.  We got there through three-decades of lenience – the 60s, 70s and 80s – with soft-on-crime policies very much like those that many states are now adopting – with revolving-door justice, sky-high recidivism rates, and an unwillingness to take chronic violent predators off the street.

This led to the unbelievable carnage which peaked in 1992.  The country came to its senses and there was a consensus that we had to strengthen our criminal justice systems and start targeting and incapacitate the chronic violent offenders that have always been responsible for the lion’s share of violent crime.

Those policies worked as they always do and always will work.  For over 20 years we had falling crime rates, and violent crime was cut in half from its peak. 

Unfortunately, people seem to have taken it for granted that we have these low crime rates, lower crime rates than we did, we have seen that many states readopt the misbegotten policies that led to the crime crisis in the first place.

Even before COVID and the death of George Floyd this year, we were seeing an uptick in violent crime in many of our cities.  But with the lockdowns and with the demonization of police, we have seen that increase take hold.

You often hear today the same sloganeering that was prevalent in the 60s and 70s.  It is said, that you cannot address crime by going after the criminals, but you have to address the “root causes” of crime – which means more social spending.  The defund the police movement reflects this philosophy – take funding from police and put it more into social programs.

But this is a false dichotomy.  I think everyone here today would agree that tough law enforcement cannot be the only solution for crime.  We must also address the pathologies that contribute to crime.  But they are not alternative approaches.  They must complement each other.  Strong law enforcement may not be able to do it alone – but it is indispensable – there can be no solutions without it.  Law and order is the foundation of all social progress.

On the face of the Department of Justice building in Washington there is the Latin inscription which reads, and I am translating:  “From law and order, everything else flows.” All the social programs in the world will not result in a hill of beans if there is carnage on the streets.

Businesses cannot take root, if our streets are shooting galleries.  Schools cannot redeem our young people, if they are overrun by gangs.

A strong police presence and a strong law enforcement response to violent crime in our cities are the “table stakes.”  Without these, any idea of social progress or addressing the root causes of crime are folly.

I have yet to meet a real civic leader in our inner-city communities that suffer from violent crime, who actually live in that community, who want fewer police.  Yes, they want the respect that they are due as citizens of our country, but, if anything, they want more police. They want greater safety. They are tired of living behind bars, while criminals roam the streets completely free.

Another false dichotomy lurks underneath the idea of “community policing.”  Community policing is great, and all of us are for community policing.  But somehow the soft-on-crime crowd thinks of it (and they are not really sure what it means, they like it, it’s a nice buzz word) as an alternative to a strong police response to crime. They think it’s an alternative targeting the chronic violent offenders and getting them off our streets, it’s a nice idea because it does not require that kind of tough action.  But it is not an alternative.  In fact, it does not work at all unless you have a strong criminal justice system that is effective in taking those offenders off the street.  People are not going to cooperate with police and identify the predators for the police if they think the criminal is going to be out on the street the next day.

That is why what we are seeing for example, and I just give this as an example, in New York is such a tragedy. A great police force with, you know, a huge city, a diverse city, a city where you would expect a much higher crime rate, and during times did have a much greater crime rate. But was doing very well with low levels of crime and a very strong community policing program. And that has been completely upset and overturned by these ill-considered laws passed at all, which essentially do away with pre-trial detention, and provide defense lawyers with the identity of the informants almost instantaneously. It’s a tragedy.

That is why the movement of many jurisdictions to do away with cash bail and undermine pre-trial detention is so destructive and ultimately dangerous.

I want to also point out that addressing the root causes of crime is not a new idea.  We have been pouring money into social programs for many decades, programs designed to address the root causes of crime, and frankly they have not been very successful. And when I say pour money, I mean tens of trillions of dollars.

From our standpoint, I think we all know these programs would be more effective if they were coordinated with, and operated in tandem with our crime fighting efforts, and with the constructive leadership in communities that are deeply affected by crime.  This philosophy was behind the idea of weed and seed, which I initiated in 1991. The object being to try to coordinate all the social spending, the after-school programs, and all the other aspects of social spending from the other agencies and bring them to the table with law enforcement on a neighborhood by neighborhood basis, sitting at the table with the community leaders. And I know that many of you are using this approach on an ad hoc basis in your cities, trying to bring some order out of this. But we have to do this much more systematically as a country across the board and bring all the resources, state and federal, to better coordinate them with law enforcement.

And this goes back to the very point I started with, which is the foundation has to be safety.  But I also think that we need an addition to the coordination of these efforts.  We should not just pour money into the same old failed programs. We need to be willing to try new approaches. Some of the old programs, although very well intentioned, frequently perpetuate crime by subsidizing bad behavior and sometimes creating deeper dependency.

One of the things that is most important is economic growth and prosperity of the private sector, it’s critical. And then ensuring the opportunity involved with that growth reaches every community. Before COVID, we saw unprecedented progress in this area.  And that can happen again. 

And policies like Economic Opportunity Zones can also help ensure that opportunities are brought to these communities. 

I think we need more innovative solutions in education.  Money is not the problem in education.  We have tripled in real terms the amount we spend on each student in our public schools.  I think we need to experiment with different schools, a broad range of options for parents, charter schools, schools affiliated with local churches, schools that are capable of acting in loco parentis, which public schools are no longer capable of doing. School choice I think would allow much more innovation and help us address much more affectively the problem of juvenile crime in our inner cities.

But, again, as I say that law enforcement has to be the foundation, and we have to play our position. By that I mean, and in public debate law enforcement is frequently confronted with the claim, you cannot, it would be so much better if we had this, this and this, which are not in our bailiwick. And instead of getting drawn into that, we have to play our position. Let the other agencies play their position. Yes, in coordination with us, but our position, we have to focus on achieving our objective, which is stopping the bloodshed and where people can flourish and community life can flourish. And we can do that by providing safety. That’s our mission. All the other good ideas are good, but the police cannot perform every function in society. We could probably do it, or you could probably do it better than many of the people doing it, but we still have to stick and play our position.

Now let me turn to the question of reform.  Today, the media characterizes reform or focuses on reform as it relates to reforming the police, as if the police are the biggest problem we face in the realm of public safety.  I do not think anyone here would suggest that we should ever stop improving and professionalizing our police forces.  It is a constant and never-ending journey.  But before turning to the issue of police reform, I want say a few words about another reform effort that I think is more essential.

The criminal justice system is a process that is only as strong as its weakest link. As long as I can remember, the police, at the front end, have done a pretty good job.  They identify and catch the criminal.  It is the rest of the system that often falls down – the prosecution and adjudication of the case, and even the corrections system and the reentry system, and the system of guarding against recidivism.  These are where our weaknesses are today, not the effectiveness of the police.

In many cities, the criminal justice system at the state level is becoming dysfunctional.  We are seeing laws pass that ignore the safety of the community.  We are seeing so-called “social justice” DAs who do not believe it’s their job to enforce the law, and we are also seeing judges who are indulgent of criminals and disregard the safety of the community.

This is where the most dramatic change and reform is needed.  The American people need to understand that they control their own destiny. They are ones who determine the level of their own safety.  If they want an effective criminal justice system, they are going to have to pay attention to who they elect to be District Attorney.  They are going to have to pay attention to the judges they elect or vote to retain.  And they are going to have to select mayors, and select people who understand that public safety is the primary duty of government.

Now let me turn to police reform.  Over the decades, we have steadily improved and professionalized our police forces in this country. And I think we are blessed today with the most effective, professional, diverse, and well-led police departments in the world.  Our police leaders – all of you – recognize that there is always more work to do.

We need to continue to attract the best and the brightest to police ranks.  We need to provide the best training available to meet the evolving challenges our officers face on the streets.  And we need to foster systems of accountability that are fair to our officers but also have sufficient teeth to weed out the bad actors.

We need to continue reform not because we are failing, but because we are succeeding.  But like all human institutions we are not perfect.  We cannot be perfect, because we are composed, all human institutions are composed, of those recalcitrant imperfect humans.  But we have to keep striving to be the best we can be and I think all of you as leaders do exactly that from my experience.

The starting point for moving forward is the need for police to be adequately resourced and supported.  Defunding the police is the exact opposite of what we need to do.  We need to invest more in police and public safety.  The fact is that, even before Minneapolis and COVID, the burden on our officers was becoming heavier.  It was becoming harder to compete in a full employment economy to attract the best candidates.  It was harder to find funds for training our police officers to meet the complex challenges they face and the funding necessary to deploy the technology that can make them more effective and safer for the officers.     

The fact is that public safety budgets as a percentage of public spending have remained stagnant for over a half century.  We need to increase investments in law enforcement.

It strikes me as ironic that we are willing to pay as a society, and rightfully so, a very high price to save lives from this horrible pandemic we have, COVID, and we do as a people sustain a great burden to do that, a great cost to do that. And we stay home, businesses are closed, and as I say that may be appropriate and is to a degree. But crime is a form of a pandemic, and we know who the carriers are. In most cases, most of you know in your own communities the drivers of violent crime. It’s worth an investment to save those lives, to save those innocent lives, and to save the property costs, and the blighted lives that crime brings with it. And so we have to wake up and once again reprioritize law enforcement.

Beyond the funding, I know you are all committed to continue to professionalize and improve your departments. And this administration is committed to supporting your efforts. The President’s Executive Order directed the department, directed me to take a number of steps toward that goal, including creating new law-enforcement certification standards, and also setting up a national database of officers who have been determined to have engaged in excessive force. And we have completed our work at the department and our proposed implementation of that executive order is now pending in the White House. I expect that its release is imminent. We also hope to release the detailed report of the Presidential Commission on Law Enforcement and the Administration of Justice. I know many of you participated on the working groups that were part of that effort. The final report has been drafted, I think there are many excellent constructive ideas, unfortunately we have been enjoined by a court from issuing it at this point but I do expect and hope that we will be able to get those out very shortly.

Part of sensible reform that we should undertake is to be honest about the phenomenon of excessive force.  Are there instances of excessive force?  Of course there are instances of excessive force. We are dealing with human beings. No one is more focused on reducing these than the leaders in this room.  But we also have to be honest that instances of deliberate, cold blooded excessive force are relatively rare and becoming rarer.

And many of the instances that are presented by the media as involving excessive force are not being fairly presented in context.  The vast majority of instances come about when suspect engages in forceful resistance to a police officer, triggering a sudden violent affray.

People have to remember that a police officer does not have the luxury of walking away. Oh you want to fight? I’ll see you tomorrow. That officer is duty bound to try to deescalate, but failing that, to subdue by force the suspect. They are frequently at a disadvantage in a struggle because they have to worry about their fire arm being taken from them. And the stakes for the officer could not be higher – it is their life.  It is whether they go home at the end of the day.  They have to make split second decision in a fast-moving, confusing situation.

The media fosters misunderstanding of the risks involved in these situations.  I remember watching a video of two officers rolling around trying to subdue an individual who was fighting them fiercely, and almost had the upper hand on the officers. The individual had a gun in his belt, and was reaching, was trying to reach for the gun. And one of the officers who was fighting with him was trying to keep his hands away from the gun. And this was going on, seesawing back and forth, and finally one of the officers managed to break away, took a gun and shot, took out his gun and shot the suspect. Who as I said during this was trying to get to his own gun. And the media, you know, a lot of heavy breathing about how terrible this was. The guy did not have his gun in his hand when he was shot. It was obviously a good shoot. Those police officers deserved to go home at the end of the day. And the law does not contemplate an even fight. The law contemplates using the force necessary to protect the public, including the police officers involved.

The media also frequently hyperventilates when a suspect with a knife who is refusing to drop the knife is shot, as if this was an unfair fight. But they do not educate the public about how deadly someone with a knife can be within a second. The ground that they can cover and the fact that they can kill a police officer. It’s a deadly weapon. And use of force in those circumstances is usually justified.

 The press frequently seizes on how many shots are fired.  As if the number of shots fired means it was excessive force, regardless of whether there was predication to use deadly force. But it’s never explained to the public that the police are taught to keep firing until the threat is neutralized, and they know the threat is neutralized. And that may involve numerous shots.

When I was Attorney General last time, I took the firearms course down at Quantico.  And it involved the FATS machine where you see the scenarios and you decide whether to shoot or not shoot. And like almost everyone else who goes through that, I started out saying, ‘I’m really going to be cool here. I am going to thread the needle each time. So I will be a little bit restrained.’ And I started getting shot on a regular basis. And I aired the other direction and I ended up shooting a lot of innocent people. And I think every member of the media should go through that and see the difficulty of these decisions and what can happen.  

The bottom line is that, if we are going to send our police officers into uncertain and potentially fatal situations, we need to be fair to them when we are judging their actions in hindsight.

The absolute worst thing would be to adopt a proposal to eliminate qualified immunity, which protects police officers from personal liability when they make good-faith errors in enforcing the law.  If a police officer knowingly violates someone’s clearly established constitutional rights, then personal liability may be appropriate.  But qualified immunity provides breathing space for officers to do their jobs without fear that an inadvertent or unpredictable error will subject them to financial ruin.  Without qualified immunity officers would be deterred from going into risky situations that are necessary to save lives.

If we wish to minimize excessive-force situations, the most important step we could take is to re-establish the principle that there is no valid justification for physically resisting a police officer.  It used to be understood in this society, and that’s why we have strong laws against resisting police. Resisting police puts everyone in jeopardy. It leads to an escalating situation which endangers the suspect and it endangers the officer, and it endangers bystanders and innocent members of the public. And we must have zero tolerance once again for physical resistance to officers.  That will save lives.  It will save the lives of our police officers, and of suspects and of citizens.

Finally, if we are interested in real reform, we have to distinguish between people of goodwill who have grievances and want to protest them but at the end of the day are genuinely interested in improving policing and bringing about safer and fairer society. And we have to distinguish those people from those whose professed agenda is to tear down, to destroy the existing system.  The goal of these instigators, these violent instigators, is to precipitate violence with police and to ultimately demoralize the police. These are the radicals who have hijacked legitimate, first amendment demonstrations and engaged in violence including Molotov cocktails and brick throwing, sometimes shooting.  

I was just in Saint Louis yesterday. And it was not widely reported around the country that on the evening of June 1, June 2, on the evening of that big demonstration four officers were wounded by gun shots.

Those attacking police are not exercising their first amendment rights. They are criminals and have to be dealt with accordingly.

So let me close by saying that I have been visiting in the last couple of weeks our Operation Legend cities.  And as I think all of you know that’s our response to this increase in violence in nine cities around the country. We pulled together a group of 1,000 federal law enforcement officers and have tried to increase our task forces. And we have funded additional task forces with grants and additional man power. You know, we have been trying to step up the fight against violent crime in these cities. And we are starting to see tangible results that come from this strong partnership between federal, state and local law enforcement.  I think together as partners, we can make our cities safer and more prosperous.  And every time I visit a city I am awestruck by the tenacity and the bravery of the police officers who are engaged in Operation Legend. And I am proud of serving as attorney general primarily because it enables me to work closely with the law enforcement community. I want you to know that in this administration you can count on the Department of Justice to be your partner in the vital work of upholding the rule of law and building a more effective criminal justice system. Thank you.

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Author: October 17, 2020

Departments of Justice and Homeland Security Release Data on Incarcerated Aliens

Today, the Department of Justice and the Department of Homeland Security released the Alien Incarceration Report for Fiscal Year 2019.  The data shows that 94 percent of confirmed aliens incarcerated in Federal Bureau of Prisons (BOP) and United States Marshals Service (USMS) facilities were unlawfully present in the United States.  Additionally, the report found that nearly 70 percent of known or suspected aliens in BOP custody had been convicted of a non-immigration-related offense, and 39 percent of known or suspected aliens in USMS custody had committed a non-immigration-related offense.

In January 2017, President Trump issued an Executive Order on Enhancing Public Safety in the Interior of the United States, directing “the Secretary [of Homeland Security] and the Attorney General … to collect relevant data and provide quarterly reports on the following: (a) the immigration status of all aliens incarcerated under the supervision of the Federal Bureau of Prisons; (b) the immigration status of all aliens incarcerated as Federal pretrial detainees under the supervision of the United States Marshals Service; and (c) the immigration status of all convicted aliens incarcerated in State prisons and local detention centers throughout the United States.”

At the end of FY 2019, a total of 51,074 known or suspected aliens were in Department of Justice custody, with 27,494 known or suspected aliens in BOP facilities and 23,580 known or suspected aliens in USMS facilities.  Of those 51,074 known or suspected aliens, 27,266 individuals (53.4 percent) had been confirmed by U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) to be aliens who had orders of removal or who had agreed to depart voluntarily.  18,308 individuals (35.8 percent) were still under investigation by ICE to determine alienage, 3,691 individuals (7.2 percent) were illegal aliens who were under adjudication, and 936 individuals (1.8 percent) were legal aliens who were under adjudication.  873 individuals (1.7 percent) were aliens who had been granted relief or protection from removal.

By the end of FY 2019, the USMS had directly expended $162 million to house the 23,580 known or suspected aliens remanded to their custody in state, local, and private facilities.  The average cost to house noncitizens in these facilities is $88.19 per prisoner, per day.

Information Regarding Immigration Status of Aliens Incarcerated Under the Supervision of the Federal Bureau of Prisons

At the end of FY 2019, a total of 27,494 known or suspected aliens were in BOP custody.  Of those individuals, approximately 72 percent had been confirmed to be illegal aliens.

  • 16,970 individuals (61.7 percent) were unauthorized aliens and had orders of removal;
  • 2,797 individuals (10.2 percent) were unlawfully present and in removal proceedings;
  • 6,120 individuals (22.3 percent) were under investigation to determine alienage;
  • 830 individuals (3 percent) were lawfully present and in removal proceedings; and
  • 777 individuals (2.8 percent) were granted relief or protection from removal.

Of the 27,494 known or suspected aliens in BOP custody, 27,125 had been convicted of an offense (369 inmates were in pretrial status).  Of those 27,125 individuals:

  • 13,727 individuals (51 percent) had committed drug offenses;
  • 8,403 individuals (approximately 31 percent) had committed immigration offenses;
  • 1,380 individuals (5.1 percent) had committed fraud;
  • 1,086 individuals (4 percent) had committed weapons offenses;
  • 1,007 individuals (3.7 percent) had committed racketeering and continuing criminal enterprise offenses (including murder for hire);
  • 553 individuals (2 percent) had committed sex offenses; and
  • 969 individuals (3.6 percent) had committed offenses including kidnapping, murder, larceny, terrorism, escape, bribery and extortion, and rape.

Information Regarding the Immigration Status of Aliens Incarcerated as Federal Pretrial Detainees

At the end of FY 2019, a total of 63,725 individuals were in USMS custody.  Of those 63,725 individuals, 23,580 individuals (37 percent) were known or suspected aliens.  Of those 23,580 individuals:

  • 10,296 individuals (43.7 percent) were unauthorized aliens and had orders of removal;
  • 894 individuals (3.8 percent) were unlawfully present and in removal proceedings;
  • 12,188 individuals (51.7 percent) were under investigation to determine alienage;
  • 106 individuals (0.4 percent) were lawfully present and in removal proceedings; and
  • 96 individuals (0.4 percent) were granted relief or protection from removal.

Of the 23,580 known or suspected aliens in USMS custody, 22,359 were being held for reasons other than being material witnesses.  Of those 22,359 individuals:

  • 13,662 individuals (61 percent) had committed immigration offenses;
  • 4,833 individuals (21.6 percent) had committed drug offenses;
  • 1,205 individuals (5.4 percent) had violated conditions of supervision;
  • 1,037 individuals (4.6 percent) had committed property offenses;
  • 457 individuals (2 percent) had committed violent offenses;
  • 422 individuals (1.9 percent) had committed weapons offenses; and
  • 743 individuals (3.3 percent) were in USMS custody due to a writ, hold, or transfer, or an unlisted offense.

Immigration Status of All Convicted Aliens Incarcerated in State Prisons and Local Detention Centers Throughout the United States

The departments continue to progress towards establishing data collection of the immigration status of convicted aliens incarcerated in state prisons and local detention centers through the Department of Justice’s Office of Justice Programs, Bureau of Justice Statistics (BJS) and the Department of Homeland Security’s Office of Immigration Statistics.

BJS annually collects aggregate numbers of noncitizens in state and federal prisons through the National Prisoner Statistics (NPS) program.  The most recent counts, released in April 2019, were from December 31, 2017.  According to Prisoners in 2017, data from 45 states shows that an estimated 69,300 non-U.S. citizens were held in public and private state prison facilities at year-end 2017.

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Author: October 16, 2020

Executions Scheduled for Two Federal Inmates Convicted of Heinous Murders

Attorney General William P. Barr today directed the Federal Bureau of Prisons to schedule the executions of two federal death-row inmates, both of whom were convicted of especially heinous murders at least 13 years ago.

  • Lisa Montgomery fatally strangled a pregnant woman, Bobbie Jo Stinnett, cut open her body, and kidnapped her baby. In December 2004, as part of a premeditated murder-kidnap scheme, Montgomery drove from her home in Kansas to Stinnett’s home in Missouri, purportedly to purchase a puppy.  Once inside the residence, Montgomery attacked and strangled Stinnett—who was eight months pregnant—until the victim lost consciousness.  Using a kitchen knife, Montgomery then cut into Stinnett’s abdomen, causing her to regain consciousness.  A struggle ensued, and Montgomery strangled Stinnett to death.  Montgomery then removed the baby from Stinnett’s body, took the baby with her, and attempted to pass it off as her own.  Montgomery subsequently confessed to murdering Stinnett and abducting her child.  In October 2007, a jury in the U.S. District Court for the Western District of Missouri found Montgomery guilty of federal kidnapping resulting in death, and unanimously recommended a death sentence, which the court imposed.  Her conviction and sentence were affirmed on appeal, and her request for collateral relief was rejected by every court that considered it.  Montgomery is scheduled to be executed by lethal injection on December 8, 2020, at U.S. Penitentiary Terre Haute, Indiana. 
  • Brandon Bernard and his accomplices brutally murdered two youth ministers, Todd and Stacie Bagley, on a military reservation in 1999. After Todd Bagley agreed to give a ride to several of Bernard’s accomplices, they pointed a gun at him, forced him and Stacie into the trunk of their car, and drove the couple around for hours while attempting to steal their money and pawn Stacie’s wedding ring.  While locked in the trunk, the couple spoke with their abductors about God and pleaded for their lives.  The abductors eventually parked on the Fort Hood military reservation, where Bernard and another accomplice doused the car with lighter fluid as the couple, still locked in the trunk, sang and prayed.  After Stacie said, “Jesus loves you,” and “Jesus, take care of us,” one of the accomplices shot both Todd and Stacie in the head—killing Todd and knocking Stacie unconscious.  Bernard then lit the car on fire, killing Stacie through smoke inhalation.  In June 2000, a jury in the U.S. District Court for the Western District of Texas found Bernard guilty of, among other offenses, two counts of murder within the special maritime and territorial jurisdiction of the United States, and unanimously recommended a death sentence.  His conviction and sentence were affirmed on appeal, and his request for collateral relief was rejected by every court that considered it.  Bernard is scheduled to be executed by lethal injection on December 10, 2020, at U.S. Penitentiary Terre Haute, Indiana.  One of his accomplices, Christopher Vialva, was executed for his role in the Bagleys’ murder on September 22, 2020.

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Author: October 16, 2020

Remarks by Attorney General William P. Barr at the Major Cities Chiefs Association Conference

I appreciate the invitation to address this group.  I want to start by thanking you, and the men and women you lead, for serving in what I think is the most noble profession in our country – enforcing the law and keeping our communities safe. 

Even in the best of times, there is no more challenging profession.  It requires skill, courage and the patience of Job.  But the climate today has made the job 10 times more difficult.  It is a climate characterized by cowardly politicians who do not support their police forces and by a deceitful national media that seizes on a relatively few incidents to scapegoat police and cultivate a false narrative that our police are systemically evil.  

I salute you, and your departments for standing tall in these times and continuing to carry out your duty to the public.  America is fortunate to have the professional police leaders and departments we have today, and despite the constant propaganda of the media, the American people recognize that.  The police, along with military, remain among the most respected institutions in the nation.

I want to say something initially about the core of our mission – protecting our communities from violent crime.  This is not a discretionary government service.  This is the reason we have governments in the first place.

Let me first put things in context.  As you know, I was Attorney General in the early 90’s when violent crime rates were at an all-time high – twice what they are today.  We had gotten there through a three-decade period – the 60s, 70s and 80s – with soft-on-crime policies very much like those which many states are now adopting – with revolving-door justice, sky-high recidivism rates, and an unwillingness to take violent predators off the street.

This led to the unbelievable levels of carnage that peaked in 1992.  That resulted in a consensus that we had to strengthen our criminal justice systems and start to target and incapacitate the chronic violent predators who are responsible for the lion’s share of the violent crime.

Those policies worked as they always do.  For over 20 years we had falling crime rates, and violent crime was cut in half. 

Unfortunately, people seem to have taken lower crime rates for granted and we have seen many states readopt the misbegotten policies that led to the crime crisis in the first place.

Even before COVID and the death of George Floyd this year, we were seeing an untick in violent crime in many of our cities.  But with the lockdowns and the demonization of police, we have seen that increase take hold in many places.

You often hear today the same sloganeering that was prevalent in the 60s and 70s.  It is said, that you cannot address crime by going after the criminals, but you have to address the “root causes” of crime – which means more social spending.  The defund the police movement reflects this philosophy – take funding from police and spend it on social programs.

This is a false dichotomy.  I think everyone here today would agree that tough law enforcement cannot be the only solution.  We must also address the pathologies that contribute to crime.  But they are not alternative approaches.  They must be complementary.  Strong law enforcement may not be able to do it alone – but it is indispensable – there can be no solution without it.  Law and order is the foundation of all social progress.

On the face of the DOJ building in Washington is the Latin inscription that translates:  “From law and order, everything else flows.”

Businesses cannot take root, if our streets are shooting galleries.  Schools cannot redeem our young people, if they are overrun by gangs.

A strong police presence and a strong law enforcement response to violent crime in our cities are “table stakes.”  Without these, any idea of social progress is folly.

I have yet to meet a real civic leader in our inner-city communities that suffer from violent crime, who actually lives in that community, who wants fewer police.  Yes, they want the respectful treatment they are due as citizens, but, if anything, they want more police.

Another false dichotomy lurks under the idea of “community policing.”   Community policing is great, and we are all for it.  But somehow the soft-on-crime crowd thinks of it (and they are not really sure what it really is) as an alternative to targeting the chronic violent offenders and locking them up.  It is not an alternative.  In fact, it does not work at all unless you have a strong criminal justice system that is effective in taking violent offenders off the street.  People are not going to cooperate with police and identify the predators if they think the criminal is going to be out on the street the next day,   

That is why the movement of many jurisdictions to do away with pre-trial detention and bail is so destructive of community policing and so dangerous to our communities.

I want to also point out that addressing the root causes of crime is not a new idea.  We have been pouring massive resources for many decades into social programs designed to address the root causes of crime, without much success.

From our standpoint, these programs would be more effective if they were coordinated with, and operated in tandem with our crime fighting efforts, and with the constructive leadership in affected neighborhoods.  This philosophy was behind the idea of weed and seed, which I initiated in 1991.  I know many of you are trying to get this done on an ad hoc basis in your own cities, but we need this approached systematically.

But I also think we need new approaches and not just pour money into the same old failed programs that frequently perpetuate the problems by subsidizing bad behavior or creating deeper dependency.

The economic growth and prosperity of the private sector is critical, along with policies that ensure that economic opportunity is provided in the inner cities. Before COVID struck, we saw unprecedented progress in this area.  And that can happen again. 

And policies like Economic Opportunity Zones can help ensure that opportunities are brought to the inner cities. 

I think we need more innovation in education as well.  Money is not the problem.  We have tripled in real terms the amount we spend on each student in the public schools.  I think we need more kinds of schools more capable of acting in loco parentis.  School choice would allow for more charter schools, schools affiliated with local churches, and so forth.

But, again, as I say – law enforcement is the indispensable foundation for any social progress.  We have to play our position.

Now let me turn to the question of reform.  Today, the media focus is on reforming policing.  I do not think anyone here would suggest that we should ever stop improving and professionalizing our police forces.  It is a constant and never-ending journey.  But, before turning to that, I want say a few words about another reform effort that is even more essential today.

The criminal justice system is a process that is only as strong as its weakest link. As long as I can remember the police, at the front end, have done a good job.  They do a pretty good job of identifying and catching the criminal.  It is the rest of the system that more often falls down – the prosecution and adjudication of the case.  And that is where we see the weakness today.

In many cities, the criminal justice system is becoming dysfunctional.  We are seeing laws that ignore the safety of the community – like the laws doing away with cash bail or pre-trial detention.  We are seeing so-called “social justice” DAs who do not enforce the law, and also judges who are indulgent of criminals and disregard the safety of the community.

This is where the most dramatic change is needed.  The American people need to understand that their own safety depends on them.  If they want an effective criminal justice system, they are going to have to pay attention to who they elect as District Attorney.  They are going to have to pay attention to the judges they elect or retain.  And they are going to have to select mayors who understand that public safety is the primary duty of government.

Now let me turn to police reform.  Over many decades, we have steadily improved and professionalized our police forces in this country. We are blessed today with the most effective, professional, diverse, and well-led police establishments in the world.  Our police leaders – all of you – recognize there is always more work to do.

We need to continue to attract and retain the best and the brightest to the ranks.  We need to provide the best training available to meet the evolving challenges our officers face on the streets.  And we need to foster systems of accountability that are fair to our officers but also have sufficient teeth to weed out the bad actors.

We need to continue reform not because we are failing.  We are succeeding.  Like all human institutions we are not perfect.  We cannot be, because we are made up of imperfect humans.  But we never stop striving to be the best we can.

The starting point for moving forward is the need for police to be adequately resourced and supported.  Defunding the police is the exact opposite of what we need to do.  We need to invest more in the police and public safety.  The fact is that, even before Minneapolis and COVID, the burden on our officers was become heavier.  It was becoming harder to compete for the best candidates.  It was harder to find funds for the training our police officers need to meet the complex challenges they face or to deploy the technology that can make them more effective and keep them safer.     

The fact is that public safety budgets as a percentage of public spending have remain stagnant for many decades.  We need to increase investments in law enforcement.

As you know, this Administration wants to support your efforts to continue to professionalize and improve your departments.  The President’s Executive Order directs the Department of Justice to take a number of steps toward that goal, including creating new law-enforcement certification standards, and we are close to implementing that order.  We also hope to soon release the detailed report of the Presidential Commission on Law Enforcement and the Administration of Justice, although it has unfortunately been delayed by litigation.  

Part of sensible reform is to be honest about the phenomenon of excessive force.  Are there instances of excessive force?  Of course there are.  No one is more focused on reducing them than the leaders in this room.  But we also have to be honest that instances of deliberate, cold blooded excessive force are relatively rare and becoming rarer.

And many of the instances that are presented by the media as involving excessive force are not being fairly presented in context.  The vast majority of instances come about when suspect engages in forceful resistance to a police officer, triggering a sudden violent affray.

People have to remember that a police officer does not have the luxury of walking away from a violent suspect.  They try to de-escalate, but they must subdue that suspect. They are frequently at a disadvantage because in any struggle they have to make sure their weapon is not taken. And the stakes for the officer could not be higher – it is their life.  It is whether they go home.  They have to make split second decisions in fast-moving situations.

The media fosters misunderstanding of the risks involved in these situations. 

The bottom line is that, if we are going to send our police officers into uncertain and potentially fatal encounters, we need to be fair to them in judging their actions.

 The absolute worse thing would be to adopt the radical proposal to eliminate qualified immunity, which protects police officers from personal liability when they make good-faith errors in enforcing the law.  If an officer knowingly violates someone’s clearly established rights, personal liability may be appropriate.  But qualified immunity provides breathing space for officers to do their jobs without fear that an inadvertent or unpredictable error will subject them to financial ruin.  Without qualified immunity individual officers would be deterred from going into risky situations that are necessary to save lives.

If we wish to minimize excessive-force situations, the most important step we could take is to re-establish the principle that there is no valid justification for physically resisting a police officer.  The approach must be “comply first, complain later.”  This will save the lives of officers and of suspects.

Finally, if we are interested in real reform, we have to distinguish between people of goodwill who are genuinely interested in improving policing and bringing about public safety from those whose professed agenda is to tear down the existing system.  Their goal is to precipitate violence against police and to neuter and demoralize police. These are the radicals who have hijacked demonstrations and reengage in violence.  Molotov cocktails and bricks.  These are not peaceful protesters exercising their First Amendment rights.  They are criminals and thugs and must be dealt with accordingly.

Let me close by saying that I have been visiting our Operation Legend cities over the past few weeks.  In all of them, I am seeing the tangible results of the strong partnership between Federal and state and local law enforcement.  As partners, we can help make our cities safer and more prosperous.  And as long as I am Attorney General, you can count on the Department of Justice to be your partner in the vital work of enforcing the rule of law and building a more effective criminal justice system.

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Author: October 16, 2020

Justice Department Awards Over $54 Million to Support Wellness and Safety of Law Enforcement Officers

The Department of Justice’s Office of Justice Programs today announced it has awarded funding totaling over $54 million to provide services that protect officers and improve overall public safety. OJP’s Bureau of Justice Assistance awarded grants to law enforcement departments, local jurisdictions, and training and technical assistance organizations throughout the United States.

The FBI’s official crime data for 2019, the most recent available, reflects a decrease in the number of law enforcement officers killed feloniously between 2018 and 2019, from 43 to 32 killed as of September 30, 2019. The number of law enforcement officers reported accidentally killed in 2019 decreased slightly from 33 to 29 in the same reporting period. Additionally, officers experienced nearly 59,000 assaults in 2018.

 “The Office of Justice Programs stands proudly with the Attorney General and the President in our commitment to the health and safety of 700,000 sworn law enforcement professionals who selflessly place their lives in jeopardy to keep us all safe,” said OJP’s Principal Deputy Assistant Attorney General Katharine T. Sullivan. “Bulletproof vests, body-worn cameras, professional training on wellness and safety—these resources, equipment and strategies will help officers do their jobs effectively, keep them safe from harm and protect their health.”

More than $19 million will support the training and implementation of law enforcement agencies’ body-worn camera programs. Almost $24 million will reimburse jurisdictions for up to 50 percent of the cost of body armor vests, while more than $11 million will support law enforcement safety and wellness programs, research and services.

A full list of the awards, organized under specific grant programs and listing awardees by state, is available here.

Additional information about Fiscal Year 2020 grant awards made by the Office of Justice Programs can be found online at the OJP Awards Data webpage.

The Office of Justice Programs, directed by Principal Deputy Assistant Attorney General Katharine T. Sullivan, provides federal leadership, grants, training, technical assistance and other resources to improve the nation’s capacity to prevent and reduce crime, assist victims and enhance the rule of law by strengthening the criminal and juvenile justice systems. More information about OJP and its components can be found at www.ojp.gov.

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Author: October 16, 2020

North Carolina Return Preparer Pleads Guilty in Tax Fraud Scheme

A Rocky Mount, North Carolina, tax return preparer pleaded guilty today to conspiring to defraud the United States, announced Principal Deputy Assistant Attorney General Richard E. Zuckerman of the Justice Department’s Tax Division and U.S. Attorney Robert J. Higdon, Jr. for the Eastern District of North Carolina.

According to court documents and statements made in court, between 2009 and 2017, Adrienne Williams owned and operated Ultimate Tax Service, a return preparation business, which had an office in Rocky Mount, North Carolina. Williams trained her employees on various ways to prepare false tax returns, including by claiming false federal income tax withholdings. In all, the false returns prepared and filed by Williams and her employees on behalf of clients sought more than $3.5 million in inflated refunds.

Sentencing is scheduled before U.S. District Court Judge Terrence W. Boyle. At sentencing, Williams faces a statutory maximum sentence of five years in prison. She also faces a period of supervised release, restitution and monetary penalties.

Principal Deputy Assistant Attorney General Zuckerman and U.S. Attorney Higdon, Jr. commended special agents of IRS-Criminal Investigation, who conducted the investigation, and Trial Attorney Michael L. Jones and Assistant U.S. Attorney Susan B. Menzer, who are prosecuting the case.

Additional information about the Tax Division and its enforcement efforts may be found on the division’s website.

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Author: October 15, 2020

Department of Justice Announces More Than $341 Million in Grants to Combat America’s Addiction Crisis

The Department of Justice today announced grant awards totaling more than $341 million to help fight America’s addiction crisis. Office of Justice Programs (OJP) Principal Deputy Assistant Attorney General Katharine T. Sullivan discussed this year’s grant awards during a roundtable discussion of mental health and addiction issues led by Second Lady Karen Pence.

“The addiction crisis has taken an enormous toll on America’s families and communities, eroding public health, threatening public safety and claiming tens of thousands of lives year after year,” said Attorney General William P. Barr. “Through comprehensive measures taken by this administration, we have been able to curtail the opioid epidemic, but new and powerful drugs are presenting exceptional challenges that we must be prepared to meet. The Justice Department’s substantial investments in enforcement, response, and treatment will help us overcome these challenges and work towards freeing Americans from abuse and addiction.”

“If we hope to defeat an enemy as powerful, persistent and adaptable as illicit drugs, we must be at least as determined and versatile, focusing our ingenuity and resources on curbing abuse and fighting addiction,” said OJP’s Principal Deputy Assistant Attorney Katharine T. Sullivan. “It was a privilege to join the Second Lady in announcing these investments, which will enable criminal justice officials and substance abuse, mental health and other medical professionals to pool their assets and bring the full weight of our public safety and treatment systems down on this epidemic that has already caused so much harm.”

Illegal drugs and illicit drug use have claimed the lives of nearly 400,000 Americans since the turn of the century. Powerful synthetic opioids like fentanyl are exacting an enormous toll on families and communities, and an emergence in the use of methamphetamines and other psychostimulants is drawing drug traffickers and driving up overdose rates. Three years ago, President Trump declared a Public Health Emergency and initiated a whole-of-government approach dedicated to ending this national tragedy. The Department of Justice has invested unprecedented levels of funding in combating the addiction crisis. The awards announced today build on those earlier investments.

Funding is made available through the Bureau of Justice Assistance (BJA), the National Institute of Justice (NIJ), the Office for Victims of Crime (OVC), and the Office of Juvenile Justice and Delinquency Prevention (OJJDP), components of OJP.

  • More than $147 million under BJA’s Comprehensive Opioid, Stimulant and Substance Abuse Site-based Program will help prosecutors develop strategies to address violent crime caused by illegal opioid distribution and abuse.
  • More than $57 million will fund BJA’s Adult Drug Court and Veterans Treatment Court Discretionary Grant Program, which helps states, state courts, local courts and federally recognized tribal governments implement and enhance the operations of adult drug courts and veteran treatment courts. BJA also awarded more than $12 million for related training and technical assistance.
  • BJA awarded more than $28 million to fund the Harold Rogers Prescription Drug Monitoring Program, which enhances the capacity of regulatory and law enforcement agencies and public health officials to collect and analyze controlled substance prescription data and other scheduled chemical products through a centralized database administered by an authorized agency.
  • BJA awarded $28 million to support the Residential Substance Abuse Treatment for State Prisoners Program, which helps states develop and implement residential substance abuse treatment programs within state and local correctional facilities, as well as detention facilities, in which inmates are incarcerated for a time sufficient to permit substance abuse treatment.
  • BJA awarded $2.6 million to fund the National Community Courts Site-based and Training and Technical Assistance Initiative, which helps community court grantees and practitioners develop effective responses to low-level and non-violent offenses.
  • OJJDP awarded over $19 million across 21 jurisdictions under its Family Drug Court Program to build the capacity of state and local courts, units of local government and federally recognized tribal governments to enhance existing family drug courts or implement statewide or countywide family drug court practices. The program aims to increase collaboration with substance abuse treatment and child welfare systems to ensure the provision of treatment and other services for families that improve child, parent and family outcomes.
  • More than $5 million will support OJJDP’s Juvenile Drug Treatment Court Program, designed to help jurisdictions that want to establish or enhance a juvenile drug treatment court and to improve court system operations and treatment services.
  • OJJDP awarded $14 million under two categories of its Mentoring Opportunities for Youth Initiative to address opioid and other substance abuse.
  • Just over $4 million was awarded to support youth mentoring organizations that have a partnership with a public or private substance abuse treatment agency to provide mentoring services for youth impacted by unlawful or addictive opioid use.
  • Nearly $10 million was awarded to build mentoring program capacity in targeted regions throughout the country to support statewide or regional approaches to expanding mentoring services for youth impacted by opioids.
  • Nearly $9 million will fund OJJDP’s Opioid Affected Youth Initiative, which will support states, communities, tribes and nonprofits implementing programs and strategies that identify, respond to, treat and support children, youth and families impacted by the opioid epidemic.
  • Another $1 million will fund specialized training to serve families impacted by opioids as part of a larger award under OJJDP’s Child Abuse Training for Judicial and Court Personnel
  • OVC will fund more than $12 million under the Enhancing Community Responses to America’s Drug Crisis: Serving Our Youngest Crime Victims Program to support direct services to children and youth who are crime victims as a result of the nation’s addiction crisis; and nearly $1.5 million to one organization to support training and technical assistance for the direct services grantees.
  • NIJ will fund nearly $1.5 million on Research and Evaluation on Drugs and Crime, which will support rigorous applied research on evidence-based tools, protocols and policy efforts that will address drug traffickers, markets and related violence. It will also fund over $2.3 million for other related research.

A full list of the awards, organized under specific grant programs and listing awardees by state, is available here.

Additional information about FY 2020 grant awards from the Office of Justice Programs can be found online at the OJP Award Data Page.

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Author: October 16, 2020

Remarks by Katharine T. Sullivan, Principal Deputy Assistant Attorney General of the Office of Justice Programs, at the Pennsylvania Roundtable on Mental Health and Addiction

Thank you. It’s wonderful to be here today, and it’s such a privilege to join the Second Lady for this conversation.

I want to thank my colleagues in the administration and all of the experts taking part in today’s discussion. And most of all, my thanks to the survivors who were brave enough to tell their stories. Our attorney general would have been very proud to hear how each of you has fought to overcome your addiction. I saw this battle play out many times during my days as a judge, when I ran a drug court, and I know how tough a fight it is. You are all warriors in every sense of the word, and we are all pulling for you.

There are many, many people across our country struggling with addiction and abuse, and too many – far too many, sadly – have lost the fight. Over 700,000 Americans have died of a drug overdose in the last two decades. Attorney General Barr understands the enormity of this crisis. Countless families, and communities of all sizes, have suffered. Bill Barr sees this not just as a public health and public safety emergency – which it certainly is – but as a national tragedy, which is why he is willing to do whatever it takes, to deploy whatever resources are necessary, to bring this tragedy to an end.

This includes more aggressive prosecutions of drug traffickers, broader support of community-based programs and expanded treatment options, including telehealth options in rural communities, that put drug-involved individuals on the road to recovery.

Unfortunately, the first step toward recovery is often a brush with the law. Sometimes, it’s a domestic incident that brings police into contact with a user. Often, it’s an overdose that draws first responders to the scene. The way these encounters are handled can make a huge difference in treatment outcomes. The problem is, police are equipped to enforce the law and restore order – they are generally not trained to respond to a user’s health and mental health needs.

In order to respond comprehensively – keeping the peace while facilitating treatment – it’s crucial that we strengthen the connection between treatment providers and law enforcement.  My agency, the Office of Justice Programs, is investing substantial resources in programs that facilitate these partnerships. We’re also supporting drug and veterans treatment courts that keep drug-involved offenders from falling deeper into the justice system. Research shows that these programs work, and I’ve seen personally the enormous difference they make.

These and other Department of Justice programs are helping us get treatment to people who come into contact with the justice system, including prisoners and jail inmates. Last year, we awarded more than $333 million in grants to tackle drugs and addiction, which was an unprecedented amount of funding. I’m very pleased that we’re continuing those investments this year. In fact, we’re going a little beyond. As we speak, more than $340 million in grant awards are going out the door to communities across the country to combat the addiction crisis.

This includes $29 million to help criminal justice officials and mental health providers meet the needs of people with mental illness. As much as 10 percent of all police calls in the U.S. involve people with a serious mental illness, and a substantial percentage of people in jails have a serious mental illness – and they stay there longer and return more frequently. It’s critical that we address these challenges at the outset and throughout the course of their involvement in the system, and that’s precisely what these new grants will do.

The Department of Justice is the federal government’s largest law enforcement agency, and the attorney general is the nation’s chief law enforcement officer. We believe that people who break the law should be held accountable, but we also believe very strongly that people who are dealing with addiction and mental illness need support. Otherwise, they will continue to be a danger to themselves, to their families and to their communities.

It’s in all our interests that they succeed, which is why we will continue working hard to make sure that treatment and safety are part of a unified response. The Department of Justice is with all of you in this fight, and we will not spare our resources.

Thank you for your time.

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Author: October 16, 2020