tv Politics and Public Policy Today CSPAN November 30, 2015 2:00pm-3:01pm EST
more efficiency, but whether or the not this will be a big move will defend on the results from paris. without getting a clear signal from paris, there will not be a major change in the flow of investments and as we all know energy sector have long lead times and therefore the signal, a clear signal from paris therefore will be of vital importance. finally, the ability to get the energy sector to challenge both in terms of oil and gas, when we look at the amount of challenges, both climate change and local pollution on energy is a vital one. therefore we are aiming fp
looking truly international. thank you very much for your attention. thank you.truly international. thank you very much for your attention. thank you. >> thank you very much for that wonderful presentation. we are going to open it up for questions. we are on the record as you can tell by the huge number of cameras back here. and we'll please wait for a microphone to state your name and affiliation and ask your question in the form of a question. while you think of some of your moste est most pressing questions, before you arrived today, we were watching the world leaders that you mentioned gathered in paris already talking about what immediates to happen in paris and also after paris. that is a unique feature you talked about is that there is a
focus on while there is a lot that has been achieved, a lot more still needs to be done. one of the themes that you bring up and it's here in your conclusion slides is really that transition from china being the growing emerging consumer to being a transitioning major consumer. clearly very important to energy markets because of its size and its power of being such a large consumer. and then india really being the emerging consumer of the next several decades. part of the challenge in these paris climate talks is to prove to a lot of these emerging developing economies that we have figured out how to grow and decarbonize at the same time. you were just in india. how well are we selling that message? >> so i think you hugh to rec cop sil the economic growth and the environmental consideration is a big challenge and i think we have to be fair here.
if you want to be credible, we have to be fair. you look at the u.s., europe, japan, china, the economic growth has been mainly on the base of using a lot of coal. and they use a lot of coal and it's still there, a big chunk of it. we cannot afford to have the same pattern to continue because we will not be able to reach our climate targets. so therefore one thing we suggest is that either the countries should not build anymore inefficient coal fired power plants and the ones who are building it should have some -- such as africa, such as india.
or there should be some mechanisms to provide them cheaper sustainable energy sources. other than that, we cannot oblige african countries or india, other poor countries, to choose for the more expensive options in the absence of providing any incentives for them. therefore, i believe there will be an agreement hopefully in paris and hopefully there will be an agreement where all important if not all countries are signing but how this agreement is put together will be very important in the context of having all major emerging countries on board. and this means that one should
look at the economic development prospects together and here once again i would be urging the countries to come up with some pragmatic solutions here rather than dogmatic policies which will go across the board to all the countries the same policies. i hope and i'm confident that we will come up with some solutions which will get the different sensitivities of different parties in paris. >> and sticking with the theme of decarbonization for a minute, many folks recognize your organization as one of sound energy policy and energy analysis, but you also do a lot of work on technology, as well. we've seen already at the start of the negotiations an announcement from 19 of the world's largest r&d investors and some of the world's most
forward leaning billion their billionaires, this commitment to invest. what is it that we need to be doing to chief decarbonization? >> i think especially in the power generation, in order to increase the number of options we have in hand, we need to bring the costs down. if they don't use enough renewables, not because they don't like renewables, but they're not in line with coal because it's cheaper. so therefore research and development bring the cost of
technologies down and definitely different types of nuclear power, capture and storage. i think doubles the efforts of these countries as you mentioned recover all the clean area technologies including the nuclear and ccs and iea, we are very keen to be the coordinating body of this effort. >> and finally before we open it up to the audience, you have been a long time voice in arguing for not being caccomplct when oil prices are low. and yet we here in the united states seem to be slightly seized by the idea of lower for longer to event extent to which we've got several committees within our u.s. congress looking to sell portions of our strategic petroleum reserve, we have a burgeoning movement of people who believe that you
should invest in fossil fuel energy resources because the resources is so abundant and we should be taking a new and different approach to how we deal with oil and gas development. and you've said you don't think $50 oil is likely or necessarily desirable for a lot of our energy policy goals and objectives. what message would you have for u.s. policymakers in how they are treats not only oil supply security but the cultivation of the resource space that resulted from the quiet revolution in 2009? >> thank you very much. first of all, i should say that it would be extremely wrong, mistake, a grave mistake, if our attention to oil security is indexed to changes in the oil prices. namely prices go down, therefore
everything is okay. no need for -- prices go up, this is the panic. it is not approaching the issues. look at iraq, syria, libya, yemen, algeria, many countries there, many here would know better than me. i don't think that this problem is immediately solved tomorrow. many of them are issues for many years to come. therefore i would think that the oil security at least if i may say so in the iea will be the guiding principal at least for the next four years to come. the second on the investment, one thing is important to understand. even out of paris, out of
economic problem weakening, even the oil demand growth in the next ten years was zero. so no oil demand growth. it stays as it is. we still have to produce new oil amount of 4 million per day just to compound the decline in the existing fields. so the fields are like human beings. when they are new and young, the production goes up. they come to a certain level and the production goes down. so we have to find new fields just to compensate. it's the main story each year we are to bring the production therefore we need investments. and my worry is as i he thinksed in the beginning investments are in a decline 15 and most likely
16 and if it comes together with the increase in the demand which i believe it will come, we may have some strong challenges in the markets. so therefore from investment points of view, i am worried whatever the demand growth is, we may see challenge in the markets for the next years to come. >> we'll take tom over here and we'll take three questions at a time and then you're next. >> thank you. my name is tom kutler, independent consultant. thank you for your presentation. my countquestion is about india. you mentioned that china,
indonesia and thailand have all become, quote, associate members or how far you describe it. so i was struck by the fact that i said i can't w india was not on that list. do you expect indiabndianb indi agreement on associate status and if not why and what are the issues holding that up? >> and the gentleman in the blue sweater. green, blue. >> thank you. my name is hal whackman, retired from the world bank. thank you for an excellent presentation. you did not mention the words carbon tax in your entire presentation or carbon pricing, if you like. i'm wondering -- i'm assuming that all of your projections are assuming no such thing ever happens. could you say a few words about that, please? >> one more right over here for
the first round. >> i'm from atlantic council. i wanted to ask you about the implication of the low price environment on the shale gas boom in the united states and beyond. thank you. >> so excellent question about india. we are working with india very long time, as sarah mentioned, i was in new delhi, had meetings with all three ministers. we had excellent cooperation. i think there are some bureaucratic challenges and i hope that very soon we will have india as part of the greater iea
family. but we are working very closely with india and other countries. no doubt this will be definitely not good news at least for the iea no. iea not to work with india, making major efforts in the efficiencies, solar, other parts of energy. and i think we can share expertise with the india colleag colleagues.bon price, in my view, carbon price is the best solution to our climate rob. to be easiest straightforward, and it would be the most efficient one. howev however, if you have the carbon tax in some countries and not in the others, then maybe some
imbalances in terms of the competitiveness of the economies of those countries who put the carbon price. and given the current political environment in paris and before paris, after paris, to have an agreement on the carbon price in paris for me would be a very welcome surprise. i should put this way. because it will be very difficult knowing different countries, different sensibilities. but i fully agree with you the best way to address the climate change problem would be putting your price on carbon. the low oil prices will have also implications for the shale
gas in the u.s. and elsewhere. even though it will not affect directly as much as it is in the shale oil. and the current price, perhaps i could say current price levels of gas in the united states i expect need to go up sometime soon in on the to make production go up more sustainable. >> let's take another round. i think one question there, another here and one here. >> adam siegel. iea you are an advocate of moving toward cleaner energy
policies. yet in forecasting, without exception, it's been incredibly pessimistic when comes to solar and wind. 2010, r50e difficulted 180 gigawatts of solar pie 2024. we passed that in january 2015. your slides had roughly 50% reduction in solar prices by 2040. the world will exceed that within a year. why this -- considering the advocacy of renewable energy, why the continued repeat pessimism? >> hi. jen anyny mandel.
my question is regarding your comments changing the culture of iea. and moving it from being less of a rich man's club and bringing in new countries. so my question is what changes within the organization would you you expect to come with that change, with bringing in several you new countries that have a different economic and development perspective. thank you. >> and one more right here. >> good afternoon. we focus on oil and gas and energy. looking at your presentation, how do you look at africa now producing oil and do you think of africa being a member of the iea and if so looking at the oil production, what do you advise, oil exported or refined oil, what do you think working in
this between now and 2030. thank you. >> okay. thank you very much for these very good questions. about our projections, first of all, we make on the base of the policies. the numbers i show you you with the existing policies of the governments, we l. swill see wh kind of trends we will see. we also have projections with strong climate policies. in that case it's much stronger. many like you you mention why our renewable projections are so conservative, we went back and we look at them.
95% of our projections are on the spot. upward was the solar projections and here two things. what happened is that governments change their policies and supported the solar much more stronger and solar showed a strong increase. and we increase our projections. and i'll be very happy in what you say is true next year the cost of solar will go up 50% down. i would be surprised if it is the case. i'll be very happy next year when i came here of course if i'm invited to revise our solar projections upward. but what we do is that we say with these policies you go here, but if you want to see more solar or more anything, you have to change your policies and then
we can push it more. just for the sake of the colleagues knowledge, in a solar very important and we put a lot of emphasis the share of solar and energy mix is not 10%, not 5%, not 1%. it is 0.1%. so the odd of magnitude of things. but sole similar important. india, china, other countries pushing it and i hope to see more solar next year. what are we going to change in our organization not to be rich man's energy club? what i would like to see, we want to be truly international. we will open our doors to emerging countries. i'm very happy that mexican government decided to be a member after the forfeit and we have now series of countries who are interested to work with us. we are changing are our culture
for example next year we will work on an issue environment which is specific to the emerging country, namely local pollution in the cities. a big issue in asia, latin america, african countries, what kind of management is needed is n. order to in order to get policies to reduce emission high school in the cities. and we're getting more and more from those countries to work with us. we will advise those governments
ranging from energy efficiency to the oil policies. and africa, a very good question, long question. in fact africa has a lot of of course oil and gas potential in addition to the established produce such as genigeria and angola. of course some needs to be used at home, some need to be exported because the revenues are very important parts of many of those governments budgets. but the main problem in africa today in my view is that two out of three africans have no access to electricity. and this is a shame. and africa has a lot of oil gas
renewable energies. we have strong solar radiation. a lot of sun. even more than washington, d.c. so therefore you you need to see that africa makes the most out of it. as i said, many people have no access to electricity. money is coming to africa. but energy coming mainly to export the african oil and gas to other countries. today $2 out of $3 is for the oil and gas and coal projects to be exported which brings money to the government, but still energy is very poor and we work with with african countries that want to be a part of the iea and also working with others.
today is the first die of a climate change conference in paris. more than 150 leaders are there for the meetings including president obama. join the conversation at facebook.com/c-span and on twitter with #c-span. all persons having business before the honorable stream court of the united states are admonished to draw near and give their attention. >> coming up on landmark cases.
>> a scuffle oig started and she put the paper in to her bosom. and very readily the police officer put his hands into her bosom and removed the paper.the. and very readily the police officer put his hands into her bosom and removed the paper. and there after handcuffed her while the police officers started to search the house. >> in 1957, the cleveland police went to the home who they believed to be harboring a suspected bomber and demanded entry. she refused them access without a warrant. later returning with a document they claimed was a rnts warwarry forced themselves in. not finding their suspect, they confiscated a trunk containing obscene pictures. she was arrested and sentenced to seven years. she sued and her case made it all the way to supreme court. we'll examine the case of mamm v
ohio. that's live tonight at 9:00 eastern on c-span, c-span3, and c-span radio. and for background on each days while you watch, order your copy of the landmark cases companion book, it's babl for $8.95 plus shipping at cspan.org/landmark cases. attorney general loretta lynch recently testified in an oversight hearing held by the house judiciary committee. she answered questions about gun violence and other topics. virginia congressman bob goodlatte chaired the four hour hearing. >> the chair is authorized to declare recesses of the committee at any time. we welcome everyone to this
morning's hearing on the oversight of the u.s. department of justice and i'll begin by recognizing myself for an opening statement. welcome attorney general lynch to your first appearance before the house judiciary committee since your confirmation earlier this year and we're pleased to have you here with us. last week we witnessed horrific terrorist attacks in paris which claimed the lives of over 120 innocent civilians and for which isis has taken credit. our thoughts and prayers remain with the french people and we mourn with them. at the same time, these terrorist attacks are a stark reminder that isis poses a threat to our allies and america. reality is not clearly seen by our president. just hours before the attack, president obama boasted that isis is contained. isis is not contained in syria. it is not contained in europe and we know isis is continuing its campaign of propaganda here in the u.s. we know from the paris attacks that at least one of the perpetrators was registered as a
refugee from syria in countries through which he traveled on his way to france. just last month, fbi director comey told this committee that the u.s. refugee vetting process is not adequate to guarantee that syrians referred for resettlement in the u.s. are not terrorists who plan to harm us. yet the president presses on with his plan to resettle at least 10,000 syrian refugees during this fiscal year alone. i look forward to hearing your thoughts on this issue considering that the top counterterrorism investigator in the u.s. consistently states that the databases and law enforcement resources are not available to properly vet syrians. further more, reports indicate that despite repeated congressional action to the contrary this administration thinks terrorists at guantanamo bay who are cut from the same cloth as the paris attackers and many of whom are deemed too dangerous for release to foreign
countries should be brought to the united states. transferring these combat tonights to the united states will only increase their odds of being released inside the u.s. these public and national security concerns coupled with unanswered questions about the cost and logistics of bringing detainees into the u.s. should cause the administration to hit pause on its reckless decision to close the guantanamo detention facility. enemy combatants should remain outside of the united states where they can be detained away from our communities and without needlessly jeopardizing the safety and security of the american people. in addition to the mounting national security threats facing the department of justice, with i would also like to focus on the need for an impartial justice department. americans have mechanic more and more suspicious that their government agencies are biased. to understand this, one need look no further than the well-founded allegations that the irs targeted conservative groups for extra scrutiny.
after numerous appeals to appoint a special counsel to investigate this, last month the justice department announced that no criminal prosecution would be brought against irs personnel in connection with this matter. it's not difficult to understand why a special counsel was needed give than only those organizations opposed to the president's overreaching agenda were targeted by high-ranking irs officials. apparently officials at the irs share secretary clinton's abhorrent notion that republicans are "the enemy." i am profoundly disturbed by the administrations handling of this matter. at every turn president obama and administration officials repeatedly and publicly undermine the investigation. when the house of representatives took the responsible step of calling for the appointment of a special counsel to investigate the matter, our concerns and those of the individuals targeted by
the irs went unresolved by the administration. madam attorney general, now that your department has concluded its investigation, i look forward to discussing the department's decision with you in greater detail. given the controversy surrounding the administration's mishandling of the irs targeting scandal, it's critical that the justice department demonstrate to the american people that it will handling with impartiality its investigation surrounding former secretary of state hillary clinton's use of a private e-mail server for official purposes. earlier this year, two inspectors general reported that classified information was contained within the private e-mails of former secretary of state hillary clinton and have referred the matter to the justice department. during his appearance before the committee last month fbi director comey vowed that this investigation will be conducted "promptly, professionally and independently." rest assured, congress and the american people will hold both
the bureau and the department to this standard. the committee also remains concerned that the department is subverting congress' budget authority by using settlements to funnel money to third party interest groups. the concern is institutional and non-partisan, yet rather than suspend the practice, doj has expanded it while quietly obstructing the committee's investigation. last week, the department finally produced a small subset of relevant documents that the committee requested 11 months ago. i would like to know, madam attorney general, what you and as an experienced prosecutor would do if a large corporation behaved this way in an investigation. as we sit with you today, attorney general lynch, law enforcement agencies across the country face profound challenges, 31 police officers have been shot to death this year alone. in many places officers are understandably asking whether it
is worth pursuing violent criminals or otherwise putting themselves in harm's way lest they be the targets of intentional violence or community backlash force must be used appropriately and police officers must take proper steps to protect innocent civilians however irresponsible anti-police activity from many in the advocacy community and the justice department's ongoing efforts to micromanage state and local police agencies have only served to exacerbate the divide between police and citizens, this trend cannot continue. many american cities have seen a spike in violent crime. in baltimore, homicides are up 71%. in august of this year, the number of murders here in washington, d.c. already matched the number for all of 2014. other cities have seen similar increases in violent crime. despite these grim statistics, however, the obama administration has continued to
support initiatives that will only exacerbate this violence. on november 1 of this year, nearly 6,000 federal drug offenders were released from prison pursuant to a 2014 sentencing commission amendment which the justice department supported. over the next two years, some additional 10,000 offenders will be released early. this ill-advised amendment applies without regard to an inmate's criminal history and will result in the release of some dangerous violent criminals as well as illegal criminal aliens. as you know, the committee has introduced bipartisan legislation to institute meaningful sentencing reform while preventing release of serious violent criminals. speaking of releasing violent criminals, the murder of kate steinle in san francisco earlier this year is a tragic reminder that the lack of appropriate immigration enforcement in our nation today and the reckless sanctuary policies in many cities across the country can have deadly consequences.
it's not enough for administration officials to pay lip service to the problems presented by sanctuary cities. federal agencies, including the justice department must take meaningful steps to ensure criminal aliens released from federal custody are promptly deported. attorney general lynch, i look forward to hearing your views on these important topics today other issues of significant to the justice department and our nation. thank you, now i'm pleased to recognize the ranking member of the committee, the gentleman from michigan mr. conyers for his opening statement. >> thank you, chairman goodlatte. your opening statement could be the basis of a hearing all of its own and appreciate your views. madam attorney general, welcome to the house judiciary
committee. nearly seven months ago, after much delay in the senate you took over the department of justice with not one but two tours of duty at the u.s. attorney for the eastern district of new york. you are unquestionably the right leader at the right time for the important work of the department of justice. nowhere is your leadership more important than in national security. the attacks on paris, france, leave no doubt that our most pressing mission -- yours and ours -- remains protecting the american people and unfortunately history shows that tragic events like these that are followed by calls for drastic action already we've heard proposals to undue encryption.
to roll back surveillance roe form and deport some of the vulnerable among us. i urge restraint in these matters, madam attorney general. at this time we have very little information about how the attacks were carried out. rather than use these events as an excuse to advance policies that otherwise betrayed our values, i urge the intelligence community, including the department of justice to focus on the most effective tools in our tool box -- targeted surveillance, targeted investigation and smart policing. back at home, you have cultivated strong relationships in the police community but you are not afraid to call out bad
behavior or to prosecute police officers when circumstances warrant. that experience will prove invaluable as the department, along with this committee takes its next steps on criminal justice reform. under your leadership the civil rights division continues its work with police departments around the country to ensure that state and local policing practices comport with the constitution. the office of juvenile justice is also working hard to disrupt what you've called the cycle of criminality and incarceration. i commend you for your work on this front and i look forward to our partnership as this committee moves forward with its own package of criminal justice
reforms. another area where we look to you for leadership is enforcement of voting rights. earlier this year, observing the 50th anniversary of the voting rights act you remarked "it is the lesson of every generation that the price of freedom is constant vigilance." because opponents of free and fair access to the voting boost have neither retreated nor surrendered. the unfortunate truth of that statement plays out across the country today. no place more vividly than in the state of alabama have officials plan to close 31 driver's license offices across the state, including those in every county in which african-americans make up more than 75% of registered voters.
coupled with alabama's strict new voter i.d. law, these closes will make it even harder for many citizens to obtain the identification now required to cast their vote. the discriminatory impact of this plan plays out in other ways, too.the discriminatory im this plan plays out in other ways, too. imagine having to drive hundreds of miles across rural alabama to renew your driver's license. we know that this burden will weigh heaviest on the state's poorest citizens. borrowing again from your words, "it is incumbent on all of us to stand up, to speak out and to make clear that no end is worth the means of disenfranchisement.
small-minded policy is worth the cheapening of our democracy. finally, madam attorney general, i want to comment on the virtue on being the leader of the department of justice ready to make a fresh start with this committee. today you will hear questions no doubt about benghazi, planned parenthood, solyndra, operation fast and furious and lois lerner at the irs. these are not matters that affect a whole lot of our constituents but you will hear questions about them and comments, anyway. my advice to you that you don't need is stick to the facts and the law and you'll be fine. we know that some members are displeased with the outcome of the department's investigation into the lois lerner matter but
we also know that your investigators were as thorough as can be. they conducted over 100 interviews, collected more than one million pages of documents and closely analyzed almost 500 applications for tax-exempt status. some members may wish your predecessor had appointed a special counsel to investigate the matter both both the plain texts of the applicable regulations is and the congressional research tell us otherwise the facts of the case did not involve senior administration officials. they did not present a conflict of interest to the department of justice and so the appointment
of a special counsel was simply not appropriate in this matter. to often your predecessor who i still admire found himself the target of personal insults in this committee and elsewhere and i like to think that all of us in this room and on this committee regret the frequent attacks on his character, or at least realize that those attacks were almost entirely unproductive. we have a chance to start over today. we can do better. progressives and conservatives, congress and the administration, there is so much common ground between us to be explored, particularly in the department of the department of justice. that's why i'm so glad that you're here with us today and i look forward to your testimony.
thank you, mr. chairman. >> thank you, mr. conyers. without objection, all other members' opening statements will be made a part of the record and we again welcome our distinguished witness and if you would please rise and we will begin by swearing you in. do you swear that the testimony that you are about to give shall be the truth, the whole truth and nothing but the truth so help you god? >> i do. >> thank you very much and please be seated. let the record reflect that the witness has responded in the affirmative. i'll now begin by introducing our sole witness today. the attorney general of the united states, ms. loretta lynch, attorney general lynch was sworn in as the 83rd attorney general of the united states on april 27, 2015. she began her career in public service by joining the united states attorney's office for the eastern district of new york.
after nine years, ms. lynch was appointed by president bill clinton to lead that office as united states attorney, a post she held until 2001. ms. lynch then worked in private practice until 2010 when president obama asked her to resume leadership of the united states attorney's office in brooklyn. ms. lynch is a graduate of harvard college and harvard law school. attorney general lynch, we welcome your first appearance before the judiciary committee and look forward to your testimony. your entire written statement will be met part of the record and we ask you summarize your testimony in five minutes. thank you and please begin at your convenience. >> thank you, sir. good morning, chairman goodlatte, ranking member conyers and distinguished members of this committee. i am very grateful for the opportunity to appear before you today to share the recent accomplishments of the u.s. department of justice to discuss
some of my top priorities as attorney general and to explore ways that we can continue to work together. i do want to begin, however, by commenting on friday's reprehensible and heartbreaking attacks in paris. the department of justice and, indeed, the entire obama administration stand in solidarity with france, just as france has so often stood with us. as president obama said, this is not just an attack on paris or the people of france, it is an attack on all of humanity and the universal values that we share. we are committed to doing everything within our power to assist our french law enforcement colleagues in bringing those responsible for this monstrous act of terror to justice and as we go forward our thoughts and prayers remain with the victims and their loved ones. now, as this distinguished committee well knows, our nation faces a host of serious, varied and evolving challenges. our highest priority must always be the security of our homeland
and we are acting aggressively to general electric de fuse threats as they emerge. we are working around the clock to uncover and disrupt plots that take aim at our people, our infrastructure and our way of life.people, our infrastructure, and our way of life. we continue to investigate and apprehend those who seek to harm us, including upwards of 70 individuals charged since 2013 for conduct related to foreign fighter activity and home grown violent extremism. and of course we remain focused on threat posed by domestic extremists as well. at the same time we are placed on counter threats in cyber space. we are on guard against individuals, organized groups, terrorists and state actors who might attempt to steal our data, endanger our economy, compromise our privacy, and threaten our security. in recognition of the need for strong public/private partnerships, we have created a new cyber security unit within
our criminal division's computer crime and intellectual property section and announced a national security division outreach initiative designed to promote information sharing and resilience as part of the division's national asset protection program. i have also been meeting personally with corporate executives and general counsel around the country to spread our message of cyber awareness to encourage strategic collaboration and to find new ways to protect american consumers. now, of course to bring about the stronger nation that we all seek, we must also empower the communities within our borders. across this country, brave police officer risk their lives every day to protect our neighborhoods and serve the residents of their jurisdictions and we are tremendously grateful for their dedication and their valor. we have seen mistrust and we have experienced consequences
when decades of tension erupt into unrest. during the first 100 days of my tenure, i conducted a six-city community policing tour to engage with communities that have made significant progress in this area. in each city i convened roundtable discussions with law enforcement officers, public officials, civic leaders and young people where participants share some of the most effective ways that citizens and law enforcement officers could join forces to foster trust, build respect and to spread mu wall understanding. restoring that essential trust is one of my top priorities as attorney general and the department intends to do everything we can to foster those bonds and create safer and fairer communities across the country. we are paying attention to vulnerable victims in our communities, particularly those
caught in the clutches of human trafficking. in september i announced that the department will be extending $44 million in new grant funding to help support research, bring more traffickers to justice and care for survivors. at this moment i really want to thank our partners in congress for their efforts. by tripling human traffic related funding in fiscal year 2015, congress was instrumental in allowing us to increase our grant funding if this critical area. in october marks the 15th anniversary of the trafficking victims protection act which is certainly a fitting occasion to redouble our commitment to eradicating this pernicious practice. finally, i'd like to address our efforts on criminal justice reform at the federal level. i commend the committee members who have come together to help chart a new course on criminal justice that will make our society both stronger and more secure. it is of course built in part on
the success of the crime initiative that my predecessor, attorney general eric holder, launched in 2013 which shifted our approach away from harsh, mandatory sentences for low level drug offenses and enabled us to focus on more significant violent defendants and reduce recidivism and promote public safety. more must be done. prison spending has increasingly displaced other critical public safety investments and to make our sentencing laws more efficient, more effective and more just, congressional act is needed. reform has been embraced by prosecutors, law enforcement and policy makers of all stripes, and the justice department is eager to see meaningful sentencing reform enact during this congress. we thank you for the chance to work with you on that. mr. chairman, ranking member, thank you so much for the chance to speak with you today, and thank you all for your ongoing support of the justice department's efforts.
i look forward to working closely with you to advance the objectives that we all share, and i'm pleased to answer questions from this body at this time. thank you. >> thank you. we will now proceed under the five-minute rule for questions of the witnesses. yesterday, a video reportedly linked to isis was posted stating that as we struck france in the center of its abode in paris, then we swear that we will strike america at its center in washington. there is little doubt that isis views the united states and the west as a strategic enemy and there is little doubt that our lawful immigration laws have been abused on a number of occasions by people intending to perpetrate harm against the united states. do you agree with what your own fbi director, james comey, told this committee regard the inability to vet and confirm the true identity because of the lack of information, databases,
law enforcement resources, intelligence resources, and military resources available to us in syria of syrians who have applied for refugee resetmetlemt in the united states? >> thank you. as i've indicated, the most important priority of the department of justice is the protection of the american people, and certainly national security and terrorism are one of my own priorities and certainly an area of concern for all of us. that is certainly our main concern. at the same time, we do have a system for allowing not just immigration but refugee entrants into the country. as the fbi director has noted, there is a process in place that allows for significant vetting of refugees from all countries. >> let me interrupt because he said something contrary with regard to the situation with the syrians. he said, we can query our database until the cows come home, but there will be nothing to show up because we have no
record on that person. >> certainly with respect to the databases that the director was referring to, as he noted i believe before this committee, there is a screening process that has data from several different agencies. the fbi participate, the department of defense, the department of homeland security, national counter-terrorism center, and much information is vetted and queried. certainly a lot of the information that is vetted does have to be input into the system. >> in the case of syria, you can't go to the government offices in that country. they're in disarray. you can't go interview people who know people who are applying for this status. do you disagree with the fbi director when he says that vetting syrian refugees is extremely difficult, if not impossible? >> well, mr. chairman, i'm not
sure he said it was impossible. certainly not only the department of justice but all of our agencies will make every effort to vet every refugee coming into this country from the databases to the interviews that those individuals are subject to, to the biometrics screening as well. certainly there are challenges to that process because of the situation in syria. but i would note, however, that we do have the benefit of having that significant and robust screening process in place, a process that europe has not been able to set up which renders them much more vulnerable. >> i think we'll be vulnerable, too, when it comes to people from syria when we can't get access to those databases because the country is in disarray and we can't even gather information fresh, new because we can't access the people that we can talk to. let me move on to another topic. the latest available data from the justice department shows that during fiscal year 2015 the government reported 6,002 new weapons convictions. this number is down 5.8% from
the previous fiscal year when the number of convictions totaled 6,373, compared to five years ago when there were 7,101 weapons conviction, the number for fiscal year 2015 is down 15.5%. convictions over the past year are lower than they were ten years ago. over all the data show that convictions of this type, weapons violations, are down 34.8% from the level of 9,206 reported in 2005. the president has repeatedly called for new gun control laws, yet your department has seen weapons prosecutions and convictions fall to levels not seen in over a decade. how do you explain such a drop under this administration and why is such little emphasis placed on these types of prosecutions when the president has called for yet more laws when the current laws are not being enforced? >> mr. chairman, thank you for the question. with regard to the department of
justice enforcement of the gun laws, we take those gun laws very seriously and are committed to using the full laws and regulations on the books. we typically use those laws at the federal level in conjunction with our many and numerous violent crime initiatives. for example, in my former position as u.s. attorney in the eastern district of new york, many of our gang cases also carried with them firearms charges. they would not necessarily be the lead charge. they may not be reflected in the data that you have, but they certainly are on important tool in every prosecutor's arsenal in combatting violent crime. >> then why aren't they being prosecuted for those violations related to firearms? by the way, this doesn't just mean using a firearm in the conviction of a crime. it also means illegal sales of firearms. it means lying on the instant check system, the last year for which we have complete data.