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>>ATTORNEY GENERAL ALBERTO GONZALES Good afternoon, I'm pleased to be here with Deborah Platt Majoras, President of the Federal Trade Commission for this announcement. Deborah and I co-chair a taskforce delivered to the president the comprehensive plan to fight identity threat, which is a serious problem in our country. This affects millions of Americans every year costing billions of dollars but it really goes beyond the loss of money or property. It is a personal invasion done in secret that can hurt people's names. It can hurt a credit history and cause bewildering damage caused by the thieves. We acknowledged this is not a new problem and our report builds upon many years of effort our federal, state and local partners as well as a private sector and non-private organizations. Much has been accomplished, and there are more protections in place now than ever before. But the President and the Taskforce recognize that we need to do more. And this new plan represents an important step forward in America's efforts to fight back against identity theft. The recently reported public exposure of Social Security Numbers by federal agency is problematic and does serve as a timely reminder that all of us, including the government, must be careful when handling people's personal information. This is exactly the type of vulnerability that the Taskforce's recommendations have identified. We are trying to fight this crime, protect consumers and help victims put their lives back together. Now several of these points were announced last September as interim recommendations and I'm pleased that all of those have already been implemented or are in the process of being implemented. Preventing identity theft is about more than just protecting businesses and consumers; it is also about national security. And one of the task forces' primary recommendations is the Federal Government established a national identity theft law enforcement center. This effort will increase our ability to analyze ID theft, complaint data and other intelligence from the public and private sectors and to make that information available to our law enforcement partners at all levels. Identity thieves, as we all know, do not respect jurisdictional boundaries. And allowing agents and officers across the country to share information will help them connect the dots between seemingly unrelated investigations. That same level of cooperation is necessary with our foreign law enforcement partners, as well. And national identity theft law enforcement center will make a real difference in our ability to investigate, prosecute and punish identity thieves. The taskforce also recognized that many of our current criminal statutes have not been updated to allow law enforcement to keep pace with new and developing methods used by identity thieves. We therefore recommending a variety of legislative proposals aimed at strengthening enforcement, including ways to close loopholes in existing laws so that prosecutors have the appropriate tools for charging these crimes. These legislative proposals include amendments to the restitution statutes

to enable victims to recover the value of time spent attempting to make

themselves whole. And they include important measures to assure federal authority to prosecute the use of malicious spy ware, to broaden the

statutes of criminalizes theft of electronic data and to permit prosecutors to charge aggravated identity theft, which carries a mandatory two-year prison term in a larger number of cases. When the President established this taskforce last May, he met with victims of identity theft. He heard their voices and he asked the Taskforce

to step up and make a difference. With this report, we have made good on

that promise. I'd like to thank the many law enforcement and victims' rights groups here today who will be instrumental in implementing the plan, including the national district attorney's association, the National Association of attorneys general, the Fraternal Order of Police, the

international association of Chiefs of police, the national center for victims

of crime, and the police executive research forum.

Now we will hear from chairman Majoras before taking your questions.


Thank you very much, Mr. Gonzales. Today we take another important step forward in our efforts to combat identity theft, recognizing that this is part of a continuing process and not a one-time event. Identity theft is the misuse of another individual's personal information to commit fraud. It is a blight on America's privacy and security landscape. It robs consumers of their time and money. It drains businesses of finances and efficiency. And it erodes a critical element of our economy: Trust in a person's good name and credit.

A recent survey conducted showed that 91 percent of respondents worry

about identity theft. Protecting the privacy and identity of consumers has

long been a priority of the Federal Trade Commission and we continue to receive 15 to 20,000 consumer communications about identity theft every

week. More than 1500 law enforcement agencies now have access to the FTC's identity theft data clearinghouse, a central database of more than 1 million victim complaints. As we continue to learn from our work, one thing

is clear. Only a coordinated approach will have the reach and impact

necessary to effectively attack this crime. Less than one year ago, Attorney General Gonzales and I accepted the President's assignment to lead the development of a strategic plan to combat identity theft and to recommend ways improve the effectiveness and efficiency of the Federal Government's activities in awareness, prevention, detection and prosecution of this crime. The Department of Justice, the FTC and 15 additional federal departments and agencies have worked together since then to meet the President's challenge. Each of the Taskforce member agencies and departments has played an important role in developing this strategic plan, but real work remains. Not only for the taskforce members, but for the entire Federal Government and state and local government partners, for the entire private sector and for each and every one of our citizens.

While we, as a nation, have eagerly embraced new technologies and modes of communication in this information age, we were perhaps slower to grasp how adeptly criminals also would adopt these same avenues to steal personal information. We are catching up. Many federal agencies, businesses and other organizations have increased their efforts to safeguard sensitive data. Consumers have been better educated about how to guard against and then how to respond to ID theft. As the Attorney General has remarked, of course, strong criminal enforcement is key in these efforts. And it has been increasing. But we are not yet satisfied. Data security breaches remain too common, and schemes for committing ID theft are growing more sophisticated. Protecting the security of consumers' personal data cannot be an afterthought. It must be organically incorporated into every organization's procedures and into every American's habits. The strategic plan we are releasing today recommends 31 measures containing scores of more specific recommendations some are already in place. Others we will implement within the next year. The recommendation spans all sectors of the economy and they target the

entire life cycle of identity theft, from access to sensitive consumer data to its acquisition, to its misuse, to the investigation and prosecution of the criminals and to the victims' recovery. And to provide a few examples in general terms, the plan calls for us to reduce the unnecessary use of Social Security Numbers in the public sector. To better protect data that must be held by Federal Government agencies, to establish national safeguards to require private sector entities to protect consumers' personal data and to notify consumers of certain breaches. implement a broader education campaign to educate consumers who are often the first line of defense and the public and private sectors on how to deter, detect and defend against ID theft; and, finally, as Attorney General Gonzales mentioned, creating a national identity theft law enforcement center to allow more efficient and effective law enforcement against this crime.

I am proud to be a part of this comprehensive federal effort, and I am

committed to continuing to work with my colleagues to implement the recommendations within the time frames we have outlined. Before we take your questions, I'd like to acknowledge and thank all of our taskforce colleagues. I also thank all of the stakeholders, including those, the Attorney General mentioned and also we heard from identity theft victims on this report and they offered -- they and other stakeholders offered very

useful and productive suggestions for our plans. And finally but especially

I thank Ron Tempest and Mike from the Department of Justice and Betsy from the FTC from their tremendous efforts on this. Questions?


Mr. Attorney General, we haven't heard from your testimony on Thursday, can we ask you? They said very, very damaging to your credibility. (Inaudible) the question of whether you can be credible and whether or not you can be an effective Attorney General. Do you still believe you can?

And have you offered the information? >>ATTORNEY GENERAL GONZALES No, I'm focused on making sure our kids are safe. Making sure our neighborhoods are safe. Making sure consumers are safe. And that's one of the reasons I'm here today. So I'm focused on doing the job for the American people. >>SPEAKER How long do you plan on staying (Inaudible). >>ATTORNEY GENERAL GONZALES I will stay as long as I feel I can be effective. I believe I can be effective. Obviously we'll be working with the Congress to reassure them that we've identified the mistakes that have been made here and we're taking steps to address them. But I can't just keep focused on the U.S. Attorney situation. I've also got to be focused on what's really important to the American people. >>SPEAKER Question my colleagues lost the confidence of a lot of people on Capitol Hill. As part of justice morale has plummeted. My question to you, sir, it seems you are disagreeing with me, but my question is do you acknowledge that your continued leadership at the department will harm or hurt this operation at such an important time when the department is -- >>ATTORNEY GENERAL GONZALES Of course it's something that I always take into consideration. I think a cabinet secretary or the head of an agency every day should wake up and ask themselves that question. Am I still effective in this position? I think that's a question that all of us should ask every day. And as long as I think that I can be effective and the President believes that I should continue to be at the head of the Department of Justice, I'll continue serving as the Attorney General. >>SPEAKER Mr. Attorney General, in light of the tragedies, are you looking into whether state laws are effective enough in preventing the mentally ill from purchasing handguns. >>ATTORNEY GENERAL GONZALES What we're looking at is we're working with the education center, Mike Leavitt being the secretary of health and human services, from my perspective, what we're looking at is to see whether or not this information -- what information about mental health should law enforcement officials have? And what are the barriers that prevent law enforcement from having that information? That's what I will be looking at from the perspective of the Department of Justice. And of course secretary Leavitt will be looking at it from his vantage point as will secretary spellings. >>SPEAKER You and the chairman on identity theft. >>ATTORNEY GENERAL GONZALES

Good, thank you. >>SPEAKER (Inaudible) a lot of the victims have problems with their information being -- thieves using their Social Security Number. (Inaudible) free disclosure of credit report. My quick perusal of this report doesn't show that issue addressed. I think that you're going to have a comprehensive solution. My question is: Is this addressed in here? If not, why not? Shouldn't that be something looked at and have a policy solution by the Administration? Because it will be before Congress. >>CHAIRMAN MAJORAS Well, we do address it in this way. You are right. States over time have been passing laws that permit consumers to put what's called a credit freeze on their reports. Now they started doing that shortly after the Fact Act was signed in 2003. The Fact Act put in place a lot of federal protection for consumers. And so we've wanted to see, quite frankly, what's working and what's not. So what the report contains is a recommendation that we do a careful examination of what has happened in the states in which the credit freeze statutes have passed, how effective those have been. Also looking at how effective the protections in the Fact Act have been and then we can formulate a better position to assist Congress or any other policy maker. >>ATTORNEY GENERAL GONZALES Let me just emphasize this is not the end of the analysis or discussion. This is a serious problem. It is a serious problem for consumers. It is a serious problem for businesses. And I think this provides an important step forward, as I indicated in my remarks. But I worry about this as Attorney General. I know the chairman is also likewise very concerned about this issue. And we need to do more to educate the American public, the American consumer about the dangers of identity theft. It's serious. It's prevalent. And it's increasing. >>SPEAKER (Inaudible) how do you measure if you're effective? What in your mind means ineffective? >>ATTORNEY GENERAL GONZALES Well, listen, there are a series of priorities, a series of objectives that I want to see accomplished as Attorney General. I think we've done a lot of good things in the last two years. And I think moving forward, the question is whether or not can those objectives be achieved? And I will continue to believe that they can be achieved. And we are working as hard as we can to achieve those objectives. Obviously as head of an agency, like every head of an agency, you worry about questions about morale. You address those specific concerns. The way I do it is by speaking directly to U.S. attorneys, by speaking directly to the component heads and talking about my vision for the department moving forward, encouraging them to understand and realize the importance of staying focused on the mission. That's what the American people expect from the Department of Justice, is

to stay focused on the mission. Because what we do as the department is

too important to ignore that. And so that's the mission that I'm delivering to the folks in our department.


Take one more question?


(Inaudible). >>ATTORNEY GENERAL GONZALES Well, sure, I'll talk about things that I worry about. I worry about protecting our kids from predators on the Internet. That's something that I'm very concerned about and that we wrote out for a project, project safe childhood to work with state and local partners to make parents, to make people in communities aware of the dangers of the Internet use. And that's where many predators are targeting our kids.

I worry about the safety of our neighborhoods, particularly gangs, gun

crimes and drugs.

I worry about public corruption. I think our record with respect to going

after public corruption, those who breached the public trust is outstanding.

I worry about the enforcement of Civil Rights. As a minority, I understand

the importance of our Civil Rights laws and the importance of insuring that

those laws are in fact enforced.

I worry, of course, about the safety of our country from terrorism. I receive intelligence briefings every morning. I realize that there's still serious

threats to our country. There are serious threats to our interest overseas. So these are the issues that I'm focused on.

I think we've made good progress on many of these issues in the past two

years, and I'm confident we can continue to make progress. (Inaudible)

pardon me? I'm intent on working with the Congress and reassuring the Congress that we are identifying happened here. We're going to correct

mistakes that have been made. I've accepted the responsibility for the mistakes that I've made. So, yes, I have an obligation to work with Congress and I will continue to work with Congress like I have in the past two years. I've already indicated that I've made mistakes and I accept responsibility for that. Thank you very much.


Thank you. >>CHAIRMAN MAJORAS Thank you.