January 16, 2009
Chairman Leahy, Ranking Member Specter, Members of the Committee, thank you for the opportunity to appear before you today. I am Frances Fragos Townsend. From 2004 until 2008, I was Homeland Security and Counterterrorism Advisor to President George W. Bush, for whom I chaired the Homeland Security Council and previously served as Deputy Assistant to the President and Deputy National Security Advisor for Combating Terrorism. It is an honor and privilege to appear before the committee today as you consider the nomination of Eric Holder for Attorney General.
My twenty three years of public service includes thirteen years at the Department of Justice. As a career prosecutor there, I had the privilege of working with Mr. Holder during his tenure as a U.S. Attorney and as Deputy Attorney General. Specifically, I was a direct report of Mr. Holder's when I headed the Office of Intelligence Policy and Review, which is now the Department of Justice's National Security Division.
Mr. Holder's career service both as a Superior Court Judge and as a career prosecutor in the Public Integrity Section of the Criminal Division rightly earned him the respect and affection of career prosecutors not only here in Washington, but also in U.S. Attorneys' offices around the nation. Not surprisingly, given his experience, I found Mr. Holder to be open-minded, fair and respectful of the views and opinions of the career lawyers.
Mr. Holder was never reluctant to hear discussion between career and appointed staff if there was disagreement among them. He decided those issues in accordance with the facts and his best judgment, giving serious consideration and respect to the advice of career lawyers. In his interactions with the Office of Intelligence Policy and Review, he took his national security responsibilities seriously, and he always made himself available whenever he was needed. He carefully reviewed the detailed documents prepared for submission to the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court when his approval was required and unfailingly deliberated on the questions and facts before signing such submissions.
I wish to be clear: I am not here because I believe that, if confirmed as Attorney General, Mr. Holder will decide legal issues the same way that I would. On the contrary; I expect that will often not be the case.
I am here because I believe Eric is a competent, capable and fair-minded lawyer who will not hesitate to uphold and defend the laws and the Constitution of the United States. Eric is an honest, decent man of the highest ethical standards, who both understands and appreciates the strong and proud traditions of the Department of Justice and will protect and honor them.
The Attorney General position must be filled quickly. We remain a nation at war and a nation that faces the continuous threat of a terrorist attack, and we cannot afford for the Attorney General position to sit vacant or for there to be a needlessly protracted period where leadership of the Department is in question.
For all these reasons, I humbly and respectfully recommend that the Committee move expeditiously to confirm Mr. Eric H. Holder, Jr. for Attorney General. Thank you again for your time and consideration of Mr. Holder's nomination, and I will be happy to answer any questions you may have at this time.