Department of Justice

Fact Box

United States Department of Justice

Formed on June 22, 1870
Headquarters- Robert F. Kennedy Department of Justice Building, 950 Pennsylvania Ave NW, Washington, D.C.
Attorney General- Eric Holder
Employees (2010) 111,993
Annual budget (2014) $28.6 billion


The Department of Justice (DOJ) is a cabinet-level agency responsible for enforcing the laws of the United States federal government. DOJ ensures public safety against foreign and domestic threats, including terrorism, and preventing crime. The department includes such venerable law enforcement agencies as the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI), US Marshals, the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco and Firearms (ATF) and the Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA). DOJ is led by the United States Attorney General, the nation’s top law enforcement official and chief legal adviser to the President. Another top DOJ official is the Solicitor General, who represents the federal government in cases heard before the US Supreme Court. In spite of its mandate to enforce the law, Justice Department officials have been accused at times of bending or breaking the law to suit the political whims of an administration. This has been especially true during the current reign of President George W. Bush, whose attorneys general and solicitors general have been deeply involved with extralegal aspects the Global War on Terrorism campaign.


The Judiciary Act of 1789 created the Office of the Attorney General (AG) to represent the federal government in cases before the US Supreme Court and to give legal advice to the President and the heads of cabinet-level departments. For most of the 19th century, the AG was the only cabinet official not to preside over an executive department.

The Judiciary Act of 1789 made no provision for a Department of Justice or even for subsidiary officers or clerical staff to assist the attorney general in his duties. As a result of this oversight, the AG’s office struggled in the beginning to keep up with its duties, even though several legislative efforts were made during the 1800s to expand the resources and available staff for the AG.
After several failed attempts to convince Congress to expand the office of the Attorney General, legislation was adopted in 1829. But the measure, led by Senator Daniel Webster, did not bolster the capability of the AG. Instead, it created a Solicitor of the Treasury with authority over all Treasury lawsuits and to provide rules for the district attorneys around the country to follow in regard to all civil litigation in which the United States was a party. Supporters of the AG were not happy with Webster’s legislation and continued over the next several decades to advocate, both in Congress and for a presidential executive order, to give greater legal authority to the Attorney General, including placing the oversight of the district attorneys under the AG.
It was not until 1870 that legislation was adopted that created the Department of Justice under the authority of the AG that finally gave the nation’s top legal officer a full staff to work with. Another important provision of the 1870 legislation was the creation of the Office of Solicitor General, who took over the responsibilities of representing the government in cases before the Supreme Court. From then on out, the AG was required to appear before the court only “in matters of exceptional gravity or importance.”
During the 20th Century, the AG evolved into the public image of the Justice Department, becoming as much a political figure as a legal one. When President John F. Kennedy was elected to the White House in 1960, he appointed his brother, Robert Kennedy, to serve as attorney general. The decision was criticized by Kennedy’s opponents as blatant nepotism. A decade later, President Richard Nixon’s first attorney general, John Mitchell, stepped down to run the president’s 1972 re-election campaign and was later implicated in the infamous Watergate scandal.
During the second term of President Ronald Reagan, Edwin Meese III became one of the most controversial figures of the administration because of his role in the Iran Contra scandal.
The 1990s witnessed the first woman to lead the Justice Department. Janet Reno, who also was the longest serving attorney general in the 20th Century, lasted throughout President Bill Clinton’s eight years in office. During this time period, legal controversies surrounded the Clinton White House, from Whitewater to Monica Lewinsky to impeachment, which required Reno to make difficult decisions as to whether to appoint special prosecutors to investigate claims of illegal or improper behavior by the President.
The current administration of George W. Bush also has pulled the attorney general into controversial matters stemming from the White House’s bypassing legal channels in its efforts to combat terrorist threats against the country.

What it Does

The Department of Justice (DOJ) enforces federal laws, prevents crime, protects the public’s safety from all threats, including terrorism, and operates the federal prison system. Key figures and agencies that perform these duties include the FBI, DEA, US Marshals, US Attorneys and the Attorney General of the United States. DOJ employs more than 100,000 attorneys, special agents, other law enforcement personnel and various staff.

DOJ Bureaus, Offices and Agencies
Office of the Attorney General
The Office of the AGis the lead entity within the Department of Justice that oversees all operations of the department. In addition to leading DOJ, the attorney general is the chief law enforcement officer and lawyer of the US government and a member of the President’s cabinet. The AG is the only cabinet department head who is not given the title of “Secretary.” The Office of the Attorney General supervises and directs the administration and operation of all Department of Justice offices, including the FBI, Drug Enforcement Administration, Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives, Bureau of Prisons, Office of Justice Programs, the US Attorneys and US Marshals Service, among others. Although the AG post is held by a lawyer, the attorney general is often viewed as much as a political figure as a legal one. Over the years there have been numerous attorneys general who have been lightning rods for controversy. This includes the three men who have served as AG under President George W. Bush and have been involved with the administration’s controversial policies to combat terrorism.
Law Enforcement

Federal Bureau of Investigation
The FBI is the federal government’s top law enforcement agency. From investigating organized crime to snooping on would-be terrorists, the FBI carries out critical police activities while enforcing federal laws. The FBI operates 56 field offices in major US cities and more than 400 resident agencies that support the work at field offices. The FBI’s crime-fighting reputation was forged during the era of Prohibition when special agents brought down famed gangsters like John Dillinger. But over time numerous controversies have tarnished the once-legendary operation. The last 10 years have been especially unkind to the FBI as botched police operations and the failure to prevent the 9/11 terrorist attacks have produced a bevy of complaints. Even after making substantial changes to its intelligence gathering operations, the FBI is still under threat of losing some of its authority.
US Marshals Service
The US Marshals represent the nation’s oldest federal law enforcement agency. Federal marshals have been serving the country since 1789, and today direct the 94 individual federal judicial districts. Among the agency’s duties are apprehension of more than half of all federal fugitives, protection of the federal judiciary, operation of the Witness Security Program, transportation of federal prisoners and seizure of property illegally obtained by criminals. Marshals also have been accused of bending, and in some cases breaking, the law, resulting in numerous controversies.
Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco and Firearms
ATF is a federal law enforcement and regulatory agency with a substantial history in the federal government dating back to the tax-collecting bureaucracy of the 1800s. Historically, the agency has struggled to maintain a balance between its law enforcement duties and its mandate to collect taxes. When the Homeland Security Bill transferred ATF and its law enforcement functions from the Treasury Department to the Justice Department, its former tax and trade responsibilities remained in the Treasury under the new Alcohol and Tobacco Tax and Trade Bureau. Accordingly, the new ATF mission aims more at preventing violent crime involving firearms and engaging in other anti-criminal activities. The agency is responsible for investigating and preventing crimes involving the unlawful use, manufacture and possession of firearms and explosives, arson and bombings and illegal trafficking or manufacture of alcohol and tobacco products. As the agency responsible for regulation of the gun industry, ATF’s efforts at gun safety reform and regulation have become the target of vehement attacks from right-wing supporters of gun ownership and commerce rights.
Drug Enforcement Administration
DEA is the leading law enforcement operation in the country for combating the sale and distribution of narcotics and other illegal drugs. DEA enforces federal anti-drug laws, such as the Controlled Substances Act, which pertain to the manufacture, distribution and dispensing of legally produced controlled substances. DEA investigates major violators of controlled substance laws operating at interstate and international levels. Major violators include criminals and drug gangs, both in the US and in foreign countries. As part of its national drug intelligence program, DEA works with federal, state, local and foreign law enforcement officials to collect, analyze and disseminate strategic and operational drug intelligence information. DEA also works with other law enforcement operations through non-enforcement methods such as crop eradication, crop substitution and training of foreign officials. DEA has been in the thick of the national controversy over medical marijuana, serving as the federal government’s enforcer in going after local cannabis clubs that distribute marijuana to individuals suffering from serious illnesses. In addition, its effectiveness in curtailing the use of illegal drugs has been questioned.
Organized Crime and Drug Enforcement Task Force
Operating under the authority of the DEA, the Organized Crime and Drug Enforcement Task Force (OCDETF) was formed in 1982 to fight major drug trafficking and money laundering organizations. OCDETF works with the DEA, FBI, Bureau of Immigration and Customs Enforcement, Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives, US Marshals Service, Internal Revenue Service, US Coast Guard, Department of Justice’s Criminal Division and Tax Division and the 93 US Attorney’s offices to identify, disrupt and dismantle the most serious drug trafficking organizations. These efforts are targeted at decreasing the nation’s drug supply and cutting off financial resources potentially directed to terrorist groups around the world.
Office of Justice Programs
OJP is the main administrative body that manages many Justice Department programs and initiatives focusing on crime prevention. These programs provide economic, technological and research assistance to state and local governments, law enforcement programs and criminal justice agencies. OJP oversees 13 bureaus and offices, as well as 21 initiatives that focus on many program areas including Bureau of Justice Assistance; Bureau of Justice Statistics; Community Capacity Development Office; National Institute of Justice; Office of Juvenile Justice and Delinquency Prevention; Office for Victims of Crime; Office for Civil Rights; Office of Sex Offender Sentencing, Monitoring, Apprehending, Registering, and Tracking; as well as programs covering corrections, courts, juvenile justice, law enforcement, research, statistics and evaluation, substance abuse and crime, technology to fight crime, terrorism and domestic preparedness and victims of crime.
Office of Community Oriented Policing Services
COPS promotes a community-based approach to law enforcement that encourages preventing crime rather than responding once crime has been committed. Created during the Clinton administration in response to a series of violent crime incidents throughout the country, COPS aims to improve public safety by addressing both the roots of crime and the culture of fear created by it which helps perpetuate criminal activity. The concept of acting locally and addressing the roots of crime is carried out by community policing officers who work within their own communities to develop relationships and build trust with community members. COPS provides funding and training for community policing programs.

Federal Bureau of Prisons
BOP is responsible for the administration of the federal prison system. Headquartered in Washington, DC, the bureau oversees 114 prisons, six regional offices, two staff training centers and 28 community corrections offices. BOP is responsible for the custody and care of all 200,000 or so federal inmates—85% of whom are incarcerated in government facilities, while the remaining 15% are in private prisons. The bureau is also responsible for carrying out all legally mandated federal executions, and it maintains a lethal injections center in Terre Haute, Indiana, where, in 2001, Oklahoma City Bomber Timothy McVeigh was the first federal prisoner to be executed in almost 40 years. In addition to its use of capital punishment, BOP has been subject to criticism over budget and program cuts, privatization and agency contracting practices.  
Office of the Federal Detention Trustee
OFDT oversees and coordinates detention activities for the Justice Department, the Department of Homeland Security’s Immigration and Customs Enforcement. OFDT is in charge of seeing that detained persons are provided safe, secure and humane confinement in the most cost-effective manner, and that they appear when required for judicial proceedings or confinement. In addition, it monitors facilities to make sure their performance level is up to agreed standards; develops and implements strategies to deal with potential detention crises; negotiates and awards contracts in support of operational needs; and formulates recommendations and projections on population trends, bed space availability, and costs of state and local government, versus private facilities.
US Parole Commission
USPC is a semi-autonomous agency within the Justice Department that decides parole cases involving certain federal and District of Columbia (DC) prisoners. The USPC makes parole release decisions; authorizes method of release and the condition under which release occurs; issues warrants for violation of supervision; determines probable cause for revocation process; prescribes, modifies and monitors compliance with the terms and conditions governing offender’s behavior while on parole or mandatory or supervised release; revokes parole, mandatory or supervised release of offenders; releases from supervision those offenders who no longer pose a risk to public safety; issues rules, regulations and guidelines pertaining to the national parole policy. A much larger commission at one time, the USPC has seen its role shrink and its very existence threatened over the past 20 years following a landmark change in sentencing laws in the 1980s.

United States Attorneys
US Attorneys serve as the nation’s principal litigators under the direction of the Attorney General. Ninety-three attorneys are stationed throughout the US, Puerto Rico, the Virgin Islands, Guam and the Northern Mariana Islands, representing the chief federal law enforcement officer within their jurisdiction. US Attorney’s Office districts are synonymous with the judicial districts within the United States. US Attorneys are all appointed by the President for four-year terms, and thus they serve at his pleasure. In 2007, the US Attorneys became the focal point of the one of the biggest controversies of the Bush administration when it was revealed that several prosecutors were allegedly fired for political reasons. The scandal resulted in the resignation of then-Attorney General Alberto Gonzales.
Office of the Solicitor General
One of the top officials in the Department of Justice, the United States Solicitor General represents the federal government in cases before the US Supreme Court. The solicitor general also decides when the United States should appeal a case it has lost in lower federal and state courts, when it should file a brief amicus curiae and when the United States should intervene to defend the constitutionality of an act of Congress. During the years of the Bush administration, the solicitor general has been deeply involved in legal proceedings designed to expand the White House’s efforts to spy on and indefinitely jail terrorism suspects.
Office of Professional Responsibility
OPR investigates allegations of professional misconduct by any of the Department of Justice’s 10,000 attorneys. OPR receives several hundred complaints about US Attorneys per year, from judges, defense attorneys, other DOJ attorneys and staff. Approximately two-thirds of these complaints are determined not to warrant further investigation because the complaints are vague and unsupported by evidence or because they are outside OPR’s jurisdiction. Of the remaining 250 or so, about two-thirds of these are handled as inquiries, resolved by review of written records, including case transcripts and the accused attorney’s written response to the complaint. The remaining third, including some 15% of inquiries that do not resolve the complaint, become full investigations. OPR also refers cases of intentional misconduct to state bar associations. In addition to investigations, OPR engages trains US Attorneys in proper conduct.

Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court
As the most secretive judicial body in the United States, the FISC hears requests by federal law enforcement officials to conduct surveillance of Americans or foreigners in the US who are deemed a threat to national security. FISC operates under the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act of 1978, which was adopted in the wake of governmental abuses of power by the Nixon administration, the Army and the CIA during the 1960s and 1970s. Few Americans had ever heard of the FISC until 2005 when media reports exposed actions by the National Security Agency, operating under orders from President George W. Bush, to monitor phone calls, emails and other electronic communications that may contain information about terrorist activities. The wiretapping was conducted without approval by FISC, setting off a firestorm of debate on Capitol Hill and resulting in changes to FISA to accommodate President Bush’s wishes to continue spying on foreign and domestic communications.
National Security Division
NSD represents the primary national security functions of the Department of Justice: Counterterrorism and Counterespionage, the Office of Intelligence Policy and Review, and the new Law and Policy Office. The establishment of NSD was recommended by the 2005 Report of the WMD Commission (Commission on the Intelligence Capabilities of the US Regarding Weapons of Mass Destruction). However, the division immediately became embroiled in controversy, raising serious questions about the erosion of traditional civil liberties.

US National Central Bureau of INTERPOL
USNCB is the American branch of the international police organization, INTERPOL, serving as a communications clearing-house for police seeking assistance in criminal investigations that cross international boundaries. Directed by the Attorney General and working under the Justice Department in conjunction with the Department of the Treasury, the USNCB focuses on fugitives, financial fraud, drug violations, terrorism and violent crimes. It can refuse to respond to any of the 200,000 annual inquiries from other nations and, as required by INTERPOL bylaws, does not assist in the capture of suspects.
Foreign Claims Settlement Commission
A quasi-judicial agency, FCSC determines the validity and monetary value of claims by US nationals for loss or damage of property, or personal injury, in foreign countries. Claims fall either under specific jurisdiction conferred by Congress or in accordance with international claims settlement agreements. Funds for payment come out of Congressional appropriations, international claim settlements or liquidation of foreign assets in the United States by the Departments of Justice or Treasury. To date, FCSC and its predecessors have compiled and administered 43 international and war-related claims programs against more than a dozen countries, including Albania, Bulgaria, China, Cuba, Czechoslovakia, East Germany, West Germany, Egypt, Ethiopia, Hungary, Iran, Italy, Panama, Poland, Romania, the Soviet Union, Vietnam and Yugoslavia. There was also a claims program for some American survivors of the Holocaust, and FCSC is currently engaged in preliminary planning for a possible future program involving claims against Iraq.
Victims of Uranium Mining and Nuclear Testing 

Radiation Exposure Compensation Program

RECP provides financial restitution to individuals who became seriously ill as a result of nuclear testing and uranium mining during the Cold War. RECP is managed by the Department of Justice’s Civil Division, Torts Branch, which draws money from a special trust fund to make payments to eligible claimants. Compensation ranges from $50,000 to $100,000 depending upon which category an individual falls under. As of May 8, 2008, the RECP had approved 19,420 claims and rejected 8,071. Most of the successful claimants have been Downwinders (12,063) and Uranium Miners (4,819). The rest have been Onsite Participants, Uranium Millers and Ore Transporters. Onsite Participants have had the hardest time winning claims, with an approval rate of only 44.7% compared to more than 70% for the other categories.

Where Does the Money Go?

The Justice Department has collectively spent almost $35 billion since 2000 on contracts given to private companies and others. According to, more than 55,000 contractors have done business with DOJ by helping to build prisons, provide social services, guard inmates, and provide legal services.

The biggest spenders within the Justice Department are the Bureau of Prisoners/Federal Prison System ($14.1 billion), the FBI ($4.4 billion), US Marshals Service ($3.3 billion) and the DEA ($2.2 billion).
The top 10 recipients of DOJ contracts are:
Corrections Corporation of America
Akal Security, Inc
Lockheed Martin
The Geo Group Inc
CACI International Inc
Computer Sciences Corporation
Hensel Phelps Construction Co
Small Business Consolidated Reporting
L-3 Communications Holdings, Inc.
Krueger International, Inc.
Examples of contracts:

Lockheed Martin won a $1 billion contract to develop a new Next Generation Identification System. A 10-year contract, the new system will expand fingerprinting capability, doubling the size of the current FBI database. It will also include palm prints, iris and facial recognition capabilities. In addition, Lockheed won a $305 million contract to help the FBI improve its information technology capability.
Lockheed Martin also has won lucrative contracts to help DEA with drug enforcement operations. In September 2007 Lockheed Martin was among five companies—including Raytheon, Lockheed Martin, Northrop Grumman, Arinc Inc., and Blackwater USA—that were awarded $15 billion in contracts by the Defense Department to help support the war on drugs while the government focuses on the war on terrorism. The companies will develop and deploy new surveillance technologies, train and equip foreign security forces and provide key administrative, logistical and operational support to the Pentagon and other agencies, including DEA.
McDonald Bradley Inc. was among 10 firms to win contracts on the FBI’s Technical Support and Development Project (TSDP). The five-year contract has a potential value of $42.5 million. McDonald Bradley will compete for task orders against AlphaInsight Corp., Comso Inc., Data Computer Corp. of America, Glotech Inc., InfoPro Inc., Innovative Management and Technology Approaches Inc., Pragmatics Inc., Project Performance Corp. and Staffing Alternatives Inc. Task orders cover various IT support services, including cyber security.

Unisys Corporation was awarded a $50 million contract for the development and deployment of the Next-Generation Combined DNA Index System. Under the contract, Unisys will provide the FBI with software development, deployment and optional operations and maintenance support. Unisys will partner with the University of Tennessee, Laboratory of Information Technologies; IBM; the University of Cincinnati and iSYS LLC to provide the Next-Generation DNA system. Unisys will provide a highly sophisticated search engine that will accelerate the DNA matching process.

Data for Department of Justice