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Public Statements

Letter to Eric Holder, United States Attorney General of U.S. Department of Justice and Robert S. Mueller, III, Director Federal Bureau of Investigation

Letter

By:
Date:
Location: Washington, DC

U.S. Senator Herb Kohl today voiced his concerns to Attorney General Eric Holder and Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) Director Robert Mueller III over plans to close three of Wisconsin's six Resident Agency offices. The FBI proposes closing the Kenosha, Wausau and La Crosse offices. Details have not been finalized, but it is expected that Kenosha agents will move to Milwaukee, La Crosse agents will move to Eau Claire, and Wausau agents will be relocated elsewhere within the state. Kohl noted that if these closures go through, the Western District of Wisconsin will lose half of its FBI offices, with agents in Eau Claire and Madison responsible for more than half of the state.

"People who live in rural Wisconsin have a right to expect that the FBI will be able to investigate crime in their communities," Kohl wrote in a letter to Holder and Mueller. "Local [agents] serve as the FBI's eyes and ears in rural communities that we know are not immune to major drug trafficking operations, terrorism, and other serious criminal enterprises best addressed by federal law enforcement."

Kohl noted that in 2008, for instance, the FBI led an investigation into a $2.5 million Ponzi scheme, the victims of which were spread across northern Wisconsin and Minnesota. State prosecutors are not equipped to prosecute this type of multi-jurisdiction fraud case.

Kohl said that his main concern is the geographic distance between the remaining offices and the communities that the agents are expected to serve.

"I understand that the FBI must cut costs. However, the cost savings you have identified by closing the Wausau and La Crosse RAs will be limited by the vast territory that the agents in the remaining RAs would cover. Hundreds of additional miles will separate FBI agents from the communities they serve," Kohl wrote.

Kohl raised his concerns with Attorney General Holder during the Senate Judiciary Committee's Department of Justice oversight hearing earlier this week. Kohl is second in seniority among Democrats on the Judiciary Committee.
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The complete text of Kohl's letter is below:

November 10, 2011

The Honorable Eric Holder
Attorney General
United States Department of Justice
950 Pennsylvania Avenue, NW
Washington, D.C. 20530

The Honorable Robert S. Mueller, III
Director
Federal Bureau of Investigation
935 Pennsylvania Avenue, NW
Washington, DC 20535

Dear Attorney General Holder and Director Mueller,

My office has been informed of the Federal Bureau Investigation's (FBI) "Strategic Placement of Facilities Initiative" proposal, which seeks to close three of Wisconsin's six Resident Agency (RA) offices. As I told Attorney General Holder at the Senate Judiciary Committee's oversight hearing on November 8, 2011, I have serious concerns about the FBI's ability to adequately serve Wisconsin if these closures go through and ask that you reconsider the proposed closures. I have detailed my specific concerns below and look forward to discussing them further with you.

My concerns focus on the geographic distance that will exist between the remaining RAs and the communities they serve. For instance, Kenosha County Sheriff David Beth is concerned that closing the Kenosha office will increase response times. If the closures in La Crosse and Wausau go through, the Western District of Wisconsin will lose half of its FBI offices, with agents in Eau Claire and Madison responsible for more than half of the state. United States Attorney for the Western District John Vaudreuil strongly opposes these closures because he knows from 30 years in law enforcement how important the FBI's community presence is to preventing and fighting crime.

People who live in rural Wisconsin have a right to expect that the FBI will be able to investigate crime in their communities. State prosecutors, already stretched thin for resources, will be unable to handle the cases the FBI would no longer cover. In 2008, for instance, the FBI led an investigation into a $2.5 million Ponzi scheme with victims spread across northern Wisconsin and Minnesota. State prosecutors are not equipped to prosecute this type of multi-jurisdiction case. The remaining RAs will no doubt be working hard to conduct investigations in rural areas, but given the greater distance the agents will be unable to have the same reach.

I understand that the FBI must cut costs. However, the cost savings you have identified by closing the Wausau and La Crosse RAs will be limited by the vast territory that the agents in the remaining RAs would cover. Hundreds of additional miles will separate FBI agents from the communities they serve. For example, agents in Wausau can reach Wisconsin's northernmost central counties in less than half the time it would take agents from the next closest RAs in Eau Claire and Green Bay. Longer distances will increase travel costs and may prove unmanageable during the winter months when travel is often difficult. Additionally, the displaced agents would be unable to maintain the close working relationships they have established with state and local law enforcement, businesses, and citizens by virtue of geographic proximity. Local RAs serve as the FBI's eyes and ears in rural communities that are not immune to major drug trafficking operations, terrorism and other serious criminal enterprises best addressed by federal law enforcement.

These closures would also prevent federal law enforcement from fully implementing the Administration's priority of strengthening relationships with tribal nations. The Western District serves six Native American tribes, two of which are served solely by the RAs slated for closure. The Administration has made clear that combating violent crime in tribal communities and holding perpetrators accountable is a priority, but federal law enforcement will not be as effective if they are located so far away.

Thank you for your prompt attention to this matter. I look forward to working with you to ensure that our federal law enforcement officers have the tools they need to keep the people of Wisconsin safe.

Sincerely,

Herb Kohl
United States Senato


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