WASHINGTON - Terrorist plots were thwarted and more sophisticated criminal operations taken apart during the last two years, Attorney General Eric Holder said.
In addition, the department improved the way it does business, finding ways to foster transparency, accountability and professionalism, Holder said when discussing the department's priorities and mission.
"Across the department, and in our United States Attorneys' Offices, we have raised both standards and spirits -- and restored public faith in our critical work," Holder said.
Holder said the Justice Department will focus on four areas to fulfill its core mission of protecting Americans.
"First and foremost," he said, "we will protect Americans from terrorism and other threats to national security both at home and abroad."
He said the department would "aggressively pursue" activities such as pursuing emerging threats globally and at home, reaching out to all communities to prevent terrorism before it occurs.
"We will be vigilant -- not only against international terrorist organizations, but also against domestic extremist groups, militias, and other home-grown threats," Holder said. "And let me be very clear about this: We will continue to rely on our most powerful and most proven tool in bringing terrorists to justice -- our federal court system."
Second, the department will protect Americans from violent crimes, he said.
"One of the key ways we will strengthen violent crime prevention is by increasing our support for the law enforcement officers who put their lives on the line each day to keep our communities safe," Holder said. "Although we can all be encouraged that violent crime rates are down nationwide, it is clear that more work remains to be done."
Justice Department personnel will work with state, local, and tribal partners, as well as broadening support for better crime prevention, intervention, enforcement and re-entry strategies.
"By better understanding the cycle of violence and by applying targeted solutions at every phase of it we can stop and disrupt violent patterns," Holder said.
The third priority is protecting Americans from "the financial fraud that devastates consumers, siphons taxpayer dollars, weakens our markets, and impedes our ongoing economic recovery," Holder said. "As we've seen, the impact of financial crime is not confined to Wall Street -- and many times the victims of fraud have worked hard and played by established investment rules, only to see their retirement and life savings vanish at hands of white-collar criminals."
Finally, the department will protect the country's vulnerable populations -- children, the elderly, hate crime victims, and victims of human trafficking and exploitation, he said.
"What endures -- what matters most -- is the work before us. The work we do for the people we serve. The work that is our great privilege, our urgent and worthy calling, our once-in-a-lifetime opportunity," Holder said. "So, let us recommit ourselves to this work."