As the nation’s top law enforcement official, the U.S. attorney general oversees the enforcement of federal laws. The attorney general heads the Department of Justice (DOJ), which has evolved into the world’s largest law office since Congress created it in 1870.
The DOJ’s mission is to “enforce the law” and “defend the interests” of the country, protect it from “foreign and domestic” threats, seek “just punishment” for wrongdoers, and to “ensure fair and impartial administration of justice for all Americans.”
The DOJ oversees a staff of U.S. attorneys, also known as chief prosecutors, who represent the federal government in U.S. district court and the U.S. court of appeals.
U.S. Attorneys are located throughout the U.S., including Guam, the Northern Mariana Islands, Puerto Rico, and the U.S. Virgin Islands.
Deputy Attorney General
The deputy attorney general is the second highest ranking official at the DOJ. The deputy attorney general manages the daily operation of the DOJ. The deputy attorney general may serve as acting attorney general when the attorney general is absent, such as when the attorney general recuses himself. The deputy attorney general heads the Office of the Assistant Attorney General (OAAG), which is responsible for the oversight of the Office of Justice Programs (OJP), which includes efforts designed to prevent juvenile delinquency and sex offenses. According to OJP, it “provides innovative leadership to federal, state, local and tribal justice systems” by distributing “state of the art knowledge and practices across America.” The deputy attorney general is appointed by the president with the consent of the Senate.
The third highest ranking official in the DOJ is the associate attorney general, who assists the deputy attorney general in policies pertaining to civil justice, law enforcement and public safety. The associate attorney general also manages many offices within the DOJ, including Community Oriented Policing Services and the office of Violence Against Women. The associate attorney general is appointed by the president and confirmed by the Senate.
The director of the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) manages the FBI, which describes itself as the “principal investigative arm” of the DOJ and a “full member of the U.S. Intelligence Community.” The director is appointed to a 10 year term by the president and confirmed by the Senate.
The FBI says it is “an intelligence-driven and threat-focused national security organization with both intelligence and law enforcement responsibilities.”
The agency says its investigative powers are the “broadest of all federal law enforcement agencies,” with the legal authority to investigate a broad array of cases ranging from domestic and international terrorism, to cyber crime, civil rights and white collar crime.