U.S. Attorney General Eric Holder was in San Francisco on Friday to attend a financial fraud conference, and also addressed the ongoing investigation into the recent release of sensitive U.S. diplomatic cables by the website Wikileaks.
Speaking to reporters at the San Francisco Federal Building, where Holder attended Friday morning’s conference, the attorney general said the Wikileaks probe is “an active, very serious investigation.”
Holder said he could not comment on what possible U.S. laws may have been broken, or what persons are being investigated, but he said the release “has put at risk the safety of the American people.”
Holder drew a distinction between the activities of Wikileaks and news outlets such as the New York Times who were given access to the materials and released redacted versions.
“They acted, I think, in a very responsible way,” Holder said.
A spate of cyberattacks in recent days aimed at companies that have ceased doing business with Wikileaks is also being investigated by federal authorities, according to Holder.
“We are aware of those attacks that have occurred,” he said. “We are looking at them.”
Holder insisted the government did not have a role in dissuading companies to do business with the website.
“We’ve not pressured anybody to do anything,” he said.
Holder will also hold a discussion with Bay Area Muslim groups Friday night in an effort to emphasize the Justice Department’s “extremely aggressive” prosecutions of hate crimes against Muslims, he said.
Holder defended recent sting operations in which Muslims were arrested after allegedly plotting domestic terrorist attacks.
He noted the highly publicized case of a Portland, Ore. youth suspected in a plot to target a Christmas event in that city, and said the suspect “was given any number of opportunities” to desist from the plot.
Holder spoke at a summit of the Financial Fraud Enforcement Task Force, a coalition of federal law enforcement agencies investigating and prosecuting financial crimes.
Holder told the group that financial fraud crimes such as securities fraud, investment schemes, foreclosure rescue scams and insider trading “have reached crisis proportions.”
“They can threaten our nation’s economic strength and the promise of the American dream,” Holder said.
But he insisted that an “aggressive, coordinated approach” by law enforcement was making “remarkable progress” in combating them.
Last week, authorities announced the conclusion of Operation Broken Trust, the largest investment fraud investigation in the nation’s history, in which 231 cases were brought involving the loss of more than $8 billion.