WASHINGTON – With less rhetorical flourish, but a broader list of priorities than his predecessor, newly installed Attorney General Alberto Gonzales (search) on Monday put the prosecution of obscenity cases, renewal of the Patriot Act and continuing the drop in crime among the top goals for the Department of Justice.
Delivering a speech at a Washington meeting of the California-based Hoover Institution (search), Gonzales said the threat from Al Qaeda is "still very real" and warned that "complacency becomes our enemy" when fighting terrorism.
Some provisions of the USA Patriot Act (search), enacted shortly after Sept. 11, 2001, when John Ashcroft was attorney general, are set to expire at the end of the year. Gonzales said he will not support changes to the Patriot Act that would make America more vulnerable to terrorists.
"The Patriot Act is working and I think it is safe to say it's helped prevent additional terrorist acts," Gonzales said.
Gonzales also said that people are not guaranteed free speech rights when they are in the business of distributing obscene materials. He defended Justice Department attorneys who were told they went too far in trying to block the sale of pornographic movies over the Internet and through the mail. A federal judge in Pittsburgh dismissed the case but the Justice Department will appeal.
"I am committed to prosecuting these crimes aggressively," he said, adding that he is instructing DOJ lawyers to "carefully review federal laws" and find out how they can strengthen their ability to prosecute obscenity cases.
In other priorities, Gonzales praised the 30-year low in the crime rate and touted the new Violent Crime Impact Teams, inspired by President Bush's Safe Neighborhoods (search) initiative. The project coordinates federal, state and local law enforcement partners "to drive down the rate of violent crime, crimes committed with guns and trafficking in illegal drugs."
The teams, led by the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco and Firearms (search) and including Drug Enforcement Agency agents, marshals, state troopers, country sheriffs, and local and state prosecutors, is currently in 15 cities and is expanding to five more — Camden, N.J.; Fresno, Calif.; Hartford, Conn.; Houston and New Orleans.
Gonzales, the son of Mexican immigrants, also said the immigration judicial system needs work and pointed out that criminal aliens get more hearings and appeals than non-criminal aliens. He also pledged to step up investigations and prosecutions in human trafficking.
"Its victims are usually aliens, many of them women and children who are smuggled into our country and held in bondage," he said. He also urged Congress to complete work on legislation to make the review process a fairer one.
Ending Senate blockage of judicial nominees before a vacancy opens on the Supreme Court is also key to Gonzales. He said that the "broken process" must be fixed ahead of that time, adding that nominees have been denied a vote while a crisis mounts in the judicial system because of a shortage of judges.
Gonzales said appointed judges must respect the Constitution. He added that he would like to see the Constitution amended to give crime victims the right to participate in prosecutions and sentencings.
FOX News' Anna Persky and The Associated Press contributed to this report.