This is a partial transcript from "On the Record," October 20, 2005, that has been edited for clarity.
GRETA VAN SUSTEREN, HOST: When Hurricane Katrina (search) slammed the Gulf Coast there was massive flooding, death and destruction. Jails were flooded. People were scattered across the country. Evidence was destroyed and the criminal justice system was crippled.
Attorney General Alberto Gonzales (search) established the Hurricane Katrina Fraud Task Force to stop criminals from taking advantage of this disaster. We spoke with Alberto Gonzales earlier today.
VAN SUSTEREN: Mr. Attorney General, how badly was the federal courthouse hit by Katrina?
ALBERTO GONZALES, ATTORNEY GENERAL: It like a lot of the buildings in New Orleans was hit pretty badly and so obviously one of the things that we tried to establish from the outset is a law enforcement presence and part of that, of course, is to reassure the citizens of this community and other affected communities that our court system is operating. It's business as usual and that anyone engaged in criminal behavior is going to be prosecuted.
VAN SUSTEREN: Are there federal criminal trials going on right now in New Orleans?
GONZALES: The trials themselves have not begun but charges have been brought. I really have pushed the local prosecutor here, the U.S. attorney here to move forward as quickly as possible to send a very strong and clear message again that despite the tragedy that there is a law enforcement presence and that law and order is going to be enforced in the state of New Orleans.
VAN SUSTEREN: But there must be a realistic problem, certainly for people who were charged right before Katrina, for instance, with this Federal Speedy Trial Act (search). If there are no trials going on in New Orleans now how do you comply with the Federal Speedy Trial Act?
GONZALES: No question those are some of the issues that we're dealing with and it may require legislation quite frankly to deal with some of these cases. It may require us altering our strategy, perhaps, you know, dealing with defense attorneys and looking at alternative ways to dispose of some of these cases. But it is an issue that we have to deal with and as I indicated it may require some kind of federal legislation to give us some assistance here in New Orleans.
VAN SUSTEREN: I know everybody wants to make sure that the system is up and running efficiently and fairly but can you characterize it now as a nightmare in the sense that trials are not going on and that there may be missing witnesses in federal cases?
GONZALES: I would not call it a nightmare but obviously there are some challenges because you may have witnesses that are missing. You may have evidence that may have been affected. You may have records that may have been affected by the tragedy.
And so, obviously it's presenting some unique challenges that we have to deal with and we've got professionals that are working down here and they are going to deal with it to ensure again that people that are engaged in criminal conduct are going to be held accountable.
VAN SUSTEREN: What about the detention facility? Do you have a place to detain federal defendants?
GONZALES: Well, of course, shortly after the tragedy occurred there was a temporary facility set up at the Greyhound station. I visited the facility when Vice President Cheney first came down to the area and had an opportunity to see how people were booked into the facility to see where they were being detailed, to see the makeshift offices that were established for state and federal officials.
And so, that continues and we're also looking at alternative facilities to ensure that we have a place that we can book people into the criminal justice system and we can detain them for a period of time.
VAN SUSTEREN: Can you predict when you'll have your first federal criminal trial in New Orleans again?
GONZALES: I can't give you a firm date. Again, we're working as hard as we can on this issue and we hope that we'll have a federal criminal trial as soon as possible.
VAN SUSTEREN: Are any defense attorneys filing motions about wanting to get their cases to trial in a speedy fashion to sort of put pressure on the federal government?
GONZALES: Of course all good defense attorneys are looking at all available means to make the most effective arguments on behalf of their clients and this is something that we, you know, if there's an available argument for a good defense attorney those kinds of arguments are being made and we expect those arguments to be made and we'll respond the best way that we can.
VAN SUSTEREN: General, as the boss of the United States attorney down here has he told you this is my biggest problem or what does he say is his biggest problem he needs help about?
GONZALES: Well, initially of course they're very much concerned about ensuring that we do have law and order here. They're concerned about the New Orleans Police Department. We, of course, have devoted a great deal of federal assets into the area to supplement the work of the New Orleans Police Department.
And so, we want to do everything that we can to continue to support the work of the New Orleans Police Department but that's the primary concern that's been expressed to me, not just from our U.S. attorney but the other federal components here, the FBI and ATF and U.S. Marshals.
We just want to make sure that we're doing everything we can to assist the mayor, to assist the police chief and standing up the best possible local police department as we can.
VAN SUSTEREN: Let me switch gears for one second.
GONZALES: You bet.
VAN SUSTEREN: The nominee to the United States Supreme Court, Harriet Miers (search), the Senate Judiciary Committee, including the chairman, the Republican, has said that her questionnaire responses are inadequate and incomplete. What do you think about that?
GONZALES: Well, obviously I mean that's the opinion of the chairman and we are going to do what we can to remedy that situation. If he feels that he needs more information the administration will be working with Ms. Miers. She's committed to be as responsive as she can and so we will provide the information as quickly as we can.
VAN SUSTEREN: Have you seen her responses to the questionnaire or is that something that's simply done by the nominee and those who are working with her?
GONZALES: It is the responsibility of the nominee. I have read her response to answer your question but it is the responsibility of the nominee and obviously to the extent that we can assist the nominee but this is the response of the nominee.
VAN SUSTEREN: Did you think that was a fair criticism by the Senate Judiciary Committee that it was an incomplete and inadequate response to the questionnaire?
GONZALES: I know there was a great deal of effort put forth by the nominee to answer the questionnaire completely, truthfully, accurately and as quickly as possible. I will say that. And, to the extent that Chairman Specter is unsatisfied, you know, the nominee will go back and try to provide additional information.
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