Sessions wants to hire a director of the DOJ’s asset forfeiture program


In July, Attorney General Jeff Sessions rolled back an Obama era initiative that sought to limit the program. (Photo: Andrew Harnik/Associated Press)

Attorney General Jeff Sessions on Tuesday announced he’s looking to find a director to oversee the Justice Department’s asset forfeiture program.

The Director of Asset Forfeiture Accountability will “ensure compliance, review complaints, and advance the integrity, efficiency, and effectiveness of the program,” according to a press release from the Justice Department.

The controversial forfeiture program allows law enforcement to seize money, cars and other property from people — with or without criminal charges filed — as long as the property is suspected of being connected to a crime. A December 2016 Cato Institute poll found that 84 percent of Americans opposed civil asset forfeiture.

In July, Sessions rolled back an Obama era initiative that limited an element of the program. So-called “adoptive forfeiture” allows state and local agencies to bypass local restrictions on asset forfeiture by allowing the federal government to “adopt” the seized property, take a cut of the loot, and then give back the rest.

Sessions says a director will help keep the program accountable as the Department of Justice looks to fight crime under a law and order president.

“As our law enforcement partners will tell you and as President Trump knows well, asset forfeiture is a key tool that helps law enforcement defund organized crime, take back ill-gotten gains, and prevent new crimes from being committed, and it weakens the criminals and the cartels,” Sessions said. “Even more importantly, it helps return property to the victims of crime.”

In a memo to Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein, Sessions instructed him to find a senior attorney with relevant experience. The right candidate, Sessions wrote, should be prepared to develop ways to restructure and streamline the asset forfeiture program.

“The American people and Congress must know this program is being administered professionally, lawfully, and in a manner consistent with sound public policy,” Sessions wrote in the memo.

“I make this decision today because I believe it is important to have senior-level accountability in the Department of the day-to-day workings of the asset forfeiture program, as well as authority to coordinate with relevant components to make the necessary changes to the program to ensure it continues to operate in an accountable and responsible way,” he said.

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