Obama hopes to keep ‘steady hand’ at FBI by re­tain­ing Mueller

The Washington Times Weekly - - Politics - BY JERRY SEPER

Pres­i­dent Obama on May 12 said he in­tends to seek a twoyear ex­ten­sion of the 10-year term of FBI Di­rec­tor Robert S. Mueller III, which ex­pires Sept. 4, say­ing the di­rec­tor has “set the gold stan­dard for lead­ing the bu­reau” and that in the face of on­go­ing threats, “con­ti­nu­ity and sta­bil­ity at the FBI is crit­i­cal at this time.”

The ex­ten­sion would re­quire House and Se­nate ap­proval, which ap­pears likely.

“Bob trans­formed the FBI af­ter Sept. 11, 2001, into a pre­em­i­nent coun­tert­er­ror­ism agency. He has shown ex­tra­or­di­nary lead­er­ship and ef­fec­tive­ness at pro­tect­ing our coun­try ev­ery day since,” Mr. Obama said. “He has im­pec­ca­ble law en­force­ment and na­tional se­cu­rity cre­den­tials, a re­lent­less com­mit­ment to the rule of law, un­ques­tion­able in­tegrity and in­de­pen­dence, and a steady hand that has guided the bu­reau as it con­fronts our most se­ri­ous threats.

“I am grate­ful for his leader- ship, and ask Democrats and Repub­li­cans in Congress to join to­gether in ex­tend­ing that lead­er­ship for the sake of our nation’s safety and se­cu­rity.”

Mr. Mueller, 66, was named to the post in July 2001 by Pres­i­dent Ge­orge W. Bush and was unan­i­mously con­firmed by the Se­nate a month later. He was sworn in as FBI di­rec­tor Sept. 4, 2001 — just a week be­fore the ter­ror­ist at­tacks that claimed the lives of nearly 3,000 peo­ple.

He has been in charge of trans­form­ing the FBI from a preSept. 11 law en­force­ment agency into an agency whose pri­mary mis­sion is na­tional se­cu­rity.

Mr. Obama made the re­quest at a time when the ad­min­is­tra­tion’s na­tional se­cu­rity team is in tran­si­tion. Robert M. Gates is leav­ing as de­fense sec­re­tary and is to be re­placed by CIA Di­rec­tor Leon E. Panetta, and Gen. David H. Pe­traeus will be­come the CIA di­rec­tor.

Sen. Pa­trick J. Leahy, Ver­mont Demo­crat and chair­man of the Se­nate Ju­di­ciary Com­mit­tee, which over­sees the FBI, said he was “de­lighted” by the de­ci­sion. Al­though Sen. Charles E. Grass­ley of Iowa, the com­mit­tee’s rank­ing Repub­li­can, called the re­quest “an un­usual step” that could set “a risky prece­dent,” he did not rule it out.

“Thirty-five years ago, Congress lim­ited the FBI di­rec­tor’s term to one, 10-year ap­point­ment as an im­por­tant safe­guard against im­proper po­lit­i­cal in­flu­ence and abuses of the past,” Mr. Grass­ley said. “There’s no ques­tion that Di­rec­tor Mueller has proven his abil­ity to run the FBI. And, we live in ex­tra­or­di­nary times.

“So, I’m open to the pres­i­dent’s idea, but I will need to know more about his plan to en­sure that this is not a more per­ma­nent ex­ten­sion that would un­der­mine the pur­poses of the term limit.”

The FBI Agents As­so­ci­a­tion, which rep­re­sents more than 12,000 ac­tive-duty and re­tired agents na­tion­wide, ap­plauded the pres­i­dent’s de­ci­sion. As­soci- ation Pres­i­dent Kon­rad Mo­tyka said Mr. Obama’s re­quest to Congress “re­flects the crit­i­cal role that the di­rec­tor has played in tran­si­tion­ing the bu­reau to a post-9/11 world that re­quires both in­ves­tiga­tive and in­tel­li­gence-gather­ing skills.”

“We look for­ward to work­ing with Di­rec­tor Mueller to con­tinue to en­hance the ef­fec­tive­ness of the FBI in the fight against terrorism and emerg­ing threats with­out com­pro­mis­ing the bu­reau’s es­tab­lished ex­per­tise at both crim­i­nal and coun­ter­in­tel­li­gence in­ves­ti­ga­tions,” Mr. Mo­tyka said.

The as­so­ci­a­tion pre­vi­ously rec­om­mended the ap­point­ment of for­mer FBI Ex­ec­u­tive As­sis­tant Di­rec­tor Michael Ma­son as “an ex­am­ple of the type of per­son who em­bod­ies our prin­ci­ples.”

Mr. Ma­son’s FBI ca­reer spanned 23 years be­fore he left for the pri­vate sec­tor in De­cem­ber 2007. His last as­sign­ments were those of as­sis­tant di­rec­tor in charge of the FBI’s Wash­ing­ton field of­fice and ex­ec­u­tive as­sis­tant di­rec­tor for the bu­reau’s Crim­i­nal In­ves­tiga­tive Divi­sion.

Staying on the job: FBI Di­rec­tor Rober t S. Mueller III

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