President Obama announced that he would prefer FBI Director Robert Mueller to stay on for an additional two years beyond the 10-year term he has already served. Mueller, who became director of the FBI one week before 9-11, would see his term otherwise expire September 4. Here’s an excerpt of the President’s statement.
I believe continuity and stability at the FBI is critical at this time. Bob transformed the FBI after September 11, 2001 into a pre-eminent counterterrorism agency, he has shown extraordinary leadership and effectiveness at protecting our country every day since. 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 leadership, and ask Democrats and Republicans in Congress to join together in extending that leadership for the sake of our nation’s safety and security.
Other positions with counter-terrorism implications are changing. CIA Director Leon Panetta has been nominated for Defense Secretary, and David Petraeus has been nominated to replace him at CIA. Those confirmation battles will allow Republicans to put on trial Obama Administration counter-terrorism policies, although the killing of Osama bin Laden tempers that somewhat. If Mueller gets extended for two more years, the future confirmation fight for a new FBI Director wouldn’t occur until after the 2012 elections.
I don’t think there’s a huge problem with this, but it’s hard to reconcile the desire for “seamlessness,” which both Obama and Attorney General Eric Holder stressed in their support for the two-year extension, with the changes at Defense and CIA. In addition, there are several FBI actions, particularly with respect to national security letters, that need the oversight a confirmation hearing for a new director could bring.
Mueller himself has not yet commented on the extension, but one can safely assume he’s on board and was asked to stay, despite planning to retire in September.
Congressional reaction has been generally supportive. Patrick Leahy, the Chair of the Senate Judiciary Committee, which has jurisdiction over the FBI, applauded the move. “I am fully supportive of this decision,” he said.
…the major law enforcement-related legislation that the Administration wants passed is a long-term extension of the Patriot Act. The House GOP is struggling to find the votes for the extension. Perhaps this extension for Mueller will get folded into that. Mueller is scheduled to give a classified briefing to House Republicans tomorrow.