Skip to comments.Lawmakers Say Misstatements Cloud F.B.I. Chief's Credibility
Posted on 05/30/2002 10:23:36 PM PDT by kattracks
ASHINGTON, May 30 With admissions this week that the F.B.I. might have been able to foil the Sept. 11 attacks and that it had bungled additional clues, Robert S. Mueller III has contradicted much of his past public defense of the bureau, raising new concern today on Capitol Hill about his leadership of the embattled agency.
Lawmakers said in interviews that the F.B.I. director was secure in his job for now and that they welcomed the plans he announced on Wednesday to change and enlarge the bureau's counterterrorism program.
But they said a review of his public remarks about the Sept. 11 investigation had raised uncomfortable questions about the F.B.I. director's credibility and about his ability to gather accurate information from his deputies.
Mr. Mueller's credibility was harshly attacked in a letter made public last weekend in which a Minneapolis agent said the F.B.I. director was engaged in a public relations campaign "to protect the F.B.I. at all costs" after Sept. 11.
In a news conference on Wednesday that amounted to a painful mea culpa for the bureau and for his performance in the nine months since he took over the Federal Bureau of Investigation, Mr. Mueller said, "I have made mistakes occasionally in my public comments based on information or a lack of information that I subsequently got."
He was referring specifically to a widely publicized Sept. 14 statement in which he offered assurances later proved to be false that the bureau had no warning that terrorists might be training in American flight schools. On Sept. 17, Mr. Mueller went further, saying he knew of "no warning signs" of any sort of attack.
Senator Charles E. Grassley, an Iowa Republican who is on the Judiciary Committee, said his staff investigators would explore the accusations made by the Minneapolis agent, Coleen Rowley, that Mr. Mueller and other senior F.B.I. officials had intentionally shaded the truth about the investigation last summer of Zacarias Moussaoui.
Mr. Moussaoui, who has been charged with conspiring in the Sept. 11 attacks, was arrested in Minnesota in August. Ms. Rowley said F.B.I. headquarters had obstructed the work of the local office in determining if Mr. Moussaoui was a terrorist.
"I believe that his heart is in the right spot," Senator Grassley said of Mr. Mueller, a decorated Vietnam War veteran and career federal prosecutor who until this week had received almost universal praise on Capitol Hill for his early performance at the F.B.I.
"But I'm going to give a great deal of deference to a whistle-blower," Mr. Grassley said of Ms. Rowley. "It gives me responsibility for digging deeper."
Mr. Grassley said that senior aides to Mr. Mueller may be to blame for the misstatements that had come back to haunt the F.B.I. director and that Mr. Mueller's deputies should be held accountable if they were responsible. "I'm willing to forgive him," the senator said. "But I'm not willing to forgive the agents who gave him the information."
Senator Dianne Feinstein, a California Democrat who is a member of the Judiciary and Intelligence committees, said she was perplexed by some of the inaccuracies that have been uncovered in Mr. Mueller's public statements, and that she was concerned that they might reflect an unwise decision to "take on the burden of defending what has been done in the past."
But she said that inadvertent mistakes by Mr. Mueller in his public comments might be understandable, especially in his first few, chaotic weeks on the job. "I have no concerns that he is up to the task," she said. "I think he has to be given a fair chance to prove himself."
A review of Mr. Mueller's public remarks since Sept. 11 shows that the director, who arrived at the F.B.I. only a week before the attacks, was quick to defend the bureau's performance and to suggest that there was little the F.B.I. could have done to prevent the attacks.
Some of his early remarks have proved to be untrue, and he has made what appear to inconsistent statements on other elements of the inquiry, notably the Moussaoui case.
"The tragedies quite clearly astonish and shock me and the country," he said at a news conference on Sept. 14. "The fact that there were a number of individuals that happened to have received training at flight schools here is news, quite obviously. If we had understood that to be the case, we would have perhaps one could have averted this."
Three days later, in the wake of news reports about Mr. Moussaoui's arrest, Mr. Mueller was asked again if the bureau had missed "any warning signs." He offered a more wide-ranging defense, saying, "There were no warning signs that I'm aware of that would indicate this type of operation in the country."
In her May 21 letter to the F.B.I. director, Ms. Rowley said she and other Minneapolis agents had been alarmed by Mr. Mueller's public comments and "immediately sought to reach your office through an assortment of higher-level F.B.I.-HQ contacts, in order to quickly make you aware of the background of the Moussaoui investigation and forewarn you so that your public statements could be accordingly modified."
But she said that when Mr. Mueller and his deputies repeated the comments in the weeks that followed, the Minneapolis agents "faced the sad realization that the remarks indicated someone, possibly with your approval, had decided to circle the wagons at F.B.I. HQ in an apparent effort to protect the F.B.I. from embarrassment."
Questioned this week about Ms. Rowley's accusations, Mr. Mueller conceded that his Sept. 14 statement had been in error and that he had been unaware that day of a memorandum sent to F.B.I. headquarters in July by a Phoenix agent who had called for a nationwide investigation of flight schools in light of evidence suggesting that Arab men with ties to terrorist groups might be seeking training.
"The fact of the matter is when I made that statement, I wasn't aware of the Arizona E.C.," Mr. Mueller said Wednesday, using the initials for electronic communication. "After I made that statement at the press conference, somebody brought it to my attention that, look there's this Phoenix E.C. out there."
The review of his public comments shows that Mr. Mueller has also given other seemingly contradictory statements about the Moussaoui case specifically, about why the bureau did not pursue a warrant before Sept. 11 that might have allowed Minneapolis agents to search his computer, where evidence linking him to the hijackers was found.
In October and again in December, when he announced Mr. Moussaoui's indictment, Mr. Mueller said publicly that there had been insufficient evidence before Sept. 11 to request the court order sought by the Minneapolis agents.
"When it was looked at, there was insufficient probable cause clear, insufficient probable cause," Mr. Mueller explained in October. In December, he said again that "attorneys back at F.B.I. determined that there was insufficient probable cause," which "appears to be an accurate decision."
But on Wednesday, Mr. Mueller backed away from his earlier statements, saying that he had not made a decision on whether the search warrant should have been sought. "I haven't parsed it," he said. "I know the Hill is looking at that."
When Mueller was sworn in, is of no interest. He is an old time DOJ hack, appointed to office by Clinton and supported by Reno and Halder. I want no part of ANYONE that has their support. Bush should have known better that to hire him at FBI.
As can be seen by current events, Mueller has tried to deflect any investigation of the FBI for its failure to do much of anything for many long years. This past week found one agent CONVICTED and being sent to prison for criminal behavior, and for one current and one former agent indicted for stock fraud.
Mueller had to be warned, explicitly by Sen. Grassley, not to attempt retaliation on the other agents that have coming forth with horror tales of the FBI. I care less when he was appointed. Mueller was appointed to a job and served Clinton well. He is not the man for the job.
After all the talk about needing to upgrade computers, not being able to communicate with each other, etc., I was almost beginning to believe that the electronic intelligence gathering of the alphabet agencies had been highly overrated. Then you posted #17 and #18. Now I'm ashamed of myself for almost falling for their lies. After all, why develop Eschelon, Carnivore, and all the others if you have no internet access and cannot even communicate with other agencies?
BTW, I predict the congressional hearings will be a waste of time and money. They've never been anything but stagecraft before, and I doubt they will be anything different this time.
On another note, the most chilling aspect of what I read here was this:
As U.S. attorney in San Francisco, Mueller actively urged prosecutors to push defendants who pleaded guilty in plea bargains to waive their so-called "Brady Rights" which require government lawyers to divulge any evidence that could indicate a defendant's innocence.
Why would anyone waive that right unless Mueller "made him an offer he couldn't refuse"?
Do you find it unusual that EPIC had to file a FOIA to see the New Justice Department Guidelines on Searching and Seizing Computers?
I'm still waiting and looking for the complete guidelines to be posted somewhere, anywhere, on the net free from the encumbrances of having to file an FOIA.
You don't even have to make a true hyperlink if you read it...just highlight the URL, right click the mouse and click on "copy" when the box comes up. Then, click "post reply" on this reply and when the screen comes up, with the cursor blinking in the text box, right click again and click on "paste". Follow through as you would any other reply.
That will put the URL in the text box and you can make public your "claim".
Rediculous, but not unusual anymore. Getting anything in writing out of the government is like calling your cat. He'll eventually come in, but on his terms--after he's made sure you understand that he's really in charge :)
Now none of you can say nobody told me 'cause I'm trying to!
Very difficult to read with Adobe's Converter
Report Criticizes Stumbling Block Between FBI, Espionage Prosecutors
The 778-page report was focused primarily on the bungling in the Wen Ho Lee investigation, and some portions have been aired before. New sections released yesterday emphasized that dealings among the FBI, the Justice Department's Office of Intelligence Policy and Review, and the Criminal Division have been a persistent bureaucratic nightmare not restricted to any one case. "Dysfunctional . . . broken . . . strained" were some of the words cited.
Snip...Bellows's report was submitted to Justice in May 2000 with dozens of recommendations for improvement, primarily at the FBI. FBI spokesman John Collingwood said yesterday that FBI-Justice working groups reviewed all of the recommendations and "in some instances, we implemented reforms that went beyond the recommendations."
An FBI official, who asked not to be named, said improvements were apparent last year during the millennium bomb investigation involving Los Angeles International Airport. Since the Sept. 11 attacks, he said, "there hasn't been so much as a hiccup between us and OIPR. The same is true of the Criminal Division's internal security section."
"I can safely say," this official added, "that there is no room for dysfunctional relationships between this FBI director [Robert S. Mueller III] and this attorney general [John D. Ashcroft]."
Rowley's allegations have been discussed, analyzed, and debated in numerous FR threads--see below--where it was mentioned that the obstructing agents were Michael Maltbie and David Frasca. I recall that politically-correct policies towards Muslims were part of the problem.
I'll also mention that I'm skeptical of taking the New York Times' attempt to focus the allegations on Mueller at face value, both because of the Times' own agenda and because of some of the bureaucratic infighting involved (see the bolding in my first link below and compare with this from the present thread, Post 22: "DCI George J. Tenet is directed "to determine how the CIA and a dozen sister agencies are coping with rapid technological change and difficult new targets....Tenet must name an internal panel of intelligence officials and an external panel from the private sector to conduct the review and make recommendations. . .The eight-member panel of experts selected by DCI George J. Tenet to conduct a "comprehensive review" of U.S. intelligence is headed by retired Gen. Brent Scowcroft ["Don't Attack Saddam", By Brent Scowcroft, Wall Street Journal, August 15, 2002--Fedora] and includes retired Adm. David Jeremiah; former CIA deputy director Richard Kerr; former undersecretary of state Stapleton Roy [that would be Clinton's ambassador to China during Chinagate and later ambassador to Indonesia--see J. Stapleton Roy Assistant Secretary of State for Intelligence and Research; also see these: "" Senior Diplomat Resigns to Protest Albright's Action: Ambassador Roy's Deputy, 2 Others Punished In Connection With Missing Top-Secret Laptop; "One employee who was said not to be personally involved but who took early retirement anyway was J. Stapleton Roy, a former Ambassador to China. His deputy at the Bureau of Intelligence and Research, Donald Keyser, was disciplined in the computer security scandal. Ironically, Roys name has now surfaced as a possible U.S. Ambassador to the U.N. in President Bushs Administration. Roy is a noted apologist for John Stewart Service, one of the old China hands in the State Department who helped the Communists take power in China. During an "Open Forum" at the State Department last year, Roy had defended Service as a patriotic dissenter who had been victimized by "McCarthyism." In fact, Service was arrested for passing classified information to the editor of a pro-Communist magazine. He wasnt prosecuted because Soviet agent Laughlin Currie, a top aide to President Roosevelt, arranged to get him off." State Department Documents Found In Moscow--Fedora]; former deputy attorney general Jamie Gorelick; John Foster, a member of the President's Foreign Intelligence Advisory Board from 1973 to 1990; Jeong Kim, an information technology expert who serves on the board of In-Q-Tel [In-Q-Tel: A New Partnership Between the CIA and the Private Sector--Fedora]; and William Schneider, a businessman who heads the Defense Science Board."). I suspect there are some CIA-FBI bureacratic conflicts involved here.
Anyway, here are some old threads:
Has someone been sitting on the FBI? (FBI Ordered Not To Investigate Saudis) (11/06/01) ("FBI agents Coleen Rowley and Ken Williams went to the CIA after being stonewalled by the FBI in Washington about the FBI agents' informattion on Bin Laden hijacker pilot (Phoenix and Minneapois)training missions prior to 9/11/01. These FBI agents' actions also show their concern about how the FBI is being run and was an obvious effort to enlist the help of the CIA since it is well known that the CIA is still not happy with the way the FBI is being run.")
Letter shifts heat to FBI (5/28/02)
FBI chief (Mueller) skewed Sept 11 facts (5/28/02)
Who were the FBI bosses stonewalling agent Coleen Crowley's requests? **FREEPER HELP REQUIRED** (Post #2: "The name Frasca, head of the Radical Fundamentalist Unit, the clearinghouse for all reports related to jihadis etc has been mentioned in reports. -SNIP from the POST. Law enforcement sources said the officials Rowley referred to only by title in her memo to Mueller were Michael Maltbie, a supervisory special agent (SSA), and his boss, David Frasca, chief of the counterterrorism division's radical fundamentalist unit.")
Finally, while looking up old threads on J. Stapleton Roy I came across this interesting tidbit:
"John Deutch was an undesecretary in President Carter's Energy Department and a member of the Nuclear Safety Oversight Committee from 1979-1980. During his time there, Jamie Gorelick acted as his legal counsel."
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