Tags: FBI's | Mueller | Says | More | Turf | Battles

FBI's Mueller Says No More Turf Battles

Friday, 20 June 2003 12:00 AM

The Director deflected other, more controversial questions.

He refused to comment on whether Steven Hatfill was still a "person of interest” (i.e., a suspect) in the case of the deadly anthrax letters sent to Senate office buildings in late 2001.

Hatfill, a chemist, has charged that the FBI ruined his professional reputation and that the agency has hounded him despite his innocence. He is seeking legal recourse.

“I cannot comment on that,” said Mueller when questioned by NewsMax.com during a luncheon at the National Press Club.

Similarly, he refused to comment on how the FBI secured information that led to the investigation of sleeper agent Iyman Faris (real name: Mohammed Rauf), the immigrant from Kashmir who has pleaded guilty to aiding al-Qaeda leader Osama bin Laden in scouting railroads and bridges for destruction.

Nor would he comment on whether Zacarias Moussaoui, in custody and being dealt with by authorities, was the “20th hijacker” in 9/11.

But he emphasized that the Patriot Act, widely criticized by some civil libertarians, was “essential” in breaking down the walls of separation between the FBI, the CIA and other intelligence agencies. Turf battles, he said, are now a thing of the past.

The nation’s top G-man says “most people believe” (and he seems to agree) that bin Laden is alive, and no, contrary to wailing and gnashing of teeth in leftist circles, the war in Iraq did not drain resources and attention from the War on Terror.

"In fact,” Mueller declared, “Iraq was a part of the war on terror,” and an essential one at that. There are “10 [terrorist] groups in in Iraq that we no longer have to worry about.”

One of the reasons there have been no terrorist attacks since 9/11 is that many of al-Qaeda’s sanctuaries were removed in Afghanistan and elsewhere.

“No” -- that was the short and only answer to a question as to whether “world opinion” (often meaning France and Germany) against the U.S.-led war in Iraq had any negative effect on intelligence gathering.

The FBI boss acknowledged that after 9/11, there had been criticism over the detained aliens held indefinitely. But he recalled the extreme anxiety throughout the nation at the time. Authorities should be better prepared to deal with that kind of situation, if and when there is a “next time.”

Mueller, who assumed the job of FBI director about a week before the 9/11 attacks, was asked about reports on Capitol Hill and elsewhere indicating “FBI blunders,” mainly in the fingerprinting office. He said to the extent there was room for improvement, there would be remedies.

He also said the idea of expanding DNA testing (“testing everyone” is the way the questioner worded it) was under study and consideration.

Written questions as to whether government rules make it difficult for the director to rid the bureau of people who try to keep internal memos from reaching his desk did not make the cut in the Q&A part of the Mueller’s presentation. That concern was prompted by a memo from Minneapolis FBI agent Coleen Rowley noting the failure to deal fully with Moussaoui, for fear of accusations of “profiling.”

Two lessons can be learned from the case of the Beltway snipers who terrorized communities in and around Washington last fall, Mueller said. One was the need for a software upgrade. Secondly, the FBI can be of great help to local law enforcement in such areas as coordinated lab testing.

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The Director deflected other, more controversial questions. He refused to comment on whether Steven Hatfill was still a "person of interest" (i.e., a suspect) in the case of the deadly anthrax letters sent to Senate office buildings in late 2001. Hatfill, a chemist, has...
FBI's,Mueller,Says,More,Turf,Battles
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2003-00-20
Friday, 20 June 2003 12:00 AM
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