Transcript: FBI Director Robert Mueller

Full remarks from Wednesday's Monitor lunch with FBI Director Robert Mueller.

Good afternoon. I'm Dave Cook from The Christian Science Monitor. Thanks for coming. Our guest today is Robert S. Mueller III, director of the Federal Bureau of Investigation. Mr. Mueller is the fourth FBI director to meet with our group. It is a tradition we value and want to renew. The esteemed William Webster came every other year or so when he was heading the FBI. But in the 1990's we suffered a bad case of directorus interruptus, going a full decade without a visit by the head of the FBI. So we are especially happy to have Director Mueller with us today.

Robert Mueller became the sixth director of the FBI with fateful timing on September 4, 2001. He brings an impressive background to the assignment of leading the men and women of the FBI in protecting the United States from future terrorist attacks.

Born in New York in 1944, Robert Muller attended St. Paul's School and Princeton University and then went on to win a masters degree in international relations from New York University. Unlike many of his generation with a privileged educational background, Director Muller served in Vietnam as a Marine First Lieutenant. He received a variety of medals including a Bronze Star for heroism and a Purple Heart.

After leaving the military, he earned a law degree at the University of Virginia and then toiled for a dozen years in US attorneys' offices in California and in Boston. After some years as a partner at a major Boston law firm, Mr. Mueller returned to the Justice Department as assistant to Attorney General Thornburgh and later as assistant attorney general in charge of the criminal division.

After another tour as a partner at a Boston law firm, in 1995 Mr. Muller became a senior litigator in the Homicide Section of the US Attorney's office here in the Washington. Sadly it's an office that never seems to lack for business. He moved back to California after being named US attorney in San Francisco and held that position until 2001 when he became Acting Deputy Attorney General. That was his last career stop before being named to a 10-year term as FBI director.

Let me say a couple of words about mechanics before we get going. At the request of the bureau chiefs of organizations represented here today, news from this lunch - like all of our gatherings -- is embargoed for use until 6 p.m. tonight. At the FBI's request, the Monitor will prepare a transcript of this session for distribution to journalists who cover the FBI regularly for the TV networks and the wire services. The transcript will have an embargo of 6:00 p.m tonight. The document also will be e-mailed to all of the news organizations represented at lunch today.

Some of have been to a lot of Monitor breakfasts. (Including my predecessor over there, Mr. Sperling, who hosted more than 3,200 of them.) For those of you who are new, it is worth mentioning that our goal is to provide a forum as much like a civilized conversation and as little like a hit-and-run press conference as is possible. Your help with that today will be greatly appreciated.

To that end, after the Director's opening comments, I'll serve up a couple of slow-pitch questions and then turn Director Mueller over to your tender mercies.

If you want to ask a question, please make the traditional, subtle, non-threatening gesture in my direction. With some 40 reporters here today, clearly not everyone will get a question. But I'll do my best to call on folks sitting in every corner of the room.

With that, we will start with some opening remarks from the director. The floor is yours, sir.

Robert S. Mueller:

Thank you and thank you for the invitation. It's a pleasure to be here. Often, when we discuss high-level intelligence, we joke about if I tell you this I will have to kill you. There has been a switch on that today, Dave told me as I sat down: you speak more than 5 minutes, and I'll kill you.

I'm not going to take very long other than to say that reflecting over the last year in the bureau and what we have accomplished I think we have made strides, especially in the war against terrorism. Many of you have heard me talk about how I think we are safer today certainly than we were on September 11th, for a variety of reasons. By the efforts here in the US, but also by the efforts in Afghanistan and the efforts of our counterparts overseas in detaining a number of persons...within the bureau I think we have and are continuing to make strides in two areas that are exceptionally important to us. One is developing the intelligence capacity, the analytical capacity, integrating the intelligence function in the bureau, so not only do we collect the information on terrorism or organized crime or corruption, but also to do a better job in analyzing that information and disseminating it.

Secondly, one of our big challenges is to adapt the new information technology. We have made substantial strides in the last year, and we hope to make substantial strides down the road. One of the things we are called upon to do is look down the road and see where the bureau should be and what it would look like, in say, year 2010. If you look at the world and evaluate where will as a society, in the US, or globally, in years ahead, one has to be struck by globalization and the impact in a variety of areas. But most particularly in the bureau and the spread of crime would be terrorism and cyber trafficking and the like. I am continuously struck by the need to look ahead and understand that we in the FBI provide a different level of integrated law enforcement and intelligence capability, across not only city and state and county lines but also, now, internationally. To be successful in addressing the threats of the future many just now discussed, we are going to have to, as an organization, posture ourselves to be an international law enforcement agency in ways we have not been in the past. A substantial piece of that would be enhancing our ties overseas with our counterparts, a substantial piece of that will be developing agents who are comfortable in operating overseas as well as domestically. And lastly, it is the network and relationships that will be successful to address those threats of the future. Network of relationships within the US with state and local and other federal counterparts but also with our counterparts overseas. So as we assess the bureau and look at where we are going, as we develop the intelligence capacity, as we develop the in patient technology capacity, as important as both those will be the development of relationships and networks to address those crimes....

Q&A:
QUESTION:

At your confirmation hearing, you said: "If I have the honor of being confirmed by the Senate, I will make it my highest priority to restore the public's confidence in the FBI - to re-earn the faith and trust of the American people."

How would you assess your success in meeting that goal? And do you worry whatever ground you have regained with the public will be blown away in an instant if there is another terrorist attack?

ANSWER:

I think we have made strides and gained, or regained, to the extent that we have lost or are perceived to have lost the trust of the American public. As I go around the country and talk to people, their view of the bureau is tremendously positive and always has been, and still is. Part of regaining the public's trust is identifying the mistakes, areas where we have slipped, acknowledging them and moving on. But being honest about acknowledging them moving on to address them, but being scrupulously honest about what we have done, not only well, but what we have done not so well. I think the public understands that we, like any organization make mistakes but the vast vast vast majority of our staff and agents and support staff are the person you want your son or daughter to marry, and are exceptionally hard-working, dedicated public servants. Occasionally we have, as any organization will, individuals that do not fit that mold, we have to identify and address those individuals.

When we, as an institution, have not put into place the procedures and mechanisms to accomplish the goals we need to accomplish we need to admit it and move on and get it done, and I think we have made strides there

QUESTION:

And could it be blown away if there were another attack?

ANSWER:

I would hope it would not be blown away. If you look at Israel there is an attack every day and they don't change their law enforcement or intelligence organization. There is an understanding that the country as a whole is under attack and the country as a whole has to work together to address those threats. There is not a public servant I know who has been in Washington DC or around the country who is not exceptionally dedicated, spending long days and nights trying to protect the country and I think the American public obviously-

(((ASIDE: Did you enjoy that first course?

That first course was just delightful; (laughter) I take it as an opportunity to look. It's like a beautiful flower out there that I have taken sustenance from.

My wife is trying to train me to do that...like you were saying))))

We probably at some point in time have another attack, whether it is another domestic attack, like Oklahoma city or another attack, hopefully nothing of the level of the towers, but I would hope and expect that the American public would recognize, whether it be the department of homeland security, or the FBI or the CIA or the defense department of state and local law enforcement, all of us are working together to provide the maximum protection to the American public. If there are things we can do better we want to know then and continuously improve. But that we are in this together and that we have to continuously improve our security. Part of that is looking back and reflecting on our mistakes, but we should not be driven by those mistakes.

QUESTION:

The FBI website lists 10 FBI priorities:

1. Protect the United States from terrorist attack.

2. Protect the United States against foreign intelligence operations and espionage.

3. Protect the United States against cyber-based attacks and high-technology crimes.

4. Combat public corruption at all levels.

5. Protect civil rights.

6. Combat transnational and national criminal organizations and enterprises.

7. Combat white-collar crime.

8. Combat violent crime.

It's a long list as you know better than I. Outside experts say the US should move to something like the British MI-5 model, which I know your not in favor of. More than half of MI-5's resources are focused on terrorism and the rest on things that are related like WMD and international organized crime. Meanwhile, say the critics, the FBI does everything under the sun and refuses to give up anything.

What can the United States learn, if anything, from the MI-5 model?

ANSWER:

Let me address a couple things you have mentioned in terms of prioritization. We have top priorities in the bureau, and the first priority is to protect the US against terrorist attack - that means that every one of our agents in charge must address counter terrorism leads and the counter terrorism program first before they address the other programs. But we have since September 11th prioritized substantailly. We are doing less, particularly in terms of certain areas of drug enforcement, small bank robberies, and smaller white collar criminal cases where others have assisted in addressing some of those challenges.

To understand that we have limited resources and focus those resources and the threats where we bring something special or unique to the table that cannot be done by state or local law enforcement or others in the federal law enforcement community. SO we have made strides in doing that.

In regards the MI5 question. There are aspects of MI5 that we can or are in the process of adopting. One of the benefits from an intelligence organization like MI5 is establishing a requirements process where you look at the intelligence requirements whether they be terrorism or international crime or cyber crime and identity the gaps in your knowledge and then get the collectors, in this case the FBI agents, from around the country to fill in those gaps. We have adapted and are incorporating that kind of requirements and process, not just on terrorism but on all of our programs, and that is very important for us better prioritize our resources but also to better be able to identity the gaps in our understanding in ways we have done in the past but not across the board.

The second areas in which we can learn from MI5 is they have individuals they call targeting or desk officers who take in the analysis and intelligence and drive the investigation in particular areas to fill those gaps. So both the requirements process, but also have that kind of intelligence officer, who might be an analyst or may be an agent is certified by the intelligence community is a mechanism that we are adopting

What we have that MI5 does not, is a combination of the law enforcement capabilities couples with the intelligence capabilities. We have build our intelligence capabilities and we have a ways to go but I think if you talk to those in MI5 and the like, having them to mind the way we do it is a tremendous advantage, benefit.

QUESTION:

So you would not see giving up any of these key, or core responsibilities that you have?

ANSWER:

I would not, but increasingly, we have to focus on those cases where we have unique capability of handling those cases. You take something like a large white-collar crime case, where the tentacles of the fraudulent activity crosses number of state, maybe international lines...those are the cases we ought to be doing. But there are other cases which we would have done ten years ago, we would not do in the future.

QUESTION:

Is the US handing over suspects to countries where rules of interrogation are less stringent than the ones we have here in the US?

ANSWER:

I have to defer on that one. What we do, how we intersect with foreign governments in terms of handling persons detained overseas is not something I would really like to comment on.

QUESTION:

I would think you have a problem with information overload...My question is how do you deal with the very important issue of finding the needle in the haystack. Not discouraging your people from looking at everything, but rather focus on the real threat and put resources and attention to those things truly important.

ANSWER:

It's a difficult challenge. I think there are two areas which we try to do it. First is information technology. part of it is having our information in a database structure which can be readily analyzed by a number of the search tools out there. It can search through information and focus on relationships that we help us to describe networks and persons with contacts that we have to be interested in.; so information is part of it. The other part, is, some people talk about CEOs and the like standing in the balcony and looking at what's happening down below. And that is the requirements process. Looking from the top at what is your threat, and within that threat, whether international, or domestic what is the information you need on particular terrorist groups, particular targets, capabilities, methods of attack...and then driving the process to focus on pulling out that information which will address that particular gap./ it's the combination of the two that maximizes the chance of success. Although with the information we have in this digital age there is always the problem of being swamped with the information.

QUESTION:

His face is well know, his whereabouts are thought to be know, there is a 25 million bounty over his head-why has Bin Laden been caught and should he be captured how debilitating with this be to Al Qaeda network?

ANSWER:

There are parts of Northwest Pakistan and portions of Afghanistan that are exceptionally difficult to operate in and to the extent that upon occasion one has had intelligence that Bin Laden is operating there, its somewhat like finding a needle in a haystack. I am confident however that we will find him. And, if he is, I do think that will have a substantial impact on Al Qaeda once we do find him and in the same breath I should also say not only Bin Laden but Al Zalagiri (ph) I believe the impact on terrorism in general and certainly A Qaeda's effectiveness in particular.

When I say we are a lot safer than we were on September 10, with the help of our counterparts, particularly in Pakistan, the number of leaders we have picked up operation leaders of AL Qaeda...who have operation capability and certainly removing Bin Laden from the scene will be a victory in the war against terror.

QUESTION:

Terrorist screening and database issues?

ANSWER:

The terrorist-screening center was up and operational on December 1st. It did not have the combined data base but it did have protocols in place, between all the agencies with databases represented and the capacity and capability of responding to hits on the data bases of any of those agencies and the linkage to the join terrorism task forces and other law enforcement agencies who bore strict follow-up. And that has been working very well.

Merging databases, I think there are six or seven, is not just a function. Importing or exporting information on your...Microsoft, I use Microsoft, I probably shouldn't, but Microsoft spreadsheet or you're the like...because each of the agencies has different information and different fields and different records and also a different set of criteria in entering people in the data bases. So its somewhat of a challenge, along the lines of a rubix cube, to identify the basis and criteria for persons going into a terrorist base, and then ensuring the information you have is consistent across all the agencies that have in the past maintained a terrorist data base. Databases can also be used for a variety of purposes. They can be sued to deny a visa. Well, this is different from stopping a person or detaining a person in the US. So you also have to factor in when you are talking about combining the databases, what action has to be taken based on this information. All those are difficult issues many of which were ironed out prior to December 1st when terrorist-screening center went up. The other issues are being addressed as we speak and we expect the centralized database to be up by march.

QUESTION:

Regarding cyber terrorism and viruses. Did you get any leads as a result of your bounty?

ANSWER:

I can tell you whenever we have a virus so big we will be on it immediately, night or day. As for whether we have gotten any leads as a result of that announcement I cant get into the aspects of the investigations. I would have to check and get back to you (on whether the bounty was helpful)

Often, investigation such as this are a result of our being tipped by persons out there who tip us off. Whether those persons are motivated by good will and public spiritedness or by the bounty is hard to identify. But I would have to get back to you on that.

QUESTION:

Critics say FBI is overstretched...

ANSWER:

I would start by disagreeing with the underlying with the assumption of the question. There are two components of an intelligence agency. There is the collection and there is the analysis. And, then there is also dissemination, you might add, as a third.

I think particularly that FBI agents are exceptionally good collectors of information. There are persons who say we have collected information with the prospect of putting it in a courtroom in the US and consequently we are somewhat blinded xx to facts as a whole. I would say I don't agree that to be the case. If you take what we did with Lacosanostra it can be an example of gathering information, looking at the persons responsibilities and going after the capos and heads of the families and using intelligence as well as the law enforcement powers.

Certainly since September 11th, I think the organization understands that, as a whole, any piece of information, whether it is going to show up in a courtroom, could be instrumental in determining who was in the country contemplating terrorist attacks and from whence they come, and what mechanisms are being used.

So, as opposed to changing what are agents do, it has been harnessing the capabilities of our agents to provide information in the course of investigations and analysis to prevent terror attacks within the US. There are a number of components to that which I have mentioned: improving information technology, improving the capability of doing the intelligence cycle. In my mind it is improving those other capabilities that will mesh with the capabilities that we have had over the 95 years of our existence that will make us the most effective, one of the most effective organizations in the world addressing terrorism, certainly within the US, the most effective. And I would add: the collection of information, as opposed to the collection of information overseas we do it within the parameters of the constitution. within the parameters as interpreted by the supreme court. We do it according to guidelines. And that is as important as anything else that we recognize: that in our collection information, whether it be evidence or otherwise, we have to do it with the understanding that some of the tactics we use, there is the capability of infringing on the civil rights and privacies of persons. Consequently, it is important that as we do our investigations and collections of our data and information, we do it understanding that there may well be a consequence at the result of that in the investigation and maybe a consequence in that investigation. And at each stage of the investigation have to show predication for the necessity for driving that investigation.

QUESTION:

Why do you think we have not experienced suicide bombings like in Israel or Iraq?

ANSWER:

I don't know for sure. But one can speculate that it is attributable to a number of things. We have grown from I think 36 or 37 joint terrorist task forces to 84 now. And those task forces - their principle component, not just the FBI, but on the state and local presence...because important to success is knowing the communities and intercepting the communities. Know who is coming in and who represents a threat in the communities. Since September 11th, we have dramatically increased our interception with state and local law enforcement to know what is in our communities.

Another reason is, as I believe Muslim American, Arab American, Sikh communities in the US, tremendously patriotic and to be successful against extremism we need the assistance of those communities and each of our special agents in charge have reached out to Muslim and Arab American communities to understand that we are in this together. I believe there is little tolerance in the vast majority of Muslim American or Arab American community for those who would do harm on the US. And as a result of 9/11 persons in those communities are more alert to the possibilities of those attacks.

And lastly, you speculate as to whether al Qaeda is looking at a larger act that has more impact and that's just speculation. If you look back at attacks that AL Qaeda has undertaken over the years they tend to be the more spectacular-the Bali bombings were suicide bombings, Istanbul was a suicide bombings..it is still...truck bombs are still a threat, and I think george knows, and would say, Al Qaeda would very much relish another very high profile within the US in which numerous US citizens would be killed. We have disrupted their capability but there are still persons out there who have that capability.

I would go back and add that the detention of Khalid Sheikh Mohammed, Abaluchi, Abu Zubaida, just to name a few, has, I believe, a substantial impact of al Qaeda to launch such attacks

QUESTION:

What about Arabic language agents and analysts: Do you have enough now?

ANSWER:

My directions were that in any terrorist related, or title three for that matter, it should be reviewed within a 24-hour period. That is different than translating it. My concern is that if there is any information on there about a potential terrorist attack you want to be able to pull it up very quickly. For the most part we have met those goals. There are isolated incidents where we have not. And generally they relate to very localized dialects where we share a very small cadre of persons within the US who speak that dialect where we have had problems. I can get you the figures, but the numbers in terms of Arabic speakers, we are in the hundreds now. We have been successful thanks to the support of many of the Arab American communities in recruiting and hiring translators, whether it be Pashtu or Arabic...but we still have a way to go particularly in the dialects. And I will use this as an opportunity, that I would take anyone at the table, with a particular expertise or particular language. Our doors are still open and we still need you. As for has the war in Iraq put a strain on your capabilities in translations, it has not been a big strain.

ASIDE:

(How much is a translators job? Probably not at much as you are being paid! )

QUESTION:

Regarding Paul O'Neil's comments re Bush being detached.

ANSWER:

I have meetings with President Bush every morning and I can tell you he is engaged...(what does that mean?) he probes, asked questions, understands and is interested in what has been done the last 24 hours to be certain the country is secure (do you have any idea why he write what he did) No.

QUESTION:

Miranda rules...things seemed to have changed a great deal over the years.

ANSWER:

I would disagree that all has changed. I don't think the case yesterday stood for that proposition. It was about maintaining secrecy in certain proceedings in which information was disclosed about persons, most of whom, if not all, if I'm not mistaken were detained on immigration charges. That's something apart.

IN terms of our abiding by the constitution nothing at all has changed. As a result of the patriot act, there have been some changes in terms of our ability to exchange information between the law enforcement and the intelli8gence communities and as a result I think we are a lot safer. The walls we have erected over the years between the information obtained overseas by the CIA-as a result of our ability to share the intelligence information with intelligence obtained in our criminal cases and to share with the intelligence community information which may have been obtained in a grand jury investigation.

QUESTION:

75 percent of what you do is not related to terrorism? Three TV shows about the FBI, and nothing to do with terrorism?

ANSWER:

Part of the answer is how do you define success in terrorism? You define success as not having terrorist attacks and often your successes cannot be heralded because they may come as a result of intelligence. Unless you have, and this is a rare thing, if someone is caught with all the implements of terrorism in their hands, unless this you do not have the same public acknowledgement of success. It is very difficult to compete with TV programs that wish to portray the more visible activities of the bureau domestically.

If you say something is a priority, like counter terrorism is, if you look at our allocation of personnel towards that priority since September 11th, you will see that half of our agents were addressing terrorism for a substantial period of time. There have been peaks, in various places in the country...who would have said two years ago that one of your larger cases would be in Lackawanna? Xxx And so, what we have to be is flexible. We have to be willing to see a threat wherever we get a lead and be ready to surge the resources to that particular place in the country and there have been a number of incidences where we have surged those resources towards those counter terrorism priorities. Certainly in the wake of September 11th, certainly in the anticipation of the Iraqi war and over the last three to four weeks. You will see if you look at my numbers they will be way up in counter terrorism and down in other programs. That allows us to surge and address a particular threat. Having that agility is a tremendous benefit for the war on terrorism.

QUESTION:

It is hard to get information from the FBI so hard to know when you are succeeding.

ANSWER:

Again, let me address one of the underlying assumption of your question - the inherent secrecy of the FBI. We try to provide information to the extent we can when we are not barred by the fact that we are in the course of the investigation or that it relates to the intelligence side of the house. Certainly the information in increases in manpower, analysts, linguists. The increases is joint terrorism task forces, a number of the criteria you could look at to determine what the FBI is doing to address a terrorist attack. I speak often about it, my assistant directors speak often about it. I think there is information out there as to steps we have taken . there maybe less information out there, and there is, on certain of the successes out there, when to disclose those successes would eliminate our ability to utilize the techniques or personnel or what have you for future successes.

As to the second part of your questions...We are stronger within the US, we are stronger with the join terrorism task forces, with the reorientation of the bureau to counter terrorism and the enhancement of our analytical and dissemination capabilities and we are stronger across the world for having removed the sanctuary for al Qaeda in Afghanistan. One of the contributing factors I have mentioned before is our cooperation with our counterparts overseas, the detention of substantial leaders overseas, like Khalil Sheikh Mohammad. Yes, we are struggling across the world and in the US in terms of detecting terrorist attacks but...going to the last half of the question, do I detect a time when we would not need a homeland security department? I would say probably not. In the future we can disrupt AL Qaeda, we can, will I believe, find Osama Bin Laden but there are a number of groups out there who will continue to use terrorism to achieve their goals. They have for any number of years .terrorism is not new. Ireland, Spain, you name it, a number of countries, Columbia, terrorism is a way of life. In the future we cannot say we will be immune to that which effects the domestic lives of other countries. And the concern in the future is that those entities that see terrorism as a way of advancing their goals will increasingly focus on WMD to achieve their goals and I believe we will have to be vigilant in years to come in the face of those threats.

QUESTION:

Who's really in charge?

ANSWER:

Ultimately the coordination is done by the National Security Council and the Homeland Security Council but in terms of charge on each particular issue, if it is in the US and it relates to terrorism somehow- we are. If it relates to screening passengers or the vulnerabilities of airports, well, quite obviously that's DHS. If it relates to foreign intelligence or operations overseas, that CIA. Those allocations of responsibilities were set out in a number of ways in the last 60-70 years and for good reasons. The way we address terrorists in the US is different for how we address them overseas. So there are good reasons for those divisions. But the overall responsibility overseas is in the white house. (is it working?) yes.

QUESTION:

About airport screening?

ANSWER:

I have to defer to Tom Ridge because I am not sure what he is doing, particularly with Canada and with Mexico. I do know he is working with counterparts overseas to obtain the information on passengers prior to them showing up at the counter. In many countries you make a reservation you give a name, you don't have to give a date of birth or a passport number, and its not until you show up at the airport that the airlines takes the information that will identify that passenger to the exclusion of others with the same name. I know Tom is working with others overseas to enable us to get that ahead of time so we are not holding up planes, not inconvenience passengers and we have the identifying information at the adequate time to run it against our watch list.

QUESTION:

Regarding prosecuting those who are assembling evidence against.

ANSWER:

I would have to defer in responding to that. O Our general role is obtaining the evidence. And yes, have we taken steps to obtain evidence in any future prosecutions of them. Absolutely. I would expect there would be tribunals at some point.

QUESTION:

The FBI came under some criticism re access to records for the 9/11 commission. How much information has been provided?

ANSWER:

We have provided millions of documents. We have cooperated fully with the commission. Many of our agents and directors and the like have been interviewed and continue to provide briefings, myself included. As to what ultimately can be disclosed to the extent that classified information be provided to the committee a decision will have to be made as to whether that information needs to remain classified at the point and time in which the commission wishes to issue the report. The process in each of these is that with the completion of the draft and we will see that which needs to continue be classified. Certainly we provide information to the commission in regards ongoing investigation, persons we are interested in. to disclose that information would be harmful.

(are some things getting to be declassified now?)

there may be pieces of documents that, when intelligence committee was looking at it, good reason for keeping it classified but those reasons may now no longer bear on that so there may be, and I cant speak to any specifics, pieces of information or documents maybe declassified now when they could not have been before.

QUESTION:

Is there any improvement with our relations with our foreign counterparts when it comes to security?

ANSWER:

I look at this on two levels. First, I look at my relationship, with my counterparts overseas, and on this there has been a vast improvement. In terms of the traveler and getting through airports and the like, there are still tremendous security hurdles and we continue to work to eliminate or minimize those hurdles...

But to the overarching question as regards cooperation with counterparts overseas, there is, since September 11, a realization that we can all be subjected to terror, that we have to share information and develop vehicles for sharing that we have not previously. Statues have been changed, mechanisms for sharing information have been dramatically enhanced and the key to preventing terrorist attacks is sharing information and doing it quickly and that has been vastly improved. If you look at places like Pakistan and Saudi Arabia our ability to share information has been enhanced...and the sharing of that information has led to, by the Saudis and others, to the detention of high-level Al Qaeda operatives.

We are much safer.

QUESTION:

Post 9/11 has your definition of what a good agent has changed? And are they bound by US laws? Are they allowed to bribe officials?

ANSWER:

How we operate overseas has not changed. We work and intersect with law enforcement agents overseas and in terms of what our agents are allowed to do overseas, we work within the embassies and under the ambassador's leadership and with our counterparts. What has changed before I came on board, and Louis was instrumental in doing this, is changing our relationship with the CIA overseas. It is now unhindered and unfettered and in most cases the relationship is terrific overseas as it is here.

As to agents. The training of new agents has changed to focus on counter terrorism. To utilize the both intelligence as well as law enforcement tools and to educate those in addressing counter terrorism in the various terrorism groups that we face.

Hizzbollah is different from Hamas, different from AL Qaeda and consequently the training has been very much enhanced for our agents. On the other hand, how do you gather information- how do you gather information, your ability to contact and get people to talk to you, the development of sources, and the ability to take and report accurately and truthfully? The compiling of documents and information to establish a basis for a factual scenario is all much the same as it was before, but enhanced since September 11th. People forget but people talk about the phoenix memorandum. That memorandum as most would say was a prophetic, I think that perhaps goes to far, but that was a document that laid out a reasonable concern. That was written by an agent. A very good agent. And consequently, I think we have good people. Very good people....we have Marine Bakinsky (ph), who came in as executive assistant director for intelligence for NSA and she sits down at the table and listens to the dialogue and says this are some of the best analysts I have ever worked with, because the way we as agents look at a set of facts and drill down to find out what is accurate and what is the truth.

Looking back at the assumption that the FBI cannot do the work is somewhat attributable to, perhaps, TV shows, but also a misunderstanding of what we do and what we do very well

(and morale?)

yes, increasingly I hear that morale is very good. There are always going to be agents who do other things. When you take an organization through a transformation there are a number of people who have done things in a particular way in the past and have trouble changing. They are few and far between but they are out there. As I go around the country I talk to agents, I find them excited by the responsibility, excited about what they are doing to prevent terror attacks and in preventing another 9/11.

QUESTION:

How imminent was the possibility of an attack over the last few weeks when there was a high alert?

ANSWER:

It is an ongoing process in evaluating the risk day by day as we look at the facts as they come in, the threats as they come in, the reports as they come in and try to evaluate. You have to look at the sources that gave us relatively specific information prior to the holiday season in light of what did, or did not happen, over the last three or four weeks. You cannot exclude that from the calculus to believe that heightened security deters attacks so you cannot discount sourcing because it did not occur on that particular date. AL Qaeda is known to be fluid in its setting of the time table so what you can do is go back and reevaluate and once you do that we are still in a position where we have substantial concern about an attack from Al Qaeda. Without a question of a doubt AL Qaeda would like nothing more than to replicate in some fashion, in some way that which occurred on September 11th and so I do believe you can go back and look at what impact the fact that we did not have an attack on the sourcing but you cannot, cannot discount it.

QUESTION:

Can you see doing this for ten years? (yes) And, what's the Mueller culture?

ANSWER:

And I leave that to others. People talk about management styles and all the rest of that stuff. I leave it to others. The culture of the FBI I would hope is individuals dedicated to hard work, public service, integrity and that has been the quote culture of the FBI since its start and that I would hope remains the culture of the FBI today whether its me or someone else.

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