Obama to keep Mueller at FBI for 'continuity,' as other security chiefs shift

President Obama will seek to extend Robert Mueller's tenure as FBI director for two more years. His decision comes amid changes at the top of the CIA and Defense Department.

Gerald Herbert/AP/File
In this April 28, 2009 file photo, President Obama meets with FBI Director Robert Mueller at FBI headquarters in Washington. Obama on Thursday asked Congress to allow Mueller to remain in his job an extra two years.

Citing ongoing threats and the need for continuity in his national security team, President Obama on Thursday asked Congress to consider granting a two-year extension of FBI Director Robert Mueller’s 10-year term to allow him to serve in that capacity until September 2013.

“Given ongoing threats facing the United States, as well as the leadership transitions at other agencies like the Defense Department and Central Intelligence Agency, I believe continuity and stability at the FBI is critical at this time,” the president said in a written statement.

He said Mr. Mueller had “set the gold standard” for leadership at the Federal Bureau of Investigation.

Attorney General Eric Holder said the extension – if approved by Congress – would permit the president’s counterterrorism team to “continue to work together seamlessly.”

“The United States faces ongoing threats from terrorists intent on attacking us both at home and abroad, and it is crucial that the FBI have sustained, strong leadership to confront the threat,” Mr. Holder said. “There is no better person for that job than Bob Mueller.”

The Obama administration had been preparing to name a replacement for Mueller, whose term ends in September. But it is unclear how far along that process had gotten.

In the meantime, the White House decided to reorganize other major components of its national security team. CIA Director Leon Panetta will become defense secretary and Gen. David Petraeus, who served as US commander in Iraq and Afghanistan, will replace Mr. Panetta as director of central intelligence.

Initial reaction from Congress to the proposed Mueller extension appears favorable.

Sen. Charles Grassley of Iowa, the ranking Republican on the Senate Judiciary Committee, said the Mueller extension would be a “somewhat risky precedent to set.”

The FBI director has been limited to a single 10-year term since the death of J. Edgar Hoover in 1972. Mr. Hoover had been the bureau’s first and only director since its founding in the 1930s. Congress approved the term limit as a safeguard against political involvement in investigations and to foster more accountability.

“There’s no question that Director Mueller has proven his ability to run the FBI. And, we live in extraordinary times,” Senator Grassley said. “So, I’m open to the president’s idea.”

But, he added, he’d need to know more about the president’s plan to ensure it wouldn’t undermine the purpose of the term limit.

Mueller is the nation’s sixth FBI director. He was appointed by President George W. Bush and sworn in on Sept. 4, 2001.

“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,” Mr. Obama said.

“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,” he said.

Prior to becoming FBI director, Mueller was the US attorney in San Francisco, where he had been a federal prosecutor for 12 years. He is also a decorated Marine Corps veteran, having served as an officer for three years leading a rifle platoon in Vietnam. He was awarded the Bronze Star, a Purple Heart, and other medals.

He is a graduate of Princeton University, and holds a master's degree in international relations from New York University and a law degree from the University of Virginia Law School.

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