Just days ago, the Obama Administration and Congress effectively made legitimate all the operations of the FBI since FBI Director Robert Mueller took over the agency one week before the September 11th terror attacks. The extension of Mueller's term makes it possible for Congress to move forward without addressing the abuses, misconduct and violations of the law that have taken place during Mueller's efforts to transform the agency from a law enforcement agency to a massive domestic spying agency. Extending Mueller's term signals any future FBI director with power and credibility in Washington may be able to skirt term limits.
A 10-year limit was imposed on all future FBI directors after the Church Committee in the 1970s uncovered FBI efforts under then director J. Edgar Hoover to suppress political dissent through COINTELPRO. Hoover began to head the agency that would come to be known as the FBI in 1924. For forty-eight years, he served, amassing a level of power in Washington that led his overseers to fear wielding oversight. Former Attorney General Nicholas Katzenbach told the Church Committee he was "unwilling to use" his power because of the "clout" Hoover had in Congress and with current and previous presidential administrations.
The Senate's move to pass legislation that would allow for an exception to the term limit imposed in the 1970s and President Obama's willingness to preserve continuity in the agency and not acknowledge FBI history demonstrates this country is faced with a problem similar to the problem Hoover posed. Mueller may not have been around as long as Hoover, but it appears that for members of Congress an FBI director in the post-9/11 era can commit no act of misconduct that would lead to his resignation being demanded.
Sen. Charles Grassley (R-IA) finds Mueller has been "forthright in coming before Congress and explaining" mistakes at the agency. He hasn't been "simply passing the buck." Sen. Patrick Leahy (D-VT), who likely would claim to be a leader on FBI oversight in Congress, said on the term extension, "I would hope that all senators would step forward and vote for this nomination, and I can think of no reason why they shouldn't." He concluded Mueller is "typical of many in our government who serve the people of America tirelessly, without any gain for themselves."
The US Senate held a vote on the term extension and unanimously approved the two-year extension. No senators had a problem with granting this extension, despite the fact that it would establish a clear precedent for undoing one of the biggest reforms to come as a result of the Church Committee.
As FBI director, Mueller has misled Congress on the extent of FBI agents' exposure to abuse and torture of detainees in Iraq, Afghanistan and Guantanamo Bay. Sen. Leahy may have willfully chosen to overlook this fact, since he was the one who made this point back in December 2006, but Mueller came before the Senate Judiciary Committee in May 2004 and was asked by Sen. Leahy if agents had seen "objectionable interrogation practices." He said no agents had witnessed abuse "in Iraq," an answer that deliberately allowed him to skirt taking responsibility. But, in December 2004, documents were released proving FBI agents had witnessed abuse and torture of detainees.
Under Mueller, the FBI has employed the use of warrantless GPS tracking. Twenty-year old Yasir Afifi, an Arab-American, found a "black, rectangular device" attached to his car. He thought it was a pipe bomb and posted photos to Reddit.com, hoping someone would help him identify what he had found. FBI agents showed up at his door days later demand he return the device. (Both Mueller and Attorney General Eric Holder have been sued for violating Afifi's constitutional rights.)
Read the rest of this article at FDL's The Dissenter.