Mueller's legacy put on hold

Friday - 5/13/2011, 12:31pm EDT

Garrett Graff, author and editor

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By Suzanne Kubota
Senior Internet Editor
FederalNewsRadio.com

A Washington insider tells Federal News Radio Robert Mueller's legacy will become a visible landmark in the city. When the time comes for the J Edgar Hoover Building to come down, "I think it's possible the next building will be the Robert Mueller FBI Headquarters."

But it seems that legacy will be put on hold for at least two more years as President Obama is asking Congress to allow FBI Director Robert Mueller to remain in his post.

Garrett Graff, author of the new book, "The Threat Matrix: The F.B.I. at War in the Age of Global Terror" and the editor of Washingtonian magazine said there are two reasons for the President to ask the Director to stay on.

"I think it was both a vote of confidence in where Mueller has taken the bureau since he took over in 2001 and I think it was also a recognition that there was not a natural candidate out there to replace him."

Mueller's tenure stared one week before September 11th, "and he is now the last government official in the national security team still in the same job from 9/11, and he's also one of only two figures who carried over from the Bush administration to the Obama administration. I mean he is very well liked on the Hill, very well liked within the administration. More than anything though, I think that his longevity is a reflection of just an enormous physical stamina."

In ten years, marveled Graff, Mueller this man has sat through about 3,600 morning threat briefings and is still going. "He's outlasted four CIA directors, four Attorney Generals (sic) and three of his own deputy directors."

During those ten years, said Graff, Mueller has learned to walk a fine line. "The FBI operates in about 80 countries overseas, has hundreds of agents engaged in places like Afghanistan, Pakistan, Iraq and so on. As well as the right mix of political leadership to lead the organization from within, win friends on Capitol Hill and in congress. And he's also kept a very, very laser-like focus on transforming the FBI to meet these new terrorism and national security threats."

An additional two years would help cement the director's legacy, according to Graff, because "it's also a chance for him to begin to really rebuild and refocus the traditional criminal division of the FBI which has, I think, really atrophied under Mueller, in the first couple of years of the Mueller administration as the FBI so focused on counter terrorism that it really saw tremendous drop offs in many of its traditional areas of criminal prosecutions. Prosecutions down 40, 50, 60 percent in some cases."

The additional time would also just about wipe out the last vestiges of the J Edgar Hoover reign.

"One thing you have to remember when you're thinking about the FBI is that these are, to a very large degree, career officials, and so the men - and they're still mostly men leading the FBI today - were trained by men trained by Hoover's men, and so these are people who still see Hoover's legacy on a fairly regular basis within the bureau," said Graff. Today, more than half of the FBI's agents have been hired since 9/11. Graff predicts over the next five to ten years "you're going to be seeing a big change in the way the FBI's culture works."

That culture change can already be seen, said Graff, in the bureau's management needs. "One of the ironies of this is that the Mueller of 2001 who stepped into the job would not be considered for the job today," said Graff. "He came into this with no real counterterrorism experience, no real international experience, and that, I think one of the things the Obama administration is looking forward to is figuring out what the next model for an FBI executive is."

Graff said the ideal candidate now has much more of a CEO-like skill set than prior to 9/11.