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FBI Director Testifies Before Senate, Part VI

Aired June 6, 2002 - 14:01   ET


LEON HARRIS, CNN ANCHOR: We've got to get back right now to Washington, because that hearing underway that we talked about earlier, over the FBI. We understand now that Director Mueller is testifying and it's getting quite heated now.


SEN. JOSEPH BIDEN (D-DE), JUDICIARY COMMITTEE: ... about what we do about homeland defense. You can't sit here and say whether or not you've been consulted about a reorganization is, I find, astounding.

But let me move to another issue: the reorganization of the FBI. How many agents are currently assigned -- by the way, you all state, and you're right, as the author of the Violent Crime Control Act that put 100,000 cops on the street and did this -- and I wrote that myself. I want you to understand that I congratulate the FBI on their work.

In your budget submission to Congress, you noted that the FBI's Violent Crime Major Defenders Program is partially responsible for the fact the crime rate has declined an average of seven percent per year from the beginning toward the end of the 1990s.

Now, we have several things that are happening out there. There's a demographic shift. Those folks, 37 million of them in the crime-committing years, are about to get into the system. We have a new demographic bulge. The only thing you know about crime and I know about crime, and I've been doing it as long as you have, is that when you get to be 35 or 40, you commit fewer violent crimes because you can't jump the chain link fence when the cop is chasing you and the only -- for real.

We don't know a whole lot more about a lot of these things. We also know that the crime-committing years are those kids who think they're invincible and not at all vulnerable, between the ages of 12 and 18. And there's a direct correlation between how many of them are out there and the rate of crime that exists, violent crime that exists. Now, that's -- we're about to get a bulge in violent crime, based on past track record, because we have this new cadre of young people, sort of the baby boomlette (ph) that's out there.

We also have the emergence of new threats, and we have all the other things we know about. Now, totally, can you tell me how many FBI agents are currently assigned to your violent crime section? ROBERT MUELLER, FBI DIRECTOR: I would have to get you the figures. I don't have them off the top of my head.

BIDEN: Do you know, Mr. Fine?


BIDEN: I can tell you. There's about approximately 1,800 of them.

Now, how many -- do you know what percentage, anyway, are going to be shifted out of violent crimes?

MUELLER: I believe that we are shifting approximately 59 agents out of violent crime.

BIDEN: Now, how will this...

MUELLER: It's not approximately. I think it is 59 agents in the proposal.

BIDEN: It is. How will this shift be felt in your field offices? I mean, do you have any sense of what that means in terms of man-hours used that are now -- will not be available, to deal with violent crime?

MUELLER: Yes. The process we went through to determine what programs would be effected by the shift of resources to counterterrorism was to go to the agents in the field, special agents in charge, and say, OK, where can you pull people back from task forces.

And my belief is those 59 bodies that will come off of violent crime will be, where we have 12 bodies -- not bodies, but 12 individuals, special agents working on a task force addressing violent crime, we will now have nine or 10. And that will be across the country, so I think it will be a minimum impact in particular divisions, but I have also told the SAC's that if there is a particular crisis or a particular threat in a city, then they should use their discretion to take others off of other programs to address that violent crime problem.

BIDEN: Keep in mind, I'm not being critical of your decision, because you're the only guy that can do the terrorism side of this. You've got to do this. I'm trying to make sure we understand what's going to be left out there.

Can you tell me what specific functions -- have you categorically made judgments about local functions that have overlapped?

For example: FBI agents have handled interstate car theft. FBI agents have handled bank robberies. FBI have handled things that are local concurrent jurisdiction, but we've looked to the FBI to do them.

Have you made any categorical judgments about things you are not going to be in on anymore because you have to shift your resources to deal with terrorism?

MUELLER: I've made judgments. I don't know whether you'd call them categorical judgments...

BIDEN: Well, I mean categories of...

MUELLER: Categories, yes. Bank robberies, I think we ought to stay in multi-county bank robberies. I've met with IACP, for instance, and they believe that we ought to stay there because we provide a service that they cannot replicate. We would not do one- note bank robberies in the future. They can handle those.

Armed bank robberies, we probably will stay in those. When it comes to narcotics, the areas that I'd like to withdraw from are those where we overlap with DEA, particularly in the cartel cases, but not do it abruptly. When we have agents that are intimately involved in an investigation of one of the cartels, we ought to withdraw slowly from that.

We ought to probably no longer be doing cases such as, well, marijuana cases, stand-alone methamphetamine cases, the ecstasy cases, where the state and locals can do those cases. But, by the same token, we ought to be flexible in a particular area where they need our resources, where DEA is not there, be flexible to address the crime on the local level.

BIDEN: I appreciate that. I know my time is up, but there is one area that maybe I'll submit in writing. But 400 FBI agents are coming off of drug cases into counter-terrorism. Again, I don't think you have any choice but to do that. Did you discuss that, since it's happened already, did you discuss that with the director of the DEA?

MUELLER: Well, it has not happened, because the proposal...

BIDEN: Let me put it this way: you are formally proposing it.

MUELLER: Yes. I have discussed it.

BIDEN: Did you discuss that with...

MUELLER: I have discussed it. Yes.

BIDEN: And what was the response of the DEA, unless that's executive privilege, too. Are they telling you that they're going to need more money? Do you think they need more agents? I mean, what do you think is going to happen?

MUELLER: What I discussed with Mr. Hutchinson was, with Asa, was the process whereby we would assure that nothing gets dropped in the cracks as we reassign these individuals.

Now, my understanding is that he believes in the short-term he can undertake that, but I also believe that he'll be looking for additional resources down the road.

BIDEN: Well, just so you know, you have 400 agents, roughly $100 million bucks you've been aiding with DEA. You've been doing a great job. You're going to be gone from that. They're going to end up $100 million bucks short, in terms of resources. They're the resources you're contributing now to the drug war, about $100 million bucks.

And I hope that as we put this all together, and I will, I'll be back to this a lot, Mr. Chairman, but -- and it's not the director's responsibility. But there's more than one piece to this puzzle. We will not have served our communities well if we have focused more on anti-terrorism, reduced the total number of cops that are on the street, impacted a $100 million reduction in the anti-drug effort, moved in a way where we find that we're going to have additional responsibilities taken from you or added to you through this new Homeland Defense Office.

You can't do the whole job with the same amount of money and the same number of people. You can't re-slice the pie, I'd respectfully suggest. You need a much bigger pie. And I'm here to tell you you'll get my support to make the pie bigger for the FBI, and I hope someone in the administration is listening, that there's more than one piece of this pie.

And I would conclude by saying, Mr. Chairman, that when you were out, the senator from Arizona talked about how there was, you know, that he had held all these hearings and so on, which he did, in the terrorism subcommittee, and we didn't pass any of that stuff, and he said that...

SEN. PATRICK LEAHY (D-VT), INTELLIGENCE COMMITTEE: Actually, we did pass it. It went over to the House of Representatives and the public analysis wouldn't pass it.

BIDEN: ... and that civil libertarians were opposed to it. Right after 1994, and you can ask the attorney general this, because I got a call when he introduced the Patriot Act.

He said, "Joe, I'm introducing the act basically as you wrote it in 1994."

It was defeated then not by any liberals. It was defeated then by the folks who were worried we'd have the Minutemen, would get in trouble. By the Mr. Barr's of the world, who were worried about the right-wing, not anything else.

That has nothing to do with you all, but just to set the record straight. Almost the same thing that got passed, the Patriot Act, was introduced by me in 1994, and it was the right-wing that defeated it. You guys tried to help get it passed, including the wiretap changes and the rest, so...

LEAHY: Good, because we have a vote on that. I wouldn't doubt -- that the corrected number of Senator Kyl's earlier statements. But the point is, we did pass a piece of legislation out of here which then -- passed it out not only of this committee, but the Senate, and it died in the Republican-controlled House. For those who think there is something political. Director, I just want to correct one thing. You said it was a coincidence that the announcements were on the date of your discussion here, your hearing here, the announcement that the president is going to make. You said it's a coincidence it happens to be today, the press is already reporting from the White House that it was purposely done today. I'm not sure why. I don't understand these things.

I would hope not done to distract from this hearing, because this hearing, I think, has been an extremely good one. I think the questions asked by both Republican and Democratic senators have been very good. I think you and Mr. Fine have given very good answers. I know you're not going to answer -- I happen to disagree with you. I happen to agree with Senator Biden on the question of executive privilege.

But just so you'll know what the questions are that you're going to be asked after the president's announcement -- in a way I feel a little bit sorry for...

HARRIS: And as Senator Leahy there continues with his final comments to FBI Director Mueller, we're going to step away here, because we believe that the panel is going to be wrapping up any minute now their questioning of FBI Director Mueller, the question that we've seen so far this afternoon being at some times in some parts has been quite respectful, and other times quite pressuring. But they're going to wrap things up with him.

Coming up, we expect within this hour, we're going to be hearing some testimony before this panel from Coleen Rowley. She is the FBI special agent who has written an internal memo some time ago, back in the fall, that was quite critical of some of the practices of the agents -- some of the managers inside the bureau. She was basically saying they may have been covering things up and preventing the actual progress in some of these investigations.

And many of the senators are waiting with quite bated breath to get a chance to talk to her, so we will have live coverage of her testimony once that gets underway.




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