FBI Director Robert Mueller attempted to cast away the specter of longtime bureau leader J. Edgar Hoover as he urged senators on Wednesday to extend his 10-year term by two years.
A humble Mueller told members of the Senate Judiciary Committee that “nobody is indispensable.” President Barack Obama last month urged Congress to pass legislation that would allow Mueller to serve two years beyond the expiration of his term on Sept. 4.
“Mueller has served longer than any FBI Director since the term limiting law was passed in 1976. The law restricting the Director’s term was passed in response to Hoover’s tenure as the leader of the FBI and its predecessor from 1924 to 1972, in addition to the bureau’s abuses of power.”
The Director said he spoke to individuals inside and outside of the FBI before deciding that he would stay if Congress allows him to do so.
“The president asked that I stay and … after reflections when I talked to my family, I decided to do that,” Mueller said.
Mueller, a George W. Bush appointee, started his tenure just a week before the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks. He worked over the last decade to transform the FBI from a crime-fighting agency to a key government force in the battle against terrorism. Along the way, he garnered praise from Republicans and Democrats.
If his term is extended, the Director said he will continue to focus his agency’s work on fighting terrorism, but also boost the FBI’s efforts to combat cyber crimes.
Senate Judiciary Committee Chairman Patrick Leahy (D-Vt.) and Senate Intelligence Committee Chairman Dianne Feinstein (D-Calif.), in addition to Sen. Charles Grassley of Iowa, the top Republican on the Senate Judiciary Committee, Sen. Saxby Chambliss of Georgia, the top Republican on the Senate Intelligence Committee, introduced legislation last month that would give a one-time, two-year extension for Mueller. The Senate Judiciary Committee is scheduled to consider the legislation at its meeting Thursday.
Grassley said Mueller has done well as the leader of the FBI, but he expressed some concern about extending the term of a Director.
“We should proceed cautiously in setting a precedent that a 10-year term can be extended,” Grassley said. “If we are going to extend Director Mueller’s term, we should establish a precedent that doing so will be difficult and that unique circumstances necessitating it exist as those are circumstances at this particular time.”