Obama proposes extending Mueller’s mandate at FBI helm

May 13th, 2011 - 11:54 am ICT by IANS  

Barack Obama Washington, May 13 (IANS/EFE) President Barack Obama Thursday proposed extending by two more years the 10-year mandate of Robert Mueller as FBI chief.

“Given the 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 statement.

The coming months will see current CIA Director Leon Panetta replace Robert Gates as defense secretary and Gen. David Petraeus become head of the spy agency.

Appointed to the post by George W. Bush, the 66-year-old Mueller assumed the top FBI post a week before the Sep 11, 2001, terrorist attacks against Washington and New York in which some 3,000 people died.

Obama emphasised in his communique that Mueller transformed the FBI after the 2001 attacks into “a pre-eminent counterterrorism agency”.

The president emphasised that Mueller has shown “extraordinary leadership and effectiveness at protecting our country every day since”.

“He has impeccable law enforcement and national security credentials, a relentless commitment to the rule of law, unquestionable integrity and independence, and a steady hand that has guided the Bureau as it confronts our most serious threats,” Obama said of the FBI director.

The two-year extension requested by Obama for Mueller, whose current appointment ends Sep 4, will require the approval of both houses of Congress.

“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,” the president said.

The extension requested by the White House will be applicable only in Mueller’s case and would not alter the current law, according to which an FBI chief may serve for a maximum of 10 years.

Senator Patrick Leahy, who presides over the Senate Judiciary Committee, said he would support the extension.

“I was delighted when President Obama informed me that he has asked Director Mueller to stay on at the Bureau for an additional two years,” the Vermont Democrat said.

While not hostile to the idea, Iowa Senator Chuck Grassley, took a more cautious stance saying that the extension could set a “risky precedent”.

In 1976, Congress limited the term that the FBI chief could serve after abuses during the mandate of J. Edgar Hoover, who ran the Bureau from its founding in 1924 until his death in 1972, came to light.

–IANS/EFE
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