- The Washington Times - Wednesday, December 5, 2001

Members of Congress critical of the FBI's much-publicized blunders during the past year applauded yesterday a decision by FBI Director Robert S. Mueller III to begin a top-to-bottom overhaul of the agency.

On Monday, Mr. Mueller announced the reorganization, creating four executive assistant directors to oversee criminal investigations, counterterrorism and counterintelligence, law-enforcement services and administration. The plan also creates two divisions to increase the FBI's emphasis on computer-facilitated crimes and security.

The reorganization comes in the wake of a series of FBI mistakes, including its failure to turn over thousands of documents in the Timothy McVeigh investigation, the arrest of veteran FBI Agent Robert P. Hanssen as a Russian spy and the botched investigation of Los Alamos National Laboratory scientist Wen Ho Lee.

"The FBI's reorganization will strengthen our capabilities in counterterrorism, counterintelligence, cyber-crime and cooperation with state and local law enforcement," said Attorney General John Ashcroft. "These reforms and restructuring will sharpen the FBI's capacity to act deliberately and decisively in protecting Americans' lives and liberties in the 21st century."

Sen. Patrick J. Leahy, Vermont Democrat and chairman of the Senate Judiciary Committee, hailed the reorganization as an effort by Mr. Mueller to take "firm command" of the FBI at a critical time in its history.

"He deserves both praise and support," Mr. Leahy said. "Less than three months after taking office and in the midst of the greatest terrorist challenge the FBI has ever faced, Director Mueller has devised a dynamic plan to put the bureau back on the right track."

Rep. F. James Sensenbrenner Jr., Wisconsin Republican and chairman of the House Judiciary Committee, said the reorganization will help "modernize the bureau's investigative capabilities to address today's challenges in enforcing the criminal law while addressing elusive and deadly threats to our national security."

"The establishment of four new executive assistant directors reporting to the director's office will ensure the director's greater hands-on involvement in operational matters," Mr. Sensenbrenner said. "The plan also reflects new priorities on coordination with state and local law enforcement authorities and, most importantly, will help address the bureau's severe information technology deficiencies."

Sen. Charles E. Grassley, Iowa Republican and frequent FBI critic who sits as a member of the Senate Judiciary Committee, said one reason the FBI has not been effective is structural, and some important changes will be accomplished in the reorganization.

"The FBI needs to focus and do its part in preventing terrorism while letting other law enforcement agencies carry out their missions," Mr. Grassley said. "It needs to be 'game over' for the FBI's PacMan mentality of gobbling up the jurisdiction of other agencies.

"Reorganization plans come and go, and new charts and graphs about who is in charge won't correct a management culture that's focused on headlines over the nuts and bolts of investigative work," he said. "We need to make sure changes are real, and that old FBI offices and functions aren't simply being re-adorned with new names and descriptions."

The FBI restructuring is part of an unprecedented "wartime reorganization and mobilization" of the Justice Department ordered in November by Mr. Ashcroft, which is aimed in part at allowing federal authorities to better defend America against any future terrorist attacks.

The plan, similar to the reorganization announced by Mr. Mueller, calls for the transfer of law-enforcement authorities in Washington, D.C., to field offices nationwide as part of what the attorney general has called a "carefully crafted blueprint" for the comprehensive reorganization of the Justice Department during the next five years.

It also calls for splitting the U.S. Immigration and Naturalization Service into two agencies, one for border security and law enforcement, and another for citizenship services.

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