- The Washington Times - Wednesday, September 5, 2001

Robert S. Mueller III, a Marine Corps officer in Vietnam who won the Bronze Star and the Purple Heart, took over yesterday as director of the FBI an agency under fire from Congress and the focus of several ongoing investigations.

Mr. Mueller, U.S. attorney in San Francisco and acting deputy attorney general during the Bush transition, was sworn in for a 10-year term as the bureau's sixth director at an early-morning ceremony in the office of Attorney General John Ashcroft.

The veteran Justice Department lawyer, unanimously confirmed last month by the Democratic-led Senate, has promised to restore public confidence in the FBI. He said during his confirmation hearing the FBI needed stronger management, greater accountability and improved technology as well as more willingness to acknowledge mistakes.

President Bush, who nominated Mr. Mueller for the top post in June, already had given the veteran prosecutor his marching orders: "The FBI has a great tradition that Mr. Mueller must now affirm, and some important challenges he must confront."

Mr. Bush said he was confident Mr. Mueller was right for the job, telling reporters during a nominating ceremony in the Rose Garden that the longtime prosecutor had "shown high ideals, a clear sense of purpose, and a tested devotion to his country."

While his nomination was never in jeopardy, the Senate Judiciary Committee closely questioned him during the confirmation process on how he intended to run the FBI, which is reeling from a series of public embarrassments including the arrest of veteran FBI Agent Robert P. Hanssen as a Russian spy and the failure to turn over 4,000 documents in the trial of Oklahoma City bomber Timothy McVeigh.

Both Republicans and Democrats have voiced their concerns over what they have described as "serious management" problems within the FBI. Mr. Ashcroft has said a series of public blunders by the bureau has seriously eroded public confidence in the federal law enforcement agency.

In an unusual speech at FBI headquarters, Mr. Ashcroft urged bureau employees to return to their core values, saying the challenge for the agency was "not that we have problems," but "how we respond to these problems; how we, working together, answer the call to protect the people's trust, re-enforce freedom and preserve justice."

Mr. Ashcroft has ordered the Justice Department's Office of Inspector General to investigate the Hanssen case and the missing McVeigh files. He gave the inspector general new powers to probe all suspected misconduct and ordered a management review of the FBI by a team of Justice Department officials, headed by Deputy Attorney General Larry Thompson.

Former CIA and FBI Director William Webster is conducting a separate review of the bureau's internal security measures. Both the Senate and House judiciary committees are conducting oversight investigations of the FBI, with hearings continuing this month.

FBI agents recently were required to attend what was described as back-to-basics training on everything from ethics to records retention eight-hour sessions ordered by former FBI Director Louis J. Freeh, who stepped down after serving eight years of his term.

A formal swearing-in ceremony, which Mr. Bush is expected to attend, is tentatively scheduled for October.

Mr. Mueller, 57, who underwent surgery for prostate cancer on Aug. 2 the day of his confirmation played key roles as head of the Justice Department's criminal division under former President George Bush in the prosecution of several high-profile cases, including the December 1988 bombing of Pan Am Flight 103 over Lockerbie, Scotland, that killed 270 persons; and the prosecution of Gen. Manuel Antonio Noriega, ousted from power during a 1989 U.S. invasion of Panama and convicted in 1992 on charges of cocaine trafficking.


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