Dodging a peck of trouble
Down the line, Bob Mueller's greatest contribution to the FBI may be that he preserved its credibility on one highly controversial aspect of the war on terrorism. After the 9/11 attacks, when American forces began capturing Taliban and al Qaeda fighters in Afghanistan, Mueller made a key decision: He refused to allow his agents to be present at any of the interrogations by the CIA and military personnel at secret locations around the world and at the U.S. Naval Base in Guantanamo Bay, Cuba.
The decision angered FBI agents who had worked on previous terrorism investigations involving some of these same shady characters--including Khalid Shaikh Mohammed, the self-proclaimed mastermind of the 9/11 attacks. But in hindsight, Mueller's decision has proved prescient. While the CIA and the military are under fire for the alleged use of torture against detainees, FBI agents have been praised for trying to bring attention to the controversial interrogation techniques, in numerous memos to the FBI. "Mueller has sent pretty clear messages down the FBI about the unacceptable nature of torture," says Anthony Romero, executive director of the American Civil Liberties Union. "It's probably the one bright hope in this entire torture debacle."
Mueller has been criticized, however, for being evasive with Congress about when he learned about the torture allegations. As to whether he tried to draw attention to the problem with the president, Mueller told U.S. News: "Well, I'm not going to get into that."
This story appears in the March 28, 2005 print edition of U.S. News & World Report.