Fixing the FBI
This man is pushing some of the biggest changes in the Bureau's History. Think he's a popular guy?
Mueller knows all too well how easy it is for the person at the top to become isolated, but that danger is probably more real for him than for a Fortune 500 CEO. One reason is the head-spinning exodus of top-tier executives--five officials have held the top counterterrorism job since 9/11; five others held the top computer job in 2002-2003 alone. The VCF project had no fewer than 10 different project managers who redrafted the terms of the contract 36 times, according to congressional sources. Some inside the FBI attribute the brain drain to Mueller's demanding management style. Whether that's the case or not, the director's job requires killer hours--for himself and for those work for him. Mueller is typically in his office by 6 a.m. to be briefed by the graveyard shift of analysts and managers who collect and analyze new threat information. Mueller briefs the attorney general by 7:30 a.m. Then both men head to the White House to brief President Bush by 8:30 a.m. A second Mueller briefing between 4 and 5 p.m. means that even noncrisis days stretch to 12 or 14 hours for Mueller's bleary-eyed executives. "I don't see it as a career anymore," says FBI Deputy Director John Pistole. "It's a calling."
If there is a flaw in the way he manages the FBI, Mueller responds, it is probably his pedal-to-the-metal drive. "I tend to think I'm probably fairly demanding in terms of people knowing what they're talking about," Mueller said. "One of my failings is, I'm impatient . . . to provide support to the agents, to provide the latest technology to make this an even better institution, and that probably, in some cases, is a hindrance. But you know, I can't think of an executive who I could think would be intimidated by me."
Mueller's impatience is certainly understandable. U.S. intelligence officials are convinced that al Qaeda is determined to mount another major terrorist attack on America. Which is precisely why, Mueller says, the FBI must master the threat-assessment challenge as quickly as possible: "My concern is and will always be that which we do not know--those persons in the United States who have not come to our attention, as much as we are searching and looking for them, who may be poised to undertake an attack. In the same way that those who came in [on] September 11 were somehow underneath the radar and were poised to attack."
"High marks." At the FBI, the result of the attacks is the revolution Mueller is struggling to complete. He has reduced the autonomy of the old field-office fiefdoms and centralized all major terrorism investigations at the Hoover Building while diverting hundreds of agents from working the bureau's traditional missions of drugs and white-collar crime and assigning them to newly created counterterrorism squads.
The new intelligence directorate Mueller has created is staffed with 5,000 linguists, analysts, special agents, and support staff who collect, analyze, and disseminate intelligence. Mueller wants to expand the bureau's reach into the far corners of world, creating a "global FBI" to better track potential terrorists overseas before they can strike here. Before 9/11, despite a spate of terrorist attacks going back to the bombing of the World Trade Center in 1993, counterintelligence had long been considered a stepchild within the FBI, the big promotions and the lion's share of the operational dollars going to the old Criminal Investigative Division. Mueller has made it clear those days are over--and not coming back.