Hearing of the House Judiciary Committee: FBI Oversight
REP. LAMAR SMITH (R-TX): Thank you, Mr. Chairman. And Mr. Chairman, your opening statement did pretty much cover the entire arena, I do believe.
Director Mueller, thank you for appearing again before the Judiciary Committee. We appreciate your willingness to do so.
Mr. Chairman, on Thursday we observed the seventh anniversary of the tragic events of September 11th, 2001. As a nation, we also breathed a sigh of relief that in seven years we have not had a single foreign terrorist attack on American soil. That fact is not an accident and does not reflect a lack of effort on the part of our enemies. Many plots have been prevented.
I would like to congratulate Director Mueller and all the dedicated men and women he leads for his tremendous work in keeping this country safe. Under his leadership and the tireless efforts of the men and women of the FBI, the Department of Justice and many others throughout the federal government, the nation has enjoyed a level of safety that, in all honesty, most feared unlikely in the immediate aftermath of those attacks.
After September 11th, the Bureau became the primary investigative agency tasked with not only investigating a crime after it has been committed, but also with investigating terrorism and national security threats to prevent another catastrophic attack on our country.
This fundamental shift in duties is much easier said than done. It has required the Bureau to reshape its goals, how it trains its agents and its investigative techniques. It also has required the Bureau to break down the layers of bureaucracy to effectively collect, analyze and act on intelligence.
The Bureau and the Justice Department have been careful to review practices and procedures in order to ensure the strongest tools are available to prevent future terrorist attacks. And while I commend your many strides in this direction, we both agree that these efforts must continue.
Recently the Bureau and the Department of Justice informed the Congress of their work to review the Bureau's investigative guidelines so that the tools available for criminal investigations would also be available when assessing potential terrorist threats.
While the FBI continues its work to become a prevention-focused institution, it is also important that it continues to investigate traditional and newly emerging crimes, including public corruption, gang violence, mortgage fraud and white-collar crime, child exploitation and intellectual property theft.
Protecting our nation from those who wish to do it harm, whether through acts of terrorism, violent crime, crimes against our children or other criminal enterprises, requires constant vigilance. It requires the FBI and Congress to remain at least one step ahead of the criminals themselves.
Finally, I would like to congratulate the Bureau on 100 years of service to the American people. During the past century, FBI agents have investigated our nation's most serious crimes and handled high- profile cases, including investigations into the Oklahoma City bombing, the UNABOMBer, Al Capone, Bonnie and Clyde, Nazi spies, Robert Hanssen and Enron.
The success of the FBI is not the result of people simply doing their jobs. As new threats develop, law enforcement officials are constantly charged with finding new methods to combat these threats. Americans have never needed the FBI more. And today, after 100 years of service, we continue to be grateful for the FBI and all that it has done and is doing to protect us.
I thank you, Mr. Chairman, and I yield back.
REP. LAMAR SMITH (R-TX): Mr. Chairman, I'm going to defer to the gentleman from North Carolina, Mr. Coble who has a conflict in about two minutes in another hearing and then I'll ask my questions later on.
REP. SMITH: Next question is this. I think you've made a persuasive argument on the need to change the rules or guidelines. Can you give us, though, some visual, graphic, real-life examples of the kinds of terrorist crimes that could be prevented when you implement these new rules and guidelines that could not be prevented under the current rules and guidelines?
MR. MUELLER: Well, let me use perhaps two examples. One is the Phoenix memorandum. Most people are familiar with the fact that a very good agent in Phoenix, prior to September 11th, noted that individuals from the Middle East who were associated with more radical elements in the Phoenix area were taking flight lessons. He drafted a memorandum. It was sent back to headquarters. And no action was taken on it by the time of the attacks.
REP. SMITH: Thank you, Director Mueller. One last question, and you did mention this in your opening statement. It is true, I believe, that some of these rules and guidelines, most of them, can now be used to try to solve the usual types of crimes that we would consider sort of everyday crimes but under current rules cannot be used to try to prevent terrorist attacks.
I don't know what the genesis of that distinction was, but clearly, in this day and age and a subsequent era of 9/11, we need the same tools and guidelines that have been used to solve robberies to enable us to prevent terrorist attacks. I don't know if you want to comment on that any more than you already have. But it clearly seems to me that if you're going to use them for one type of crime, you ought to be able to use them to prevent other types of crime as well.