Chairman Goodlatte: Welcome, Director Mueller, to your final appearance before the House Judiciary Committee as FBI Director. We are happy to have you here with us today.
Before we begin, let me take a moment to commend you for your successful tenure at the FBI. You took office under extremely difficult circumstances -- in fact, you were confirmed one week before the September 11 attacks on New York City and Washington D.C. During your 12 years as Director, you have led the transformation of the FBI from a domestic law enforcement agency into a complex, intelligence-driven national security organization, whose primary missions include confronting the most significant security threats facing our nation today. You have done the American people a great service and, for that, you have my sincere gratitude.
We now know that last week's unauthorized disclosure of certain NSA intelligence programs was committed by a 29-year-old former defense contractor. I know there is little you may be able to say about these programs in a public hearing. But I and the other members of the Committee believe it is important for you to explain, to the extent you are able, why you believe these programs are a necessary part of America's counter-terrorism operation.
I also believe the recent reports regarding the NSA programs illustrate this Administration's ongoing problem of national security leaks. The Obama Administration takes credit for having investigated more national security leaks than any previous administration. While this may be true, I'm not certain whether it is due to a more aggressive investigative approach to national security leaks or the simple fact that there have been a shockingly high number of leaks in the last four and half years.
These leaks illustrate the delicate balancing act between the need to protect national security information and investigate leaks, and the need to preserve the First Amendment right to freedom of the press.
Regardless of how some Members of Congress may feel about the recently-revealed NSA programs, the fact remains that the terrorist threat to the United States is ongoing. We were reminded of this nearly two months ago when the Boston Marathon, traditionally a day of celebration, was the target of a terrorist attack. Dzhokhar Tsarnaev and his older brother, Tamerlan Tsarnaev, set off twin explosions that killed three people and injured more than 250. This attack was a grave reminder, as you warned this Committee in 2010, that domestic and lone-wolf extremists are now just as serious a threat to our safety as international organizations like al-Qaeda.
I'd like to commend the FBI and its state and local partners, all of whom worked tirelessly to identify and locate the bombers, and to apprehend Dzhokhar. However, prior to the Boston attack, several federal agencies, including the FBI, received intelligence information about Tamerlan. I am concerned that inadequate inter-agency coordination may have prevented robust information-sharing in this case. It is imperative that the Administration and Congress examine this matter closely to identify areas in which intelligence information-sharing can be improved.
On the subject of counterterrorism, I also look forward to hearing from you about the FBI's efforts to investigate the attacks on the American consulate in Benghazi, Libya. Immediately following the attacks, the Obama Administration called them a spontaneous response to a video critical of Islam. As we all now know, the attacks were in fact pre-planned acts of terror. I am intensely concerned that the Administration's handling of the attacks has hampered the FBI's ability to conduct a thorough investigation. As former Deputy Chief of Mission Gregory Hicks testified, the Administration's mischaracterization of the attacks so angered the Libyan government that they prevented the FBI Evidence Response Team from traveling to Benghazi for two weeks.
Finally, Mr. Director, I am very interested in hearing from you about how the Bureau intends to tighten its belt in a responsible manner during this time of fiscal uncertainty. Along with Crime Subcommittee Chairman Sensenbrenner, I sent you a letter in April asking several questions about the FBI's budget and spending priorities -- including the FBI's policy to provide extensive financial benefits, including paying for all laundry and food, for the highly-paid professionals brought to work at FBI Headquarters for 18-month stints. I appreciated receiving your response last week, but I believe this is an area where the FBI and other Federal law enforcement agencies are not making the best use of taxpayer dollars. I hope to hear what the Bureau intends to do to address this issue.
I look forward to hearing your answers on all of these important topics today, as well as on several other issues of significance to the FBI and the country.