Opening Statement of Robert S. Mueller, III

Chairman Leahy, Senator Hatch, Members of the Committee, thank you for the extraordinary courtesy and support you have extended to me over the past several weeks. I want to especially express my appreciation to you, Mr. Chairman, for your willingness to schedule this hearing and begin the formal consideration of my nomination.

I was deeply honored when President Bush decided to nominate me for the position of Director of the Federal Bureau of Investigation. In my view, the FBI is the finest law enforcement agency in the world. Its highly skilled and dedicated workforce and its investigative tools and resources are unmatched in law enforcement. I consider it the highest privilege to be asked to lead such an outstanding organization.

Mr. Chairman, I have spent nearly my entire professional life in law enforcement. I have either personally prosecuted or have supervised the prosecution of just about every type of federal criminal offense, including homicide, drug trafficking, organized crime, cybercrime, major frauds, civil rights and environmental crime. I care deeply about the rule of law. In a free society, a central responsibility of government, I believe, is to protect its citizens from criminal harm within the framework of the Constitution. I have been fortunate indeed to have been able to spend much of my career in pursuit of that goal. And this is why I am thankful to be here today and to have the opportunity, if you choose to confirm me, to serve as the FBI Director.

One could hardly overstate the significance of the FBI in the life of every American. From the prevention of mass murder by international terrorists to the pain-staking search for a missing child, the Bureau is on the front line every day in the battle against terrorism and violent crime. Whether it is fraud in our health care system, foreign or economic espionage, crimes against children on the Internet, public corruption, civil rights violations, bank robbery, tracking down serial killers, or simply conducting a background check on a prospective gun purchaser, the FBI is vital to the preservation of our civil order and our civil rights.

And while new technologies create new possibilities for the global economy, they also present new opportunities for enterprising criminals. Here, as well, the FBI is responsible for ensuring the security of our technological infrastructure and for bringing cybercriminals to justice.

But it is more than just the mission of the FBI which has brought it such distinction in its nearly 100-year existence. It is also the people. Throughout the nation, thousands of young men and women dream about serving in the FBI. This is a credit to the dedication, professionalism and training of the men and women who are proud to serve in the FBI and who often risk their lives on behalf of us all.

Every year the FBI conducts thousands of investigations encompassing literally millions of contacts with other law enforcement agencies, the courts, witnesses, and crime victims. The vast majority of these endeavors result in successful prosecutions free of constitutional error.

As a federal prosecutor who has tried many cases, I have relied upon the FBI's investigative efforts on countless occasions.

Yet despite all of the positive things that can be said about the FBI, we all know that the Bureau's remarkable legacy of service and accomplishment has been tarnished by some serious and highly publicized problems in recent years. Waco, Ruby Ridge, the FBI lab, Wen Ho Lee, Robert Hanssen, and the McVeigh documents – these familiar names and events remind us all that the FBI is far from perfect and that the next Director faces significant management and administrative challenges.

We must – and we will – confront these challenges, squarely and forthrightly. At the same time, we must acknowledge that these problems do not tell the whole story of the FBI in recent years. The FBI has had astonishing successes during the same period, including the investigations into the downing of Pan Am 103, and the World Trade Center, Oklahoma City, and African embassy bombings's. Of course, given the nature of the work it does, many of the FBI's most notable successes are stories that can never be publicly told, either because they are the prevention of crimes such as terrorist attacks or involve sensitive intelligence sources and methods. Most importantly, we must not let the recent problems obscure the fact that the men and women of the FBI have continued throughout this period of controversy to do an outstanding job. The day-to-day work of thousands of skilled agents and employees is responsible for countless successes that will never make the headlines. Their sacrifice for the cause of public safety – often at great personal risk – must not be lost in the tumult of criticism and publicity.

Nevertheless, it is critical to the continued success and improvement of any organization to acknowledge and learn from its mistakes. And the FBI is no different. The success of its law enforcement mission lies in the preservation and protection of the public trust. And it is clear that these highly publicized problems have shaken the public's trust in the FBI. That shaken trust, in turn, inevitably affects the morale of the men and women who serve at the Bureau.

All institutions – even great ones like the FBI – make mistakes. The measure of an institution is in how it responds to its mistakes. I believe the FBI can – and must – do a better job of dealing with mistakes. If I have the honor of being confirmed by the Senate I will make it my highest priority to restore the public's confidence in the FBI – to re-earn the faith and trust of the American people. The dedicated men and women of the FBI deserve nothing less, and as Director I would tolerate nothing less.

I am encouraged that Attorney General Ashcroft has already taken several significant steps to address these challenges. First, the Department has retained the services of a major management consultant firm to undertake a comprehensive review of the management structure and information systems of the FBI. Second, the Attorney General has called upon former FBI and CIA Director William Webster to conduct a review of the Bureau's security program to try to ensure that the lapses which allowed former Special Agent Robert Hanssen to betray his country do not happen again. Third, the Department's Inspector General has been directed to conduct an investigation of the Hanssen matter to determine how his criminal activity was able to go undetected for so long. Fourth, the Inspector General, in addition, is conducting a review of the document production failures in the McVeigh case. And fifth, the Inspector General's jurisdiction has been expanded to include oversight of the FBI. I believe these measures are an excellent start in a long-term process of modernizing the management practices of the FBI and if confirmed I look forward to receiving the recommendations of these various reviews.

But as we examine the mistakes of the past, we must be resolved to respond quickly and forthrightly to the mistakes of the future. Three elements are critical to a proper response:

First, we must be willing to admit immediately that a mistake has occurred. This includes providing timely information to the appropriate committees of Congress. And, for matters involving cases in courts, immediately informing the court and defense counsel as appropriate. Failure to admit one's mistakes contributes to the perception of institutional arrogance.

Second, those responsible for the mistake must be held accountable. This does not mean punishing employees for simple errors in doing their jobs. Nobody is perfect and we want to encourage people to come forward immediately when mistakes are made. But we must hold people accountable and we cannot tolerate efforts to cover up problems or blame others for them.

If confirmed, I will be committed to inculcating a culture which understands that we all make mistakes and that we must be forthright and honest in admitting them and correcting them as quickly as possible. We must tell the truth and let the facts speak for themselves. The truth is what we expect in our investigations of others, and the truth is what we must demand of ourselves when we come under scrutiny.

It is also very important that there be no double standards in accountability. I know there have been allegations that senior FBI officials are sometimes treated more leniently than more junior employees. Any such double standard would be fundamentally unfair and enormously destructive of employee morale. If anything, senior FBI officials should be held to a higher standard than other employees, for after all they should serve as examples. I commit to this Committee, to the employees of the FBI, and to the American people that there will be no such double standard if I am Director of the FBI.

And third, every significant mistake must be examined to determine whether broader reform is necessary. We must learn from our mistakes or we will be bound to repeat them.

Of course, Mr. Chairman, my goal would be to minimize mistakes through proper management. Let me, therefore, turn to some additional management priorities that would guide me if confirmed. Underlying these priorities is my belief that the core asset of the FBI is its employees. I am committed to providing the leadership and management and energy necessary to enable these talented and dedicated people to do their jobs as effectively as possible.

First and foremost of these management priorities is leadership. It will be critical to recruit, encourage and select the highest quality leadership. And my experience in prior positions -- and I am sure it would be the same if confirmed as Director of the FBI -- is that selecting the very best people will result in a management team that reflects the diversity of our society.

Second, I will want to review carefully management structures and systems. I am concerned about the span of control, the degree of decentralization, and whether responsibilities are clearly defined. Management structures and systems must help the managers, agents and employees do their jobs, not hinder them.

Third, I believe there is a need to rebuild infrastructure: to upgrade the information systems, and to upgrade the systems and procedures to integrate modern technology. Every FBI manager -- indeed, every agent -- needs to be computer literate; not a computer programmer, but aware of what computers can, and cannot, do to assist them with their jobs.

Fourth, the FBI needs to review continually its priorities and its allocation of resources to make sure it is able to meet the challenges of tomorrow, as well as of today. Its investigative priorities today are: national security, particularly counterterrorism; organized and violent crime; civil rights enforcement; public corruption; high tech and cybercrime; white collar crime, including health care fraud and other complex frauds. We must anticipate the challenges the FBI will be facing ten and twenty years into the future, and prepare now to meet those challenges. This will require continuous revision and restructuring of these investigative priorities.

And fifth, the FBI must develop the respect and confidence of those with whom it interacts, including other law enforcement agencies, both domestic and international, and Congress. Most agents with whom I have worked have pride in the FBI, but are in no way arrogant. Nonetheless, any perception of Bureau arrogance must be dispelled. Close relationships are founded on mutual trust and respect. We must understand and acknowledge that state and local police departments are the backbone of law enforcement in this country, and federal law enforcement is privileged to work side-by-side with them. We must understand and acknowledge the need to work closely with and obtain the support of Congress in order to appropriately perform our duties. With humility the FBI must earn the respect and confidence of other law enforcement agencies, the Congress, and, most importantly, the American people.

As I go about implementing changes to accomplish these objectives, I welcome the thoughts of those currently at the Bureau – as well as the results of the various reviews I mentioned above. I have already benefitted from considerable experience with the FBI, as well as detailed discussions with many people, including members of this Committee.

Finally, you should know that I understand the necessity to move quickly on administrative and management issues. In prior positions I have made changes swiftly, as soon as I was confident that I had the benefit of all views and was convinced that the proposed changes would indeed improve the organization. I intend to move quickly to make appropriate changes should I be confirmed.

Mr. Chairman, the President has honored me with this nomination. You and the members of this Committee have added to that honor by your courtesy and respect in my meetings with you. If confirmed, I look forward to working with this Committee to protect and preserve the rule of law. I cannot promise perfection, but I can commit to you and to the dedicated men and women of the FBI that I will do my very best to earn your faith and respect. And to the American people whom we all serve, I will commit to preserve the legacy of the FBI -- now and in the future an institution deserving of the highest level of their confidence and trust.

Thank you Mr. Chairman for the opportunity to appear before you and the members of the Committee today.