FBI chief seeks more agents as whistleblower blasts management

FBI Director Mueller told Congress today his agency needs additional agents, money and time as it works to meet its "paramount mission of prevention" in an age of terrorism, the Associated Press reported.

"The FBI must become better at shaping its workforce, collaborating with its partners, applying technology to support investigations, operations and analyses, protecting our information and developing core competencies," Mueller said in remarks prepared for delivery to the Senate Judiciary Committee.

Mueller was speaking as President Bush took steps to overhaul the nation's system for terrorism security, nine months after the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks.

Senate Judiciary Committee Chairman Patrick Leahy, D-Vt., complimented Mueller for his candor in responding to the terrorist attacks, particularly for conceding that it is impossible to say if the Sept. 11 attacks might have been prevented. At the same time, he expressed unhappiness that Congress had not been informed about the existence of a memo alerting FBI officials that several suspicious Arabs were training at a U.S. aviation school in Arizona.

In much-anticipated testimony, FBI whistleblower Coleen M. Rowley told lawmakers that money and manpower were the least of the agency's problems. Rowley said the agency's more significant problems involved increasing bureaucracy, acute careerism, excessive management layers, an overabundance of unnecessary paperwork and constant roadblocks preventing agents from effectively handling cases.

"I've heard there is a saying at FBI headquarters: 'Big cases, big problems; little cases, little problems; no cases, no problems,'" Rowley told lawmakers. "The idea that inaction is somehow the key to success manifests itself repeatedly, because up to now the consequences of inaction have not been that apparent, while the opposite has been true for instances when FBI leaders did take some action."

Rowley described an incident where a supervisor gave up his position because of the reams of paperwork required to produce a myriad of needless reports.

"It's one thing to work around the clock on a breaking kidnapping, armored car robbery, terrorist incident, etc., but it's quite another to have to spend hours engaged in completing the myriad of required 'reports' the FBI bureaucracy has spawned in order, at least in part, to justify its existence," Rowley testified.

Rowley recommended that FBI officials implement a new mechanism for handling disagreements between agents and lawyers about pursuing cases.

"Just as a person diagnosed with a serious medical problem often obtains a second opinion before embarking on a course of treatment, FBI investigators ought to be able to pursue a second opinion from a cadre of federal attorneys with greater expertise in terrorism matters than the average assistant United States attorney when the potential consequences are serious and substantial disagreement exists between the investigators and the lawyers," Rowley said.

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