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Mueller Proposes the FBI Create Intelligence Unit

The director opposes an independent domestic agency and instead wants a division within the bureau, whose chief would report to him.

June 04, 2004|From Associated Press

WASHINGTON — FBI Director Robert S. Mueller III, fighting calls for an independent domestic intelligence agency, proposed Thursday that the bureau create its own service to gather information to combat terrorism.

The division would be largely independent from the rest of the FBI and have its own budget. It would include all the bureau's intelligence-gathering resources, from translators to surveillance activities. The chief would report directly to Mueller.

Mueller told a House Appropriations subcommittee that an independent domestic spy agency would have to duplicate much of the expertise already in the FBI and harm what has become the bureau's top priority: fighting terrorism.

"Any reform proposal must recognize that intelligence is fundamental to successful FBI operations," he said. "Intelligence functions are woven throughout the fabric of the bureau, and any changes to this integrated approach would be counterproductive."

Mueller did not provide estimates of how many new people would be hired or any additional costs for the initiative.

Congressional reaction has been mixed on the need for a domestic spy agency.

The chairman of the subcommittee, Rep. Frank R. Wolf (R-Va.), asked Mueller in February to consider creation of the separate entity within the FBI. Wolf said he disagreed with those who would create a separate agency similar to the British intelligence service.

Britain's Security Service, known as MI5, collects, analyzes and disseminates intelligence aimed at disrupting terrorism, espionage and sabotage directed against Britain, but it has no law enforcement powers.

Creating such an agency "would take a considerable amount of time and effort to implement, disrupting the bureau when the country will likely remain on high alert for terrorist attacks in the foreseeable future," Wolf said.

Sen. Pat Roberts (R-Kan.), chairman of the Senate Intelligence Committee, told reporters he did not favor pulling domestic intelligence out of the FBI.

"Under Director Mueller, the FBI has actually moved mountains since 9/11, and I believe that we should wait to see what further results the director can deliver," Roberts said.

Some members of Congress question whether an agency devoted for decades to law enforcement can make intelligence a mission of equal or greater importance. Sen. John Edwards (D-N.C.) has been pushing for a new Homeland Intelligence Agency that would have no law enforcement duties or powers.

Edwards said recently, "What we need is a domestic intelligence agency that is focused on fighting terrorism here at home and having a watchdog in place to make sure our freedoms are protected."

Since the attacks on Sept. 11, the FBI's budget has increased from $3.1 billion to $4.6 billion, with much of the increase going to anti-terrorism activities.

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