FBI Fights To Keep Jurisdiction On Terror Suspects

Federal Bureau of Investigation Director Robert Mueller

WSJ on November 29, 2011 released the following:

“By Evan Perez

Federal Bureau of Investigation Director Robert Mueller is joining the fray as lawmakers and the Obama administration fight over whether the U.S. will rely on civilian or military authorities to detain and try terrorists in the U.S.

Mr. Mueller, who rarely injects himself publicly in such disputes, has written to Senate lawmakers who are pushing a plan to put the military in the lead. The plan, part of a defense spending bill, would allow the FBI to take charge only if the defense secretary granted a waiver.

The legislation “introduces a substantial element of uncertainty as to what procedures are to be followed in the course of a terrorism investigation,” Mr. Mueller wrote. He added that the proposed changes “will inhibit our ability to convince covered arrestees to cooperate immediately, and provide critical intelligence.”

Unlike so many disputes in D.C., this one doesn’t fall neatly on partisan lines. Sen. Carl Levin (D., Mich.) and Sen. John McCain (R., Ariz.), the leaders of the Armed Services Committee, worked out the detainee provision and defended it in a Washington Post op-ed.

“The bill does not tie the administration’s hands in deciding how best to handle a detainee,” the senators wrote. “Not only does the bill include a national security waiver, but it expressly authorizes the transfer of any military detainee to civilian custody for trial in the federal courts.”

Mr. Mueller, an appointee of President George W. Bush, is in his 10th year heading the FBI and earlier this year won a 100-0 Senate vote to extend his term by two years.

As we wrote yesterday, the Bush administration relied almost exclusively on civilian courts to try alleged terrorism plotters in the U.S. The lines have shifted since President Barack Obama took office. Lawmakers have used spending bills to insert restrictions on resettling Guantanamo prisoners in other countries or moving detainees to the U.S. for trial.

Freshman Sen. Kelly Ayotte (R., N.H.) has led the fight to put accused terrorists into military custody. “I don’t believe the criminal system should be a default position,” she said in an interview.”


Douglas McNabb – McNabb Associates, P.C.’s
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