CNN LARRY KING LIVE
Interview with Robert Mueller
Aired July 8, 2003 - 21:00 ET
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.
LARRY KING, HOST: Tonight, exclusive. A rare one-on-one with FBI director Robert Mueller, charged with fixing an agency under fire, sworn in exactly one week before 9/11. What keeps him awake at night? FBI Director Robert Mueller for the hour next on LARRY KING LIVE.
He is the sixth director in the Bureau's history. He's Robert Mueller. We've been waiting a long time. We finally got you here. Thank you very much.
ROBERT MUELLER, FBI DIRECTOR: A pleasure to be here.
KING: You don't like the spotlight, do you?
KING: Is it true?
KING: Always had an aversion to it?
MUELLER: Never particularly comfortable in it.
KING: Even when you were U.S. attorney, prosecutor?
KING: You didn't even like press conferences?
KING: OK, we'll have -- we'll have a good time tonight because we're going to learn a lot about you and -- do you like this job?
MUELLER: I'm not very -- I'm lucky to work with the people I work with. They're -- FBI agents are some of the finest people you'll find anyplace in the country or the world. And I'm lucky to have the opportunity to work with them.
KING: You were a prosecutor. MUELLER: I was.
KING: Did you know you were getting this job? How did that come about?
MUELLER: Well, the -- I think there was -- I know after Louis Freeh left the job that it was open, and at some point in time, there -- somebody asked me, and I can't remember who asked whether I'd be interested in it. I said I would be interested in it. And after that, there was a selection procedure you went through, and ultimately, my name came up.
KING: Did you have to go through an extensive interviews with people?
MUELLER: I did. I had a number of interviews with the attorney general and the president and others.
KING: An FBI check?
MUELLER: An FBI check, all the way through, yes, including a polygraph.
KING: And then you take office on 9/4, 2001.
MUELLER: That's correct.
KING: Where were you on 9/11?
MUELLER: I was in my office when -- on 9/11. I think I had a number of meetings scheduled. I was just getting to know the bureau. And somebody walked in and said the first plane had -- or a plane had struck the World Trade Center, one of the towers. And you look outside, and it's a beautiful, clear day, and my initial reaction was it must be a pilot who was off course. And then, several minutes later, somebody comes in and says another plane has struck the other tower. And at that point, I think we all realized it was something tremendously tragic, probably a terrorist attack, and the next step was to go down to our command center and get things going.
KING: Do you remember what went through your mind?
MUELLER: I think what -- a number of thoughts, although I don't really remember today, but I think it was a question of, Geez, I hope people get out of the building. I hope there are very few casualties, and that we better find out what happened very quickly. And that was when the first two towers were struck. We subsequently find out that a plane goes into the Pentagon, and we then are -- we're down in the command center at this time, and we have the FAA -- our FAA agent, who was sitting with us and was on the -- on the line to the FAA, and they say they have a plane inbound to Washington, D.C. It's been hijacked, but it looks like it's coming to Washington, D.C., and we're sitting there, wondering what's going to happen to that plane. And subsequently, we find out that that's the plane that went into the fields of Pennsylvania, and thanks to the heroism of those onboard, the lives that were lost were on that plane, but it did not reach its destination.
KING: Now, what, Director, on that day and henceforth became the role of the FBI in this?
MUELLER: Well, immediately, we had to determine who was responsible for it, and we had to do it for a number of reasons.
One, we weren't certain whether there were not other terrorists out there who were going to launch a second wave of attacks. And so immediately, we set up command posts around the country, where the planes had either taken off from or where they had struck the buildings or gone into the ground, in order to gather the evidence to determine who was responsible for it, on the one hand, to bring to justice those who were responsible, but more immediately, to assure that there were not other terrorists out there who were going to launch additional attacks. So...
KING: But you were also in the position of really just getting your feet wet, right?
MUELLER: True. Yes.
KING: You didn't know the names of the heads that -- who ran each office.
MUELLER: I did -- I knew some of them. I didn't know the organization, but the one thing you can say about the FBI, it's tremendously professional. And from the moment that we realized it was a terrorist attack, there isn't an agent or a support person in the FBI that wasn't committed to bringing to justice those who were responsible for this. And everybody turned to (ph). In the days, the months afterwards, almost everybody in the FBI, virtually everyone was working 18-hour days and seven days a week.
KING: You, too?
KING: Did the New York office send men right to the scene?
MUELLER: Yes, they did, and we lost one, Lenny Hatton (ph), who -- a wonderful person who was a firefighter, a former Marine, a person who was a pillar of his community in New Jersey. He was on his way to work that day...
KING: He was an agent?
MUELLER: He was an agent, and saw what was happening in the towers and went to the towers. He went in, brought a person out, and according to that person, he said, I'm going back in. There are other people who I need to save. And he went back in and he was lost. And he had a wife, several children. But he is one of the many examples of heroism that day, of those who lost their lives.
KING: Historically, have many agents lost their lives?
MUELLER: There have been a number over the years.
KING: Because generally, we don't hear much about...
MUELLER: You do not, and...
KING: Is that by design?
MUELLER: No, it's -- it's -- there are a number of agents who have been killed in the line of duty over the years, and you do hear about it when it happens. In the context of September 11, there were so many that lost their lives that -- how do you single out one person? There were so many acts of heroism that day from so many people, whether it be firemen and police officers in New York and our agents also.
KING: Now, did the FBI's role over the years change? Did it become more international in scope? Because I remember early on, like in the '60s, they didn't deal with things if it was out of the United States.
MUELLER: Well, it has had to over a period of time.
If you look at our priorities today -- fighting terrorism, assuring that foreign governments don't get our secrets, our counterintelligence mission, our cyber mission -- protecting the United States in each of these three ares, it really is an international mission. And over the years, we have grown internationally, and I would expect down the road, we would -- that mission, that part of our mission, would expand tremendously.
What we bring to the table is not only our 56 field offices in the United States and our number of resident agencies, but also we have 45 legal attaches overseas. And for us to be successful in the future, we are going to have to work closely with our counterparts in state and local law enforcement here in the United States, but also with our counterparts overseas, whether it be with the Saudis in the wake of the bombings most recently in Riyadh or with the Moroccans in the wake of the bombings in Casablanca last month. And in order for us to jointly be successful, we have to work not only here with our counterparts, but also overseas.
KING: Are you chartered that way?
KING: Didn't previous charters prevent the FBI from...
MUELLER: No, I'm not aware of that. But we had -- I think if you look at law enforcement 10 years ago, if you look at the challenges, the FBI was focused excessively on what was happening in the United States. And a threat from overseas, from narcotics traffickers -- you'd have that threat, but it's narcotics traffickers but now trafficking in persons, cyber-attacks, in which I would include denial-of-service attacks, hacking attacks, terrorism -- all are international crimes, international organized crime. In order to be successful against each of these threats, we have to have a presence overseas, work closely not only with our counterparts in the law enforcement community, but also with the intelligence community.
KING: Since terrorism is a comparatively new threat -- 9/11 changed the world -- how well are the agents trained in it?
MUELLER: We -- I think around the world, our agents are the best collectors of information you'll find. And it doesn't make any difference whether it's information relating to terrorism or narcotics trafficking or the like, the skills are there. The networks, the relationships, the liaison that you need to develop those cases and some of the twists in the knowledge of terrorist groups and the like are the kind of training that we are providing, have provided and will continue to provide not only our agents, but state and local law enforcement, who are working with us in this -- in this battle.
KING: So it's still who, what, where, when, why?
KING: Our guest is Robert Mueller, the director of the Federal Bureau of Investigation. We'll be right back.
KING: Our guest is Robert Mueller. He is the director of the Federal Bureau of Investigation.
When you stepped in, the agency was going through some public relations problems, wasn't it?
MUELLER: Well, I would say it had some -- some stumbles, yes. Every large organization's going to have those.
KING: How did you deal with it? You had to deal with that and 9/11 right on top of that, right?
MUELLER: Well, a lot of it is -- to the extent that there were stumbles before, it could be, I think, to a large extent, attributable to the need to -- to redo our infrastructure. We had to address information technology in the ways we had not before and give the agents the tools that they need to do their job more efficiently and more expeditiously. And so we've undergone a substantial transformation in terms of our information technology over the last year-and-a-half, and that will -- will solve them. And also, focusing the organization in the wake of September 11 required prioritization of our mission, a refocus of certain agents to that new priority, as well as a looking ahead to where we want to be five years, 10 years down the road, so that we put in place now the foundation and the structures that will make us effective four, five, 10 years down the road.
KING: Were you behind the curve, technologically?
MUELLER: We were, yes.
KING: Computers, like, were new?
MUELLER: We had older computers. Some of them had 386s, 486s. And in the last 18 months, we've put in 22,000 new Pentiums. We put in new local area networks, wide area networks, LANs, WANs. We have new database structures that we're implementing and that will go online in the next six months. We have new applications for the agents to use.
And with the new database structures, we'll be much better able to not only gather the information, which we're good at already, but have it centralized to be able to analyze it and then disseminate it to not only agents throughout the bureau but also to our counterparts in the intelligence community in the United States...
KING: Attorney General Ashcroft said on this program that there are many stories of things that have been prevented...
MUELLER: That's true.
KING: ... that'll never get public.
MUELLER: That's true.
KING: You back that up?
MUELLER: Yes, I will.
KING: So the FBI has prevented things from occurring?
MUELLER: We have. We have, but I will tell you in the same breath that in this day and age, it's not just the FBI, it's us in combination with state and local law enforcement on our task forces around the country and together with CIA and other intelligence and law enforcement agencies overseas. And because to publicly disclose how we do that would prevent us or preclude us from being able to do it in the future, many of those instances just don't become public.
KING: Harry Truman, when the CIA began, feared inter-cooperation of the CIA and FBI. He feared that they were getting too close. And one is a completely different agency than the other. Has that all changed?
MUELLER: I think you have to differentiate between the exchange of information and the collection of information.
In the United States, it's the mandate of the FBI to gather information relating to terrorism, go out and collect it, to do the interviews, to do the investigative work. And overseas, it's the CIA. But that does not mean that we should not share that information. And what may have been true 10 years ago, in which there may not have been a need to share that information, today, to protect the American public, there has to be the sharing of that information because the threats, particularly from international terrorism, come from without the United States, but the effect of the attacks may well come within the United States.
KING: How well do you get along with state and local law enforcement? Because they were -- in the past, there were sometimes people in local law enforcement who'd be jealous of FBI agents and there'd be lack of cooperation. Has that changed?
MUELLER: I think it is changing. I can't say that we're all the way over the goal line, but I think we've made dramatic improvement even prior to September 11.
In the last 10 years, in narcotics task forces, in a number of violent crime task forces, we've worked very closely together with state and local law enforcement. I know when I was here prosecuting homicides in the District of Columbia, one of the most effective units here was the cold case squad, which had on it FBI agents, as well as Metropolitan Police Department homicide detectives working together.
KING: (UNINTELLIGIBLE) gone dead?
MUELLER: That had gone dead. And it was an exceptionally effective unit. And that type of mechanism has been replicated around the United States over the last few years. But since September 11, we have made every effort to try to work closely with state and local law enforcement.
There are glitches in information sharing. There's so much information that comes in every day, and making certain it gets to the right person is -- requires a combination of analytical capability, information technology and establishing lines of communication. And there are glitches and -- but we are making strides. And I think it has gotten substantially better.
KING: Any strides conflict with civil liberties?
MUELLER: Not that I've seen yet. People talk about the Patriot Act that was passed immediately in the wake of September 11. What the Patriot Act did was break down the walls between the various agencies. Prior to the passage of the Patriot Act, any information that we gathered using a grand jury in a criminal matter -- for instance, the 1993 World Trade Center bombing -- we could not give to the intelligence community. And prior to the Patriot Act and the subsequent ruling by the -- what they call the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act, the intelligence community could not present the information into the -- those who were following the criminal leads. And so the Patriot Act and subsequent decisions from the Intelligence Court have broken down those walls. And it's absolutely imperative that those walls stay down so that we can have that exchange of information between the intelligence side of the house and the criminal side of the house, and the criminal side of the house with the intelligence side of the house.
KING: Is this a case of the times are different?
MUELLER: Yes. KING: That's why we can hold people, like, at Guantanamo?
KING: That's a necessity, then?
MUELLER: Yes. We are (UNINTELLIGIBLE) the principal -- the principal objective of the president, of, I think, the FBI, at this point, is to prevent another September 11. I met with the families who lost their loved ones on September 11 about a month ago, as I have in the past in other similar disasters. And the anguish, the frustration, the anger, the -- I don't think there's any one of us who wants to see that replicated in any way, shape or form. And so every one of us in the FBI, I don't care if it's a file clerk someplace or an agent there or a computer specialist, understands that our main mission is to protect the public from another September 11, another terrorist attack.
KING: And sometimes that does clash with a liberty or two.
MUELLER: I think there is a balance, and I think the balance has been struck on the right side. And one has to understand that we are in the business of bringing justice to those families who lost their loved ones at the same time that we have to develop the intelligence to prevent the next September 11.
KING: We'll be right back with the director of the FBI, Robert Mueller. Colin Powell, the secretary of state, is going to be with us on Thursday night. Queen Noor Friday. Don't go away.
KING: We're back with Robert Mueller, director of the FBI.
Do you have to get along with the attorney general? Is that essential to the job?
MUELLER: I think it's important. There are -- but by the same token, were there an attorney general who attempted in one way to interfere with investigations inappropriately, then I do think there has to be a degree of independence when it comes to the investigative function.
KING: Do you have that?
MUELLER: Yes. I do.
KING: Do you get along well with the attorney general?
MUELLER: Yes, I do.
KING: Is he doing a good job?
KING: Do you have to -- you -- you have to report to him, right? MUELLER: Yes.
MUELLER: No, it's no but. I'm one of the components in the Department of Justice.
KING: But you have a degree of independence?
MUELLER: Yes, which I think he and others understand is appropriate when it comes to the investigative function.
KING: All right, al Qaeda in the United States. How big a problem?
MUELLER: It's still a problem, but since September 11, we've made substantial strides. And I will tell you that we've made substantial strides for a variety of reasons. The -- what we've been able to accomplish overseas in Afghanistan has taken away the sanctuary that al Qaeda had in the past. With the help of our counterparts in Pakistan, for instance, we've been able to detain -- attributable principally to our counterparts in Pakistan, detain individuals such as Khalid Sheikh Muhammad, who is responsible -- the architect of September 11, and Abu Zubayda and a number of other key leaders from al Qaeda. So that has hurt al Qaeda.
The -- and lastly, within the United States, the -- working together with state and local law enforcement on our task forces has given us a much better idea of those in the United States who would do us harm. And those who have an affiliation with, support either financially or otherwise, al Qaeda, we are there and we will be there.
KING: How do you fight an enemy willing to die?
MUELLER: It makes it more difficult, but you -- you use traditional investigative methods that we have used since our -- our founding in excess of 90 years ago, and that is using investigative techniques, using cooperating witnesses, using the tools that are accorded to us under the statutes in order to surveill, whether it be physical surveillance or aerial surveillance or technical surveillance -- all of those tools.
KING: So there are agents in danger tonight.
MUELLER: There are agents around the world that are in danger, yes.
KING: Does al Qaeda mostly deal with small cells? Pockets?
MUELLER: Yes. It is a disciplined organization, and the -- the working in smaller units, smaller cells is attributable both to the fact that it is much more of an umbrella organization that has pulled together disparate units, as well as the understanding that in order to be successful, you have to have unit discipline and...
KING: So somebody runs it? There's a corporate line?
MUELLER: Well, I think the -- you would -- people would say, and I would agree with this, that since we've taken away the sanctuary in Afghanistan and since we have disrupted the leadership, there is not that line of command that you had in the past, that it's far more fractured. That does not mean that there are not al Qaeda cells throughout the world that are undertaking, as we speak, preparations to commit terrorist attacks because there are.
KING: Do you therefore expect more terrorism?
MUELLER: I believe that for the foreseeable future, yes, we can expect terrorist acts against the United States and other countries, allies, interests overseas and possibly within the United States.
KING: Is it tougher to get into the United States?
MUELLER: It is now, yes. And we do a far better job of tracking those who come into the United States who may have leanings in support of radical fundamentalism and the terrorist acts. And so it is tougher to get in the United States, and if you are in the United States, we're doing a -- I think a very good job of identifying and maintaining surveillance of those who would commit terrorist acts.
KING: If something is questionable at a Customs agent coming in, is it best to decide on the side of safety and tell them to go back?
MUELLER: Well, I mean, each -- each...
KING: In other words, come down on the side of safety.
MUELLER: I think you have to. In the wake of September 11, absolutely. If there is any question, then you have to come down on the side of security. But it depends on the issue. It depends on the particular circumstances. But if there is a question, yes, I think you have to come down on the side of security.
KING: What do you learn or know about the Osama bin Laden hunt?
MUELLER: It's ongoing.
KING: What makes it so hard, assuming he's alive?
MUELLER: I think he -- if you've been to -- have you been to?
KING: No. MUELLER: If you've been to Afghanistan or Pakistan, you will see that the terrain is tremendously rugged. There are areas in which Osama bin Laden has substantial support, but that does not mean that he cannot or will not be found. I believe he will be. And the hunt is on.
KING: And what about our friend in Iraq?
MUELLER: Well, I think I would say the same thing there, although I'm somewhat less familiar with that.
KING: Do you suspect that that tape is him?
MUELLER: My understanding from -- is that those who have analyzed it believe it most probably is him, but I think the quality is such that you can't be definitive.
KING: Does the FBI have any role in Iraq?
MUELLER: We do. We've got a number of agents there. We, in Afghanistan and in Iraq, work closely with the military and with the CIA to review documents that may have been obtained in the course of the actions, whether it be Iraq and Afghanistan, to exploit those documents to see if there's any intelligence value that might enable us to protect the United States from a terrorist attack. So we have agents there that are looking at documents with the military and with the CIA. We had agents over there immediately after Baghdad fell to assist in locating the artifacts because we have a group that is very knowledgeable in art theft, have been doing it for a number of years. And we sent some of those experts over to assist on that function.
And lastly, we've got agents there that are helping in -- with interrogations of former Iraqi government officials who might have information that would assist us in understanding what influence, if any, Iraq intelligence agents have in the United States.
KING: And are the agents also involved in the hunt for Saddam?
MUELLER: Probably yes, but...
MUELLER: ... to a lesser extent. Peripherally, I would say, is probably a good word to describe it.
KING: Robert Mueller's our guest. He's director of the FBI. You're watching LARRY KING LIVE. We'll be right back.
KING: We're back with Robert Mueller, director of the FBI.
Do you have a say in when we go on orange, yellow or red alerts?
MUELLER: They -- we have input, in terms of the current -- what the current intelligence is in the domestic United States as to the likelihood of an attack.
KING: What's the determining factor? In other words, like, without giving away any real secrets, what changes the color?
MUELLER: It's any number of factors, but generally, it is the combined intelligence from overseas, as well as domestically. And it can be specific reports of an attack that are corroborated. It can be a series of separate reports, when taken together, looks like there might be an attack. Each of the times that the level has been raised has been -- there's been a different combination of factors that warranted the raising of the level.
KING: And what are you asking the public to do when the level raises?
MUELLER: Well, it depends on whether it's law enforcement or your responders. The -- in a number of the larger cities, for instance, I believe the law enforcement would upgrade the security around potential targets, whether it be landmarks or a...
KING: Sporting events.
MUELLER: ... sporting event, which some time ago we had done. For the general public, it's important that they be more vigilant. I mean, what we need to understand is that for us to successfully stop the next attack, there have to be a number of trip wires out there. There have to a number of law enforcement trip wires so we pick up the Mohammed Attas that have come into this country. And part of that is the vigilance of the public. A perfect example is Richard Reid coming across on the plane that was bound for Miami out of Paris. And a very alert flight attendant saw him doing something with his shoe, only to find out later that he was going to -- he had explosives in his shoes and wanted to blow up that airliner. If that flight attendant hadn't been vigilant, that airliner and those people wouldn't be with us today. And that is the kind of vigilance that we're asking the public to undertake.
KING: Is it a short line between vigilance and vigilantism?
MUELLER: I don't believe so.
KING: You know, I don't like that guy. I'll make a call.
MUELLER: That happens. That happens. But again, we've had too much of that. I will tell you that when that happen -- and we've had a number of occasions where it has happened, we've identified the person, we prosecute them.
KING: Oh, really?
MUELLER: Absolutely. And we've had a number of prosecutions where persons have given false information to us for a variety of reasons, where we've successfully prosecuted those individuals. And so yes, it does happen. But in terms of vigilantism, where somebody goes out and takes the law into their hands beyond just reporting false information to law enforcement, we haven't seen that. KING: How cooperative are the suspects you have in custody?
MUELLER: It depends on the suspects.
KING: In the terrorism area.
KING: ... individual basis?
MUELLER: It's on an individual basis.
KING: Are we forceful with them?
MUELLER: I think we are forceful, yes, but not -- at no point in time do I believe that we are doing anything that is contrary to the Constitution or the law.
KING: On July 2, your bureau reported that al Qaeda had obtained blank Saudi passports.
KING: What could happen from that?
MUELLER: That was an alert we put out so that state and local law enforcement, as well as other federal agencies, can be alert for these passports when they're used for identification. You know, whether it's Saudi or Pakistani or British, a false passport that gives somebody an opportunity to come to this country without the proper identification is a risk for us, and we have to be alert to that and utilize any effort we can, whether it be at the borders or elsewhere where those passports are used for identification, to identify them, and to make certain that the persons utilizing them are detained.
KING: You have so much to worry about. I mean, your job consists of a lot of worry.
MUELLER: That's true.
KING: Don't you -- what do you worry about the most?
MUELLER: I would say that, you know, the thing that causes me, I would guess, and Tom Ridge and the attorney general and the others, and particularly the president, is a terrorist group obtaining a weapon of mass destruction with the willingness to utilize that weapon of mass destruction against the American people.
KING: Do you think we'll find any in Iraq?
MUELLER: That is beyond my area of expertise.
KING: Have you ever uncovered groups in the United States that might lead you to think someone has something.
MUELLER: Well, we have uncovered groups, the -- we are faced with ongoing investigation, as you're aware, of the anthrax attacks here in Washington, D.C. So somebody at some point in time within the United States had a virulent anthrax that had been -- that had been processed to the point where, you know, it could cause the deaths of the postal workers, as it did. And so we've had that in the United States already. We've -- that investigation is continuing, as I've noted before. But our concern is that there'd be other groups that see that and try to model their activity on what happened then or deliver an anthrax or another weapon of mass destruction utilizing that mechanism or some other...
KING: Is there a danger of getting complacent?
You know, 9/11 was two years, and then it'll be three years, and we kind of say well...
MUELLER: Yes. Yes, I remember back -- you know, I worked on the Pan Am 103 disaster, when the plane went down, and I -- I do recall, the concerns -- the commissions afterwards and the belief that we ought to do more with security at the airports. But as you get further away from that time and there are no attacks, then there is a degree of complacency that begins to set in. I do think September 11 is different because of the size of the strike, because of the number of lives lost, because of the pain and suffering of the family members, that there is a belief within this country now that we are susceptible to extreme attacks, and we have to do everything we can as a people to prevent it.
KING: Back with more of the director of FBI right after this.
KING: We're going to find out some more about the director of the FBI, background stuff and all that. Become a major figure. All we like to know about him. But this just in. I want to get your reaction. The 9/11 commission, the bipartisan commission set up to investigate the tragedy of 9/11, issued an interim report today that criticized the bureau and Director Mueller for what it calls, quote, "A slow start in responding to requests for information, intelligence and manpower to help with the commission's investigation." The report says the FBI has since been more helpful, but the commission says it's falling behind in its work because of the initial lack of cooperation. The CIA, the Justice Department and the White House are also criticized in the report for their delayed response.
MUELLER: I think if you look at the full report, you'll see that they say that there were -- we got off, in their view, to a slow start and that since then, we've assigned a number of agents to provide the documents they want. Going back, I'll tell you, we provided 49,000 documents to them at the outset. These are the same documents we provided to the Joint Intelligence Committee and...
KING: This is the Kean (ph) commission. MUELLER: This is -- the new one is the Kean commission. And we want to and have cooperated fully with them. There were some issues that had to be resolved before we could turn over certain of the documents. We had a trail going in northern Virginia, the Moussaoui case, as you're aware of, and there were some issues that had to be resolved. I think most of those issues are out of the way, and that not only in the past have they had substantial briefings from us, they will in the future. And they'll be very satisfied with the cooperation they'll receive from the bureau.
KING: So the slow start was not deliberate.
MUELLER: No. It was issues that had to be resolved before documents could -- that they requested in addition to that which we had provided before and could be provided now.
KING: Do you favor the idea of a commission looking into 9/11?
MUELLER: I look forward to working with the commission. I think that the -- I'm always anxious to have views from others about how we can do things better. And I think the commission is an opportunity to provide us with views about how we can do a better job. I certainly don't have all the right responses, and the -- to have other persons with the experience that we have on the commission looking at how we do our jobs and making suggestions, whether it be for legislation or how to change the bureau, I welcome the input.
KING: You do?
MUELLER: I do. If you look at the Joint Intelligence Committee recommendations, when they completed, you know, their report, almost to a one, we have picked up on that and made the changes recommended by the Joint Intelligence Committee. There were good and worthwhile recommendations. And as I say, to the extent that there are other ideas out there and persons with far more experience than I have in the intelligence community or the law enforcement community come forth with suggestions, I'm absolutely open to it.
KING: Is there a danger when we focus so much on terrorism that we lose concepts about white-collar crime, bank robberies, things that the FBI has been famous for?
MUELLER: Well, I think you have to prioritize. And we have to look at what our priorities are. And as I indicated before, we have to look first at terrorism, counterintelligence and cyber. But then a good over half of our agents are working on that which we have done well in the past, whether it be public corruption, civil rights, national/international organized crime, white-collar crime, Enron, WorldCom, and lastly, violent crime. And those are the criminal priorities that we have had in the past that we will continue to address in the future. But increasingly, I think, you will find us looking at those areas where we bring something special to the table. And I believe what you'll find is that what we bring special to the table is our network of offices around the United States and our relationships with our counterparts overseas.
KING: Before we get back to some other issues, a little bit more about you. You prosecuted homicides?
MUELLER: I did here, yes.
KING: You like that kind of work?
MUELLER: There's nothing more satisfying as a prosecutor than to bring justice to a person who has lost their loved one in the course of a homicide.
KING: Did you ever have to send anyone to the death penalty?
KING: Could you have?
KING: No problem with that?
MUELLER: In the appropriate case, when I was absolutely assured of a defendant's guilt, no problem.
KING: Did you ever practice privately?
MUELLER: There were -- some parts of it, yes. But I enjoy investigation. I enjoy prosecuting. I enjoy the satisfaction of bringing justice to those who have been wronged. And it gives me a reward that was not always present when I was in private pratices.
KING: How many children do you have?
MUELLER: Yes, both are grown.
KING: What do they do?
MUELLER: One's currently got married, has three children, and the other's a social worker.
KING: Two girls?
MUELLER: Two girls.
KING: Tough raising daughters.
MUELLER: It's a joy raising daughters, but it is tough.
KING: Did you like San Francisco?
MUELLER: Yes. Wonderful city.
KING: Wasn't it hard to leave?
KING: And you were in Boston, too, right?
MUELLER: I was, indeed. Yes.
KING: The biggest difference between that job and this, between prosecuting and investigating?
MUELLER: The investigation is the accumulation of the facts in an objective, independent way and then presenting those facts to the person who'll make the decision on what you do with them, whether it be a prosecutor or a policy maker, and -- but what is important is that you do not confuse the roles, in my mind, of the investigator and the prosecutor, although they have to work very closely together. But the decision of the prosecutor as to what you do with the facts, what charges to bring, whether the elements of the crimes are met, is a completely different function than that of the investigator.
KING: Right, and you like both jobs.
MUELLER: I like both jobs, yes.
KING: Now, the difference is -- you're not going to comment on a local case, but in the Kobe Bryant case, we had a sheriff make an arrest and the district attorney is deciding whether to press charges.
Does this ever happen federally?
Does the FBI ever make an arrest, just make an arrest, and then it's up to the prosecutor?
MUELLER: Yes. That kind of situation does occur. I think it's more -- it's far more rare at the federal side because most of the crimes that we investigated are not -- are crimes that you spend a fair amount of time putting the facts together on, so that there's a continuous cooperation of the...
KING: The prosecutor's aware.
KING: Yes, your prosecutor's generally aware, yes. But yes, you can have a situation where an arrest is made, but generally, there's a complaint that goes along with the arrest, and the complaint has to be signed off by a magistrate, which involves the involvement of the prosecutor. So on the federal side, as opposed to local side, there's more integration of the prosecutor and the investigator.
KING: We'll be back with our remaining moments with the director of the FBI, Robert Mueller. Don't go away.
KING: We're back with Robert Mueller, our remaining moments.
Not many directors speak to the American Civil Liberties Union. You have recently.
MUELLER: Yes, I think the dialogue is appropriate and important. And the ACLU is there to protect civil liberties and our freedoms, and it's important to hear from all sides. And it's the FBI for all the people, not just some.
KING: The hunt for Mr. Rudolph, now in custody, finally captured by a local cop,
Was that a failure on the FBI's part?
MUELLER: No, I don't believe so. That's working closely with state and local law enforcement. We -- when we have a fugitive, particularly when that fugitive is on the Top 10, most often, we will find them. But it's not always with just the FBI. It is -- for us to be successful, I keep saying, is that we have to work closely with state and local law enforcement. And here was an exceptionally alert local law enforcement officer that was responsible for apprehending Mr. Rudolph.
KING: Did that -- how do you make the Top 10?
MUELLER: There are a number of factors that go into it, and the -- we move people on and off as they're picked off. But a particularly heinous crime, a fugitive that has not been found elsewhere -- there are a number of factors that go into when we put...
KING: ... make that list?
MUELLER: I think yes, there are -- there's a wider distribution of the photographs. There are a number of now television programs that pick it up and run with it. And the press, the media has been very helpful in the past in assisting us and other law enforcement agencies in arresting those who are fugitives.
KING: Has John Walsh been helpful?
MUELLER: Yes. That program's been very helpful.
KING: Do you like the media, in general?
Have they been fair to you?
MUELLER: Yes. There are always exceptions, but yes, they've been fair to me.
MUELLER: No, I think the media plays a tremendously important role in the United States, and the media's been fair to me. There are always exceptions to the rule.
KING: And they can help a lot in law enforcement.
MUELLER: They can, yes.
KING: You are -- are you a technological -- you reeled off those things earlier, the new things the bureau has, I didn't understand one thing.
MUELLER: I apologize.
KING: No, I'm impressed. Are you technologically -- like, you're into this...
MUELLER: No, I probably know enough to be dangerous. That's what some people would say in my organization.
KING: Are you kind of geeky?
MUELLER: I would hope not, but I do think you have to understand the -- what technology can do in this day and age. But technology can never supplant the innate capabilities of the special agent which is doing the interviewing, doing the investigations. What technology can do is free up that agent to spend more time doing what he or she has done exceptionally well over the years of the bureau's existence. No. 1. and secondly, what technology can do is bring that information into a database structure where it can be analyzed and we can be more predictive about trends or future threats.
KING: Is one of the problems that technology is ahead of the human?
MUELLER: No, I don't -- I don't think that's the case. I do think...
KING: Do they control us.
MUELLER: No, I don't think it controls us. There are -- one has to understand the limits of technology but also understand the benefits of it. And you can't swing one side or the other. It's very important to understand that you can't -- an agent can't sit behind the desk and just spend time on a computer and not get out and develop sources, do interviews, do the investigation in the street...
KING: It can make lazy, then. MUELLER: It could. On the other hand, you should not shun the computer and what it can do for you, particularly in this day and age. So to a certain extent, everybody should be understanding of the benefits but also the down sides of the technology we have.
KING: If this administration is reelected, do you want to stay?
Are you appointed four years?
MUELLER: A term of 10 years.
KING: So you stay, no matter what.
MUELLER: I stay, no matter what, for the term of 10 years.
KING: Thank you so much.
MUELLER: My pleasure. Thank you.
KING: Robert Mueller, the director of the FBI. I'll come back in a moment or two and tell you about tomorrow night. Thanks for joining us, Mr. Mueller, Mr. Director. I am sorry.
We'll be right back.
KING: There's an important hearing tomorrow in the Scott Peterson matter, and we'll cover that and other issues dealing with the law. On Thursday night, we'll devote our entire attention to the president's visit to Africa. Our special guest will be the secretary of state, Colin Powell. We'll also have Bob Woodward of "The Washington Post." Abd on Friday night, an hour with Queen Noor.
We hope you enjoyed Robert Mueller, the director of the FBI. "NEWSNIGHT" is next. Good night.
TO ORDER A VIDEO OF THIS TRANSCRIPT, PLEASE CALL 800-CNN-NEWS OR USE OUR SECURE ONLINE ORDER FORM LOCATED AT www.fdch.com