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CNN LARRY KING LIVE
Interview with FBI Director Robert Mueller
Aired June 22, 2006 - 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, FBI Director Robert Mueller. He is in charge of finding America's most wanted criminals and helping protect the United States from terrorists. But just how safe are we? FBI Director Robert Mueller answers the tough questions next, only on LARRY KING LIVE.
It's a great pleasure to welcome a return visit to LARRY KING LIVE. Robert Mueller, the FBI director who was sworn in as the sixth director of the FBI just one week before 9/11.
There's a new book out, Director Mueller, Ron Suskind's "The One Percent Doctrine." He says that a terror cell came within weeks of striking New York's subway with poison gas. Are you familiar with the book?
What's your comment about this?
ROBERT MUELLER, FBI DIRECTOR: I have not yet had an opportunity to read the book. I'm familiar with the incident that Ron Suskind describes. And there was a threat back then that -- we had information about a possible strike against the subways in New York. We worked with the New York Police Department to address that threat. And went to the public now and I can tell you we had addressed that threat.
MUELLER: Meaning it is no longer a threat.
KING: Do you fear another one tomorrow?
MUELLER: The problem that we have is not what we know, it's what we don't know and I do fear another attack. I know that there are a number of people out there that want to harm us. Terrorists. We actually are looking at a -- a different way of attack that we're concerned about at this point and that's the homegrown terrorists. If you look what's happened recently up in Canada and in London last year, July 7th and July 21st, you will see that they are homegrown terrorists that have come together without any orchestration by bin Laden or somebody else outside the country.
The same was true in Canada and we have disrupted a number of such plots in the United States, and I'm always concerned about those plots.
KING: Is that harder? MUELLER: It is harder. It's harder because you have persons coming together in the United States who may have a desire, initially, to talk about jihad, and then that gravitates to taking action in support of it. We have disrupted cells in Lackawanna, New York, and Portland, Oregon.
In Torrance, California, if you recall last year, a group of individuals came together. It was basically born out of a prison cell in California, and they wanted to shoot up the synagogues, as well as military recruiting stations. And we disrupted that plot so ...
KING: And the other thing is, they know what they want to do tomorrow. They're the wide receiver and you're the safety and the cornerback.
MUELLER: Well, and the problem is, it's not a crime that's been convicted -- or that has been committed, it is a crime that people want to commit. And from the gestation of the idea to the committing the crime is where we have to intercept the individuals. That's what makes it so hard.
KING: Are you surprised there hasn't been more?
MUELLER: Well, I'm not surprised. Let me put it that way, because I think we have taken substantial measures to protect the country. I will say we're not -- we're much safer than we were before September 11th. We're not totally safe, but because we've taken off a number of the leaders of al Qaeda around the world with the CIA and with our counterparts overseas, they don't have the same leadership they had in the past. We took away the sanctuary of Afghanistan.
But if you look at what happened in London the last year, you look at what happened in Canada, we have to be concerned those who espouse the same philosophy.
KING: Senator Hillary Rodham Clinton was on this show last night, and she had an issue she definitely wanted us to raise with you. Watch.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
SEN. HILLARY CLINTON (D), NEW YORK: When the FBI director is here tomorrow, ask him if he agrees with cutting the Homeland Security money to New York City. Just ask him, will you for me?
KING: Oh, that's one of the top things on the list. You're ticked about that, I bet.
CLINTON: You bet. I am so ticked about that. It shows we need a risk-based, threat-based way to distribute money, and they have to keep trying to move the pieces around because they won't put enough money in it to begin with to take care of it.
KING: Do you think it's political? CLINTON: I think part of it is political, yes, absolutely.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MUELLER: Thank you, Senator, for the question. The -- let me start by saying that the allocation of funds are not my department. They're in DHS, so I'm not going to speak of that. I will speak, however, to the threats against New York and Washington and other cities. It continues to be a threat. I don't think anybody disputes that.
I will tell you that Ray Kelly in New York, Chuck Ramsey here in Washington have gone to extraordinary lengths to protect the cities.
KING: Police chiefs.
MUELLER: They're the police chiefs of those two cities -- Bill Bratton out in Los Angeles. In each of these cities, the police chiefs have, since September 11th, if not before, put in place safeguards to assure that we would not have another terrorist attack. And I can tell you that working with the Joint Terrorism Task Forces in those cities, we have prevented attacks, and we continue to work closely together.
KING: But do you disagree with the cutting of funds to the two cities that got hit?
MUELLER: I am not familiar with the calculus that went into the decision as to where the funding should go.
KING: I mean, most people would have expected ...
MUELLER: No, as I saw, I do believe that those cities still present a threat. I think al Qaeda would want to attack Washington and New York. Now, the calculation that was used to allocate the funds, I'm not familiar with, so I'm not going to opine on that.
KING: Is al Qaeda largely represented in the Untied States?
MUELLER: No, I don't think al Qaeda is largely represented in the United States or people that espouse violent extremism. A number, as I've described that we've addressed and disrupted here in the United States. But in terms of al Qaeda's reach into the United States and control over persons, I think it's somewhat -- substantially diminished, let me put it that way, since September 11th.
KING: What do you worry about the most?
MUELLER: Two things. I'll say that I worry about those who we don't know about in the United States, who may have been here for a period of time or were very quickly -- have been here for a period of time and all of the sudden have decided to become radicalized and present a threat that we did not know before.
The second substantial worry is having a weapon on mass destruction in the hands of a terrorist with the intent to utilize a weapon of mass destruction in the United States.
KING: Do you get any phone call late at night, you jump?
KING: That's a logical fear. Is the training well for it?
MUELLER: Yes, we had an operation. We had an exercise, I should say, yesterday, that went through a number of the scenarios. And without getting into details, periodically we train for exactly that eventuality.
KING: You do that at Quantico?
MUELLER: We do it in Quantico, we do it various scenarios around the country.
KING: Our guest is Robert Mueller. He's the director of the FBI. There's lots more to come on this special edition of LARRY KING LIVE. Don't go away.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: My concern is assuring we never again face a September 11th. And to the extent that we get leads from whatever other agency, we follow every lead to undertake attacks such as we saw on September 11th.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I will simply say that there are two sides to the story and that we'll get our chance to make our side in the proper forum and this isn't it.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
KING: We're back with FBI Director Robert Mueller. And before we talk about Congressman Jefferson, this report just in. A local T.V. station in Miami is reporting that federal agents are conducting a terrorism-related investigation in Liberty City. That's an area of the city in Miami. Agents were at the Scott Housing projects in the area of 15th Avenue and Northwest 62nd Street. Several streets were cordoned off. A Miami police department SWAT team assisted federal agents in the search. Armed agents could be seen in the area.
What can you tell us?
MUELLER: I can tell you that we do have an ongoing operation in Miami. We are conducting a number of arrests and searches and we'll have more about that when the operation is concluded, probably tomorrow morning.
KING: Big concern?
MUELLER: I don't want to get too much -- because it's an ongoing operation, I really can't get into details. But whenever we undertake an operation like this, we would not do it without the approval of a judge. We've got search warrants and arrest warrants and the like. And so yes, it's a concern.
KING: You expect something to be said tomorrow?
MUELLER: I expect something to be said tomorrow, and I'd emphasize again that this is an example -- as you will see, this is an example of a close cooperation of ourselves working with state and local law enforcement to address a threat.
KING: Now to Congressman Jefferson. Were you surprised at congressional reaction, both Republican and Democrat, to your invasion, the FBI's invasion of his office?
MUELLER: I would dispute the use of the word invasion.
KING: What word would you use?
MUELLER: Well, I'd use the execution of a validly issued search warrant by a judge, where probable cause was presented, and the search was ordered by way of search warrant. I absolutely understand the concern of Congress. It is a separate branch of government, and while understanding that concern, we have the obligation to carry out our investigation, to do it in a timely fashion. We had made requests for these documents for some time, and the request had been resisted, and we were left with no option but to seek and obtain a search warrant.
KING: Any regrets about the way it was executed, at all? In other words, if you had to do it over?
MUELLER: I think I -- I think we're looking at that. I know the judge is looking at that. There have been motions filed, and we'll wait to see what happens here. But as of now, no.
KING: Is it true as been reported that if the president asked you to return the materials, you would resign?
MUELLER: I'm not going to discuss my conversations with -- internal in the administration.
KING: Would you be surprised if you were asked to return them? That's good. That's a fair question.
MUELLER: I'm not sure I'd agree with that, but no, I don't -- let me just say, I do not expect that we'll be ordered by the court to return the documents. I believe the documents were seized pursuant to a legal court order.
KING: Did you give -- did it bother you at all, did you give it a lot of consideration?
MUELLER: Absolutely. Absolutely. A great deal of thought went into it. And discussion, I might add, not only us but across the street at the Department of Justice. It was not -- this step was not taken without a great deal of forethought and taking the context -- taking into consideration the various equities, but also understanding our obligation to track down and to investigate public corruption wherever it is in the United States.
KING: Now, should we understand -- the FBI is an investigative agency, right? You have nothing to do with the prosecution of an individual, right?
MUELLER: Well, we work with...
KING: Except testify.
MUELLER: Yes, we testify, but we also help prepare the case. But we are an investigative organization, and an intelligence organization.
KING: Given that the FBI says it has video of Jefferson taking $100,000 and found $90,000 more, a lot of people wonder why the congressman hasn't been charged.
MUELLER: And I am not going to talk about a particular investigation and where we are in the investigation.
KING: But it does look funny, though, doesn't it?
MUELLER: I'm not going to -- as I say, I can't -- I really am precluded from commenting on ongoing investigations.
KING: OK, we'll move to another matter.
KING: The Moussaoui section of the 2004 inspector-general's report on the FBI's handling of intelligence information related to the 9/11 attacks finally was released.
KING: Thoughts on the findings.
MUELLER: On the one hand, the findings were that -- I think appropriately, they found that we could have done things better, but they were institutional things. There was no one individual that consciously was not pursuing the appropriate course of action, and there were disagreements between headquarters and the field. But it appropriately pointed out things that we needed to do better in the FBI in order to protect against terrorist attacks. And we have taken each of these suggestions from the IG's report and followed up on those suggestions, starting the day after September 11th. And so, I think it was an accurate report, and we have taken the actions that are necessary to assure that the findings of areas in which we could have done better have been addressed.
KING: Were you surprised he didn't get the death penalty?
MUELLER: I think it was a very difficult case and I'm not one to second guess a jury because I tend to think that jurors do what they think is right. They've got justice in their minds and while there may be a disagreement, I always believe that the jurors try to do that which each of them individual thinks is right.
KING: Do you have personal thoughts on capital punishment?
MUELLER: I think an appropriate case -- and you asked me this before, I might add. And within the context ...
KING: Maybe you've changed.
MUELLER: No, I've not changed. Where it is absolutely clear the person is guilty then I believe there is an appropriate place for the death penalty.
KING: Toughest part of this job?
MUELLER: It's like your job. It's tremendously interesting. You have frustrations -- your toughest part is the frustrations. I tend to be impatient. And sometimes that stands me in good stead, other times it does not and I'm impatient often that we have not made more progress in the areas that we need to make progress. There is -- it's not like being in a private industry where you can say, OK, I want to do this tomorrow and you can move and get it done.
You're working within a batch of government that requires checks and balances in the sense of if your appropriations come from Congress. It goes through OMB and the like and the decisions you make take a while to execute. And if there's any frustration it's that I can't do more faster.
KING: In other words, you'd like it done yesterday.
MUELLER: I'd like it done yesterday. And now I tell you, the great thing about the job is the people. The men and women of the FBI. Whatever their capacity, just tremendous. And I go around the country and I ask people what they think. And almost to a one (ph) there is such tremendous respect for the Bureau and what it's accomplished over the 98 years of its existence. It's an honor to be a part of the organization.
KING: But it's gone through a bad period.
MUELLER: Every organization does. But it bounces back and there is not one of us, I will tell you, who when asked what we do and are able to say, we are with the FBI who don't feel an immense sense of pride at being part of this organization.
KING: We'll be right back with Director Mueller. Don't go away.
KING: We're back with Director Mueller. Warren Steed Jeffs is the leader of a polygamist sect known as the Fundamentalist Latter-Day Saints. Why is he on the 10 most wanted?
MUELLER: Well, generally, we put individuals on the 10 most wanted when we want the help of the public in arresting the person. And Mr. Jeffs has been charged with basically offenses relating to child molestation. And it was the belief of the prosecutors that it would be very helpful to utilize the top 10 list to engage the public in attempting to identify where he is and detain him, arrest him.
As you're probably aware, the top 10 list has been around since 1950. We've had -- if my numbers serve me correctly, we've had I think something like 482 persons that had been on the top 10 list, and of those 482, we have ultimately succeeded in arresting 452. And so it has been tremendously successful in bringing to justice those who otherwise might not see the inside of a jail cell.
KING: In the next segment, we'll go down some of those on the list. Are you the decider? Are you the one that says, put them on?
MUELLER: Ultimately, I have persons that look at that and evaluate. I mean, a person could be on the list on a day, often...
KING: And get caught.
MUELLER: And get caught.
KING: Women ever on the list?
MUELLER: Yes. Absolutely.
KING: Last month, former CIA analyst and former Homeland Security official John Gannon testified before the Senate Judiciary Committee -- I want to get this right -- he had some sharp questions about whether the FBI is up to taking the lead role in domestic intelligence. Let's listen, and then we'll get your response.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
JOHN GANNON, FORMER CIA ANALYST: The FBI is unacceptably behind, however, in developing a national intelligence collection and analytic capability. The bureau has not structured an intelligence collections requirements process that legitimate consumers can readily tap, and it is not to my knowledge producing on any predictable basis authoritative assessments of the terrorist threat to the homeland.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
KING: Director Mueller?
MUELLER: I think Mr. Gannon, who has an extensive history in the intelligence community, is somewhat out of touch of where we are and what we're doing and what we have done. I'm going to tell you, the number two person in the national security branch is a very highly respected CIA analyst. We have built up -- doubled the number of analysts, doubled the number of linguists that we have in the bureau. We've produced something like 20,000 intelligence reports since 2001. We have developed the database structure that we need to be able to -- and the search tools to be able to pull the pieces and bits of information together. We are working closely and cooperatively with the CIA, NSA. And I would welcome Mr. Gannon to come down. We can give him some -- more information about how far we have come since September 11th.
KING: Were you surprised when he said it?
MUELLER: I was, because I -- I have no problems with taking criticism, accepting criticism and learning from criticism, but I do and would expect that those who are making those criticisms would be up to date on what we're doing. And it's just not -- I will say that we've got a ways to go. I'm not going to say that we are where we need to be. It's a continuing -- continuous iterative process. But we have made substantial strides since September 11th. And the testimony to that is the fact that we have not had a terrorist attack in this period of time and that we have disrupted any number of terrorist cells in the United States.
KING: By the way, have you disrupted a lot we've never heard of?
KING: A lot?
MUELLER: Mostly overseas. I would say a lot, yes.
KING: Should he have come to see you first?
MUELLER: I do believe it would be helpful for him to talk to our people and get some background in terms of what we have done, what we're doing, how we're approaching the intelligence mission. And a way that enables us to know what we don't know.
I would also that people tend to discount the work that we've done in the past, utilizing intelligence, if you look at what we've done on organized crime. We've utilized intelligence to identify the members and then to prosecute, gather more intelligence and go up the line to the (inaudible) and the like.
So using intelligence is not alien to the FBI. We've used it over the years. What we had to do is expand on that foundation.
KING: You told Congress it will take some time before we have a terrorist watch list.
MUELLER: And I'm happy to explain that. We have a watch list now. The watch list is a combined watch list. And we've had it in place at least a couple of years. Persons -- by reason of information that comes to our attention, persons are put on the watch list. We have a continuous vetting process to make certain that the persons on this watch list should be on the watch list. And that is a continuous process. To go through and go through every one of those names and the agencies that has the pieces of information and will result in the person getting on the watch list, will take a substantial period of time.
We have a consolidated watch list. We have a terrorist screening center. We -- any police officer who stops somebody in a car, a suspicious person, can immediately determine whether or not that person is on the terrorists watch list and be put into our terrorist screening center. It's one of the things we have done since September 11th that has made us safer than we were on September 10th.
KING: We've heard a lot, Director Mueller, about lack of up-to- date computer capabilities. Where are we on that area?
MUELLER: That's an area in which we have made substantial strides. And after September 11th, we put in something like 30,000 new computers. We put in a local area network, wide area networks, upgraded our infrastructure. We have built a -- what we call an investigative data warehouse with millions and millions of documents, principally relating to terrorism and the search tools to be able to discern the intelligence and do the assessments that (inaudible) referred to based on that.
We stumbled. In terms of putting into place a new case tracking system, we've got a new contractor and I will tell you, we stumbled -- this goes to my impatience. I drove people hard to get in the new software package. I drove them too hard. We should have done more in terms of assuring that it would work when we got done. And I'm not going to make the same mistake again.
KING: We'll be right back with Robert Mueller, the director of the FBI. Don't go away.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
GEORGE W. BUSH, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: It is my honor to nominate Robert S. Mueller of California to become the director of the Federal Bureau of Investigation. When confirmed, Mr. Mueller will be only the sixth person to hold this position. He assumes great responsibilities. He was chosen with great care and he has my full confidence.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
KING: Great pleasure to have a return visit with Director Robert Mueller of the FBI. And we have already discussed briefly the top 10 list, one of the best-known FBI crime-fighting tools. J. Edgar Hoover began it in March of 1950. I'm going to run down some of it. Osama bin Laden is on it, the top 10 list ...
MUELLER: We'll get him.
KING: ...without a mention of 9/11. MUELLER: We'll get him.
KING: Don't have to mention 9/11 with Osama?
KING: Are you involved in getting him?
KING: Why has it been so hard?
MUELLER: It's difficult. As people have said, the location is someplace between Afghanistan and Pakistan, along the border there. It's a very, very, very difficult terrain, and one person can hide for an extensive period of time.
I will tell you that Eric Rudolph here in the United States was a fugitive for far too long, from our perspective, but where you have territory like that, regardless of the resources you put in, it can often be very difficult. But we -- if you look at our success rate on that top 10 wanted list, it is very, very high, and my expectation is we will get him.
KING: We've discussed Mr. Jeffs, the polygamist. That's an unusual one, isn't it?
MUELLER: In what sense?
KING: That he's a polygamist.
MUELLER: Well, I don't know how exactly to answer the question. I'm not certain how many we've had on the top 10 list if that's what you're getting at. But the fact of the matter is, if we need the help of the public to find and detain somebody, the top 10 list is one of the best things that we can utilize.
KING: Richard Steve Goldberg, wanted for sexual exploitation of children -- when you have a list like this, do you get a lot of -- there he is. Do you get a lot of leads?
MUELLER: Yes, and as I say, we'll have cases that the person is on the 10 most wanted list, it will be shown on television, and we'll pick up somebody within a matter of days. And it will come from leads, somebody who has seen it on television.
It's like "America's Most Wanted" which I believe does a tremendous service as well. The American public -- to find persons that are trying to hide, the American public is our best, best partner. And that's why the top 10 list is so successful, which is why we put people on there.
KING: And we're helping a little. We're showing their pictures now.
MUELLER: Yes, absolutely. KING: James J. Bulger, wanted for murder, racketeering and money laundering. Are you on top of all these?
KING: You are.
KING: Any good leads on him?
MUELLER: We've had some.
KING: Glen Stewart Godwin, wanted for murder and prison escape.
KING: You know them all?
MUELLER: I knew most of them. There may be some that perhaps I don't know all the details, but, yes, I know most of them.
KING: Does one come off like maybe tomorrow?
MUELLER: When we -- when that person is behind bars, yes.
KING: Diego Leon Montoya Sanchez is wanted for cocaine manufacturing and distribution. What kind of crime does it take to be on it? What's the ...
MUELLER: Well, there's a number of factors and variables that go in there. The seriousness of the crime may well be one of the factors, but the other factor is to what extent can putting a person on the top 10 list help us find that person? That's a factor as well.
KING: Robert William Fisher, wanted for unlawful flight to avoid prosecution for murder and arson.
When you get very close to one of these, and I imagine they keep you constantly posted, that must be for someone who has let's get it done yesterday, a key night?
MUELLER: And we are very happy when I get the report saying that we have arrested somebody off the top 10 list.
KING: Jorge Alberto Lopez-Orozco, wanted for unlawful flight to avoid prosecution for murder. These are of course, (inaudible) very, very serious.
MUELLER: They're very serious. And what happens is -- these are basically charged in state court. In other words, it's unlawful flight to avoid prosecution, what we call UFAP. And we work with the state authorities. You can have a murder of a policeman, for instance, and the state doesn't have the capability of going nationwide or worldwide now to publicize the fact that this person is responsible for killing a police officer. And consequently, a number of these that you'll see on there are us working with state and local law enforcement to find a -- very often a very dangerous and armed person who has committed an atrocious crime, but will be prosecuted by the state.
KING: The office of the FBI doesn't have get involved if it just stays in the state, right?
MUELLER: Well, we can. In other words, often the state will come to us and say, we've got this person we're trying to find. We want you to utilize the federal resources to help us find him. And we will utilize our resources, and one of those resources we have is the 10 most wanted list.
KING: How many requests does your lab get every day?
MUELLER: Oh, my goodness. Hundreds, if not thousands.
KING: Donald Eugene Webb, wanted for unlawful flight to avoid prosecution for murder and attempted burglary.
KING: There's him. And finally...
MUELLER: We would hope that we would get a number of leads...
KING: Well, we're showing him and millions of people are watching this.
MUELLER: Thank you.
KING: Victor Manuel Gerena, wanted for bank robbery and unlawful flight.
MUELLER: He is from the Las Coches Nacheteros (ph) in Puerto Rico, who was responsible for a bank robbery up in New Haven a number of years ago.
KING: Crime fighting is still the major aspect of the bureau, right? Catching criminals?
MUELLER: No. We've got three aspects. Catching criminals, catching spies, preventing terrorist attacks.
KING: We'll be right back with Director Mueller. Don't go away.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
KING: They scuffed at you at first, right, the FBI, police?
JOHN WALSH, HOST, AMERICA'S MOST WANTED: Well, actually, the FBI was the only supporter of the show initially, and we had a press conference with Director Sessions. Remember him? The director of the FBI. And he was wonderful. He said, you know, I believe in John Walsh. I don't think this show is going to cross the line. But lots of local cops who have learned to distrust the media over the years said, well, what is this? Reality television show? What are they going to do? But you know what, now we're universally accepted by law enforcement.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
SEN. CHARLES SCHUMER, (D) NEW YORK: Would you have legal or constitutional concerns about the use of warantless physical searches in the United States.
SCHUMER: To your knowledge, has the FBI conducted any such searches?
SCHUMER: Is it possible such searches could have been conducted by FBI agents during your tenure without your knowledge?
MUELLER: It's possible, but I would doubt it.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
KING: Want to comment on that? Was that pretty rough for you?
MUELLER: That wasn't rough. I answered those questions that were put to me by Senator Schumer.
And they are as accurate today as they were when I responded to that questioning.
KING: Going before a Senate committee ...
KING: What's that like?
MUELLER: Well, it's interesting, it's challenging. I spent a lot of the years in and out of courtrooms. It's something like being in a courtroom with more judges than just the one judge you usually see when you're doing the trial. But I believe the Senate and the House and the hearings are trying to do the right thing for the American public and we have an obligation to have an interplay and exchange and I have learned a lot from -- and a number of suggestions have come from Congress that I followed up on in terms of how we can improve the Bureau.
KING: Is it hard not to take some of it personally? MUELLER: Yes but after a period of time you get used to it.
KING: We got an e-mail. We collect e-mails from our Web site. Pretty pointed one from V. Altabello (ph) of Key West, Florida who asks, "Is the FBI collecting data for more spying on Americans?"
MUELLER: Well, we don't collect data to spy on Americans. We collect data in pursuing our investigations, pursuing our intelligence responsibilities to prevent terrorist attacks and we do it according to the legal authorities that are provided in the Constitution and the applicable statutes and in, as well, the attorney general's guidelines.
KING: Are there times ...
MUELLER: I can tell you that it is not our objective to spy on Americans. It is our objective to obtain the intelligence and information that is necessary to do our job.
KING: Are there times, Director Mueller, when there is a thin line between, I want to get this done and protecting civil liberties?
MUELLER: There is always a balance. And we are guided, as I say, in doing that balancing by the necessity of obtaining particular information but ensuring that we obtain that information under the appropriate legal authorities.
KING: The Associated Press recently reported that the FBI and other federal agencies have been buying Americans phone records from private data brokers who may have obtained the information illegally.
MUELLER: It is against our policy to do so. We have protocols in place that indicate that our agents should not -- now has there been one or two instances? Yes, and we've taken action when that has occurred.
KING: Have you tried, some have accused, an end run around the Fourth Amendment.
MUELLER: If we're talking -- not to my knowledge during my tenure.
KING: You were a federal prosecutor.
MUELLER: Yes I was.
KING: And that's just a precious amendment.
MUELLER: It is indeed. It is indeed. And there is a great deal of case law there and it is absolutely essential.
Every one of our agents going through new agents class, for instance, is steeped in the constitutional law with regard to the Fourth Amendment, Fifth Amendment, Sixth Amendment. The guidelines that -- they give us direction on how we are to accomplish what we are to accomplish. When I give my graduation speeches I tend to talk about the necessity of yes, we have to catch a criminal but we have to catch the criminal ensuring that we adhere to the Constitution. If we catch the spy, we have to do that assuring that we accord the spy the civil liberties that are found in the Constitution. It is not enough to do our job. We have to do it within the Constitution, within the applicable statutes and under the attorney general's guidelines.
KING: The FBI's launched a lie detector program, right? For hundreds of state and local police officers assigned to terrorism task force?
MUELLER: And what we have done is -- I think I know the question, in terms of what about this program and what is the role. We, in the wake of Robert Hanson, the FBI agent who was caught, convicted and thrown in his life in prison. There were a number of recommendations were made on how we could upgrade the security of the FBI, one of which utilizing a polygraph program which we had instituted a number of years ago.
When it comes to national security issues, we do give polygraphs on the national security issues. And we have on our joint terrorism task forces, a broad state and local law enforcement to sit shoulder to shoulder with us and they are accorded access to the most sensitive information that we have at the top secret level.
Our persons in the national security arena have to take a polygraph on national security issues. I want to have state and local law enforcement sitting shoulder to shoulder with us. I also have an obligation to protect the security of the information. And so for those individuals that are working side by side with us on joint terrorism task forces, we have talked with a number of the ICP and a number of the police departments in explaining our position. And I think we'll get acceptance of that over a period of time.
KING: Do you trust polygraphs?
MUELLER: I think polygraphs are a useful tool. They are not certainly dispositive.
KING: We'll be right back with more, don't go away.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I am pleased to appear before you to thank you, first of all, for your continued work with the bureau. I appreciate your efforts to ensure our success as we pursue the shared goal of making America safer as well as preserving our civil liberties.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP) KING: How well do you get along with state and local law enforcement? Because there were -- in the past, there was sometimes people in local enforcement, FBI agents and there will be lack of cooperation. Has that changed?
MUELLER: I think it has changed. 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 11th, in the last 10 years.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
KING: Agree? Has it gotten better even since then?
MUELLER: It has gotten better since the last time I appeared here, absolutely. We have -- one of the things that are so important to us is working -- I think we realize in the FBI, and you have to, is that there is no one agency that has the solutions now. With globalization, with the advent of technology, terrorists and crooks can cross borders with impunity, with cell phones, with the Internet, with wire transfers, with jet travel.
And for us to be successful in the future, we have to work closely with our counterparts here in the United States, as well as our counterparts overseas. And it's those relationships and partnerships that will stand us in good stead.
KING: A prison guard and a federal agent died yesterday, gunfight at the Tallahassee Federal Detention Center. Anything you can add?
MUELLER: Only there's a tremendous tragedy and my heart goes out to the wife of Agent Setner (ph) who has killed, an inspector general agent who's doing his job. A tremendously unfortunately occurrence.
KING: How many agents have died since you've taken over.
MUELLER: I can think of two.
KING: It's always rare isn't it?
MUELLER: Two in the line of duty, let me put it that way.
KING: Yes, it's always rare isn't it?
MUELLER: Yes, well hopefully you want it as rare as possible. Around the country day in and day out, police officers are being struck down. I learn about every one of them, and there are too many and it's heartbreaking the impact on a department, certainly on the family when a police officer, a sheriff around the country loses their life in the line of duty.
KING: You get involved -- you want to know about every death?
MUELLER: I do.
KING: Because? MUELLER: I want to know. We generally send letter, occasionally and try to call to share -- the we're all in this together and to share the -- not the emotion, but to let persons know that our thoughts and prayers are with the family and the police department is devastating, or sheriff's office is devastated when that happens.
KING: What's your view on the media and your office? Are you treated well, fairly?
MUELLER: I think we're treated fairly, yes. Occasionally you get frustrated because they do not get it right, and there are always those who you think want to make news as opposed to report news, but by and large, the media is tremendously important to this democracy, and I always would wish that some of the things we do publicize -- if I had one complaint about the media, and that is we're doing a tremendous number of things, whether it be our laboratory or working with state and local law enforcement.
And that we try to tell the media to look at and tell the American public about this. But all too often, the media does not want to look at that. All too often, the media wants to look at the areas in which we are in some conflict. The media wants to look at well, the FBI isn't getting along with the CIA. They're not getting along with another agency. And the fact of the matter is, our relationships have improved dramatically.
KING: How open are you to -- supposing we wanted to go through the lab at Quantico?
KING: We could do a tour and ...
KING: ...have one of your agents drive me through?
MUELLER: Absolutely. Absolutely. Absolutely. I'll send -- our operation in West Virginia where we have the data banks of your fingerprints, databanks of criminal histories in which we are working day in and day out with thousands upon thousands upon thousands of inquiries from state and local law enforcement.
KING: Love to see that.
MUELLER: Absolutely. The invitation goes to you as well as the media in general.
KING: We'll be back with out remaining moments of Director Robert Mueller of the FBI. Don't go away.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: What have you got? UNIDENTIFIED MALE: The parallel columns. The data points are badly damaged.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: What do you mean parallel columns?
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: It could be a flight path.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I'll try finding them over the USGS map.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: It's working.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: That's a flight path. It's headed due west over Nevada. Los Angeles. Coming towards Los Angeles.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
KING: What do you think of "24?"
MUELLER: I have not seen it, I must confess. Although many who I know have seen it and like it.
KING: I'm addicted. You said while that was playing, that you were doing this like this?
MUELLER: Well, we are doing -- I could just get a snippet of it -- yes, we're doing a number of things utilizing that technology, absolutely.
KING: You don't have the time to watch it or...?
MUELLER: ... I don't know about that, I just have not found -- on the occasion, I will tell you that we were doing an exercise yesterday and one of them said, well, you'll see this in "24" and I said, what? I just haven't watched it. And I said how many here in this room? And there might have been 10 or 15 in the room. I said, "How many of you have seen '24'?" And 10 out of 15 have seen "24."
KING: Pretty good.
MUELLER: It's pretty good.
KING: Developing fugitive story. Nationwide manhunt for Darren Roy Mack, the wealthy Reno pawn shop owner suspected of the June 12th federal shooting of his estranged wife. The FBI field office has put Mack on its most wanted list, not the same as the top 10.
KING: What's the story on that?
MUELLER: I think there will be some news on that having been successfully resolved in the near future.
KING: Near future meaning like?
MUELLER: Near future. KING: Weekend?
MUELLER: Perhaps before that.
KING: Perhaps before that? Well, this is Thursday.
MUELLER: That's true.
KING: So, could be tomorrow.
MUELLER: Could be.
KING: Could be tonight.
MUELLER: Could be.
KING: But imminent. Can we say imminent?
MUELLER: You can say imminent, yes.
KING: You took over the office one week before 9/11?
KING: Where were you on 9/11?
MUELLER: In my office.
KING: It was early in the morning.
MUELLER: It was -- yes, I think that -- I can't recall the timing now, not that early in the morning.
KING: How did you...
MUELLER: I was in the office. Somebody came in and said a plane had struck one of the Twin Towers. And you look outside, and it's a beautiful day. You know, it's a beautiful day in New York, you think that somebody was off course. And then the next word we got is the second tower had been hit, and you knew something was awfully wrong.
We go down to -- we have an operations center, and as soon as that occurred, we went down and started responding in our operations center.
KING: And you knew the world had changed.
MUELLER: It had changed.
KING: Thank you, Director.
KING: My pleasure. MUELLER: Thank you.
KING: Director Robert Mueller, director of the FBI.k
Tomorrow night -- we are diversified. We were talking about that before the show. Regis Philbin will be one of our guests tomorrow night. Anderson Cooper, "AC 360," is next.
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