(1)How The G-Man Got His Groove (2)Chernobyl 25 Years Later


How The G-Man Got His Groove
Inside Bob Mueller's 10-year campaign to fix the FBI
Thursday, May. 12, 2011
By Barton Gellman

This story originally appeared in the May 9, 2011, issue of TIME. On May 12, the White House announced that President Obama will seek a two-year extension of Mueller's 10-year term as FBI director, which is set to expire in September.

FBI Director Bob Mueller glanced at the black chronograph he wears Marine-style, the face inside his wrist. It was 7:38 a.m. Not quite time. He reviewed his inbox. Drummed a four-fingered staccato on the desk. Consulted his wrist again: 7:39.

Mueller had already slashed through the red leather briefing book that headquarters dispatched to his Georgetown home before dawn. The title embossed on the cover was simply "Director," above the words "Top Secret/Contains Codeword Material." Yellow highlights flagged the points Mueller wanted to probe.

An al-Qaeda affiliate was evading surveillance with a new covert channel of communication. Cyberintruders had breached a defense contractor's firewall. The Tucson, Ariz., shooting of Representative Gabrielle Giffords had become a grotesque recruiting tool for antigovernment extremists. Turmoil in Bahrain had left FBI agents unable to serve a fugitive warrant. Egypt's meltdown was causing trouble for a valuable counterintelligence source. One of three deputy U.S. marshals shot in West Virginia had succumbed to his wounds. Two more federal officers, from Immigration and Customs Enforcement, had been ambushed in northern Mexico, one fatally. Mexican authorities wanted access to FBI files, and Mueller had to decide how much to share.

Something more pressing was on Mueller's mind on Feb. 17, when TIME shadowed him through much of his day. The director had locked his sights on Lubbock, Texas, and Spokane, Wash., where his agents were closing in on a pair of unrelated terrorist plots. Mueller stood up abruptly at 7:40, five minutes ahead of schedule, and swept into conference room 7074. His division chiefs had learned by now, some of them the hard way, to assemble early. More analysts beamed in from the National Counterterrorism Center in suburban Virginia, linked by secure video to 61-in. plasma displays on three walls. Said Mueller: "We'll spend 15, 20 minutes going through what happened overnight."

As he nears the end of a 10-year term, Mueller, 66, is easily the longest-serving of his peers atop the national-security establishment. His anonymity in the role is almost a parlor trick. He remade the bureau in his image, pushed out the old guard and hired more than half its present cohort. Behind the scenes, he fought historic battles with the White House, twice compelling George W. Bush to change course under threat that Mueller would resign. Yet he is so careful to dodge the spotlight, so rigorously bland when caught onstage, that he could drink unrecognized at any bar in America.

It is a revelation to see Mueller in his own domain. There, he is a charismatic figure, level-voiced and seldom profane, who keeps his staff off balance with deadpan remarks that may or may not be jokes. He played ice hockey long past college, until his knees gave out, and he runs operations briefs as a contact sport. "I tend to be impatient," Mueller says. "Sometimes that's good. Sometimes that is not good. A certain degree of impatience is necessary to get decisions made and implemented and to move a group of individuals in a certain way."

Mueller inherited 56 field offices, each a distant fiefdom run by a special agent in charge. Old-school SACs (pronounced S-A-C, never sack) measured progress by arrests, kept their files to themselves and lived by the motto "Real agents don't type." They were accountable to no one but the director, and even those chains were loose.

Then came the searing failure of Sept. 11, 2001, seven days after Mueller's swearing-in. It was the worst hour in the FBI's 93-year history. "You talk about a learning curve," recalls Art Cummings, who worked alongside him. "He's barely been on the job, hasn't met many of his senior executives" and suddenly is faced with "the 'oh, crap' moments." Field offices in Phoenix and Minneapolis had important clues to the plot long before the attacks. Neither knew what the other knew, and no one put the pieces together. Critics began to say the FBI was irreparably broken, ill equipped to collect intelligence and disinclined to share it anyway. The labor force — heavily white and male, with a blue collar culture that prized physical courage over book smarts — lacked the language and technical skills to adapt. Other agencies took their lumps after 9/11, not least the CIA, but the FBI was on the chopping block when Congress began carving up government agencies.

To avoid dismemberment, Mueller made bold promises to cure what ailed the FBI from within — rebuilding it into a modern, intelligence-driven enterprise. His departure in September will mark the end of an era and another big change to an Obama team that will soon see Leon Panetta heading to the Pentagon and General David Petraeus succeeding him at the CIA.

Mueller put his money where his mouth was, doubling the agent force on national security and tripling the number of analysts. The FBI built a trip-wire system of early warnings that pre-empted some serious plots. But even a decade's reform has not changed J. Edgar Hoover's gangbusters into a 21st century counterterrorist force. The FBI lumps together in one superagency domestic law-enforcement tasks (such as fighting kidnapping, bank fraud and organized crime) with domestic intelligence roles (such as countering terror and espionage plots). But nearly every U.S. ally — the U.K., for instance, with Scotland Yard and MI5 — keeps them separate. It is far from clear that any agency can do a good job at both. "The problem with the FBI is that it has a fundamental institutional culture that does not mesh well with the needs of intelligence," says Judge Richard Posner of the Seventh Circuit Court of Appeals. Police do their work in a world of known crimes and criminals, while an intelligence service must devote years to "looking assiduously and competently for something that may not exist."

Tearing down old folkways in an FBI grown sclerotic with tradition called for a shift of power from autonomous field offices to the big blue chair in the director's conference room. That suited Mueller fine. He was an outstanding Marine officer candidate in 1966, author Garrett Graff reports in The Threat Matrix, but he earned a D for delegation. He is not a man who suffers attempts to chauffeur him around a briefing. "He's a perpetual-motion machine," says Thomas J. Harrington, who holds the FBI's third highest post, associate deputy director. "He likes to drive the thing the whole time." Among Mueller's disconcerting habits is a gesture with a cupped right hand that beckons a briefer to quit talking and slide over his notes. Mueller scans them and skips to cross-examination.

Two men, 1,300 miles apart, had Mueller's attention when he convened his operations brief on Feb. 17. Khalid Ali-M Aldawsari, a 20-year-old Saudi national, studied chemical engineering at Texas Tech University. Kevin William Harpham, 36, an unemployed Army veteran and avowed white supremacist, lived in a small town near Spokane. On this day the FBI's interest was a closely guarded secret, but indictments to come would allege that the two men were behind separate plots to set off powerful homemade bombs. Until recently, the FBI had not heard of either man.

The Spokane attack struck without warning on Jan. 17. Shortly before the start of Spokane's Martin Luther King Jr. Day parade, city workers found an abandoned backpack along the route. Inside was an explosive core laced with rat poison — an anticoagulant — and surrounded by lead fishing weights. A remote car starter and cell-phone parts were mated in a detonation circuit. The FBI lab in Quantico, Va., recovered DNA, but there was no suspect to test for a match.

Good luck and shoe leather led the FBI to Aldawsari, the Saudi student. One of the trip-wire programs rolled out after 9/11 invited vendors of hazardous goods to report unusual purchases to the feds. Aldawsari went undetected at first as he acquired the ingredients of TNP, an explosive used in World War I artillery shells. Amazon.com filled an order for 3 gal. of concentrated sulfuric acid, and the Georgia-based QualiChem Technologies shipped 10 boxes of nitric acid to a FedEx mail drop. Neither reported the buys. Aldawsari also dodged a student-visa review after flunking out of Texas Tech. Only on Feb. 1, when he ordered phenol, his last ingredient, did Aldawsari trip an alarm. Carolina Biological Supply tipped the FBI's Charlotte, N.C., field office, and Con-Way Freight, where Aldawsari planned to take delivery, sent word to the Dallas field office by way of the Lubbock police.

In Mueller's FBI 2.0, Dallas and Charlotte alerted headquarters, which put the leads together and took command.

Mueller had every reason to believe his term as director would end long before this day. He had written his resignation letter on March 12, 2004, and fully expected to deliver it. At issue was a highly classified surveillance program, called Stellar Wind, that President Bush approved after 9/11. For the first time since Congress forbade the practice in 1978, the National Security Agency was spying on domestic communications traffic without a warrant. In the second week of March 2004, Attorney General John Ashcroft's Justice Department ruled that Stellar Wind was illegal. The next day, Ashcroft fell gravely ill with acute pancreatitis. Bush sent two top aides to George Washington University Hospital, where the Attorney General lay in critical condition. White House counsel Alberto Gonzales and chief of staff Andrew Card Jr. asked the semiconscious Ashcroft to sign a document reversing the Justice Department's ruling. Mueller arrived at the hospital just after Card and Gonzales retreated in defeat. His notes described Ashcroft as "feeble, barely articulate."

A close associate says Mueller saw the visit as a "cowardly and outrageous" attempt to take advantage of a sick man. The next afternoon, Mueller learned that Bush had reauthorized Stellar Wind over formal Justice Department objections. That night, he shut down the FBI's part in it and stayed up until 1:30 a.m. composing a letter: "Should the President order the continuation of the FBI's participation in the program, and in the absence of further legal advice from the AG, I would be constrained to resign as Director of the FBI."

Mueller knew the stakes. Acting Attorney General James Comey, together with nearly the whole top cadre at Justice, was also preparing to leave — a meltdown that would have dwarfed Richard Nixon's Saturday Night Massacre.

"I remember it all very well," says Valerie Caproni, then and now the FBI general counsel. "From my perspective, there was a very real likelihood of a collapse of government."

Early on Friday, March 12, Mueller stood with Comey in a foyer outside the Oval Office. "We knew this was our last morning," Comey recalls. "We both were just staring out, looking at the Rose Garden, thinking, This is the last time I'll ever see this." Mueller, Comey says, "wasn't rattled, but I could tell he was just very sad."

In the private dining room abutting the Oval Office, Mueller told Bush one-on-one that he would not carry out the President's order. He offered his resignation. Bush pulled back from the brink, submitting to the Justice Department's legal ruling.

Mueller will not speak of the episode, but when asked, he offers an indirect reply. "There are days that go by, but not many, that you're not balancing national security against civil liberties when you're addressing terrorism," he says. "So they are not easy decisions."

"But there's a place where you draw a black-and-white line and say, 'I can't do that'?" I ask.

"Yes," Mueller replies.

"'If I'm ordered to do that, I can't'?"

"Yes. Yes."

The Stellar Wind confrontation was a rare moment in presidential history, an act of defiance that turned the Commander in Chief in his tracks. "You can only do that once, threaten to resign," says Frances Fragos Townsend, who was then Bush's counterterrorism adviser. "The second time you do it, you're going to be told, 'Accepted.'"

That was not how it turned out for Mueller. He did it again two years later, with much the same result.

On May 18, 2006, with Justice Department backing, Mueller obtained a search warrant for the legislative office of Representative William Jefferson. The seizure of documents there, in a corruption probe, touched off a furious protest on Capitol Hill, where members of both parties accused the Bush Administration of crossing a constitutional line. Separation of powers, Jefferson's lawyers argued, forbade executive intrusion into the protected spaces of the House.

In tense negotiations, aides to Bush instructed the FBI to return Jefferson's papers. Mueller — again joined by top Justice Department officials — passed word that he would leave before handing back evidence obtained by a lawful court order. A standoff ensued. Finally, Bush withdrew the instruction. He asked the FBI to seal Jefferson's papers temporarily while the Congressman made a constitutional challenge. Mueller agreed, the search warrant was upheld, and Jefferson was convicted of bribery, racketeering and money laundering. He remains free pending appeal. (See a photographic farewell to George W. Bush.)

Mueller has never spoken publicly of this episode either. I ask him what issue of principle was at stake.

"I think you've perhaps hit on a —" Mueller says, then stops. "I'm just going to stay away from it. I was close, but I've just got to stay away from it."

When Mueller convened his executive team on Feb. 17, Aldawsari had been under a microscope for two weeks. Four shifts of agents watched the Saudi engineering student 24 hours a day. Vehicles equipped with StingRay transceivers followed him around greater Dallas, recording his cell-phone calls. Agents had slipped secretly into Aldawsari's apartment, armed with a warrant from the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court. They inventoried his chemicals, cloned his computer drive and copied a journal handwritten in Arabic.

Hours before that morning's briefing, Aldawsari had published a blog post alluding to a special celebration of his upcoming 21st birthday. One of his handwritten journal entries, according to a hasty FBI translation, said, "And now, after mastering the English language, learning how to build explosives and continuous planning to target the infidel Americans, it is time for jihad."

Meanwhile, in the Spokane operation, investigators had caught a break. Harpham, a former member of the neo-Nazi National Alliance, was already a suspect, but until now he could not be linked forensically to the bomb plot. Hundreds of agents, canvassing retail purchases that matched bomb components, finally found a debit-card transaction in Harpham's name. The card had been used to buy a quantity of fishing weights at Walmart, the same brand and batch used as shrapnel in the backpack bomb.

As criminal cases, Lubbock and Spokane were well in hand. By now, the FBI of old would have placed the suspects under arrest. Waiting raised the risk that they might slip surveillance and flee or launch an unexpected attack. But Mueller has changed this way of thinking. Moving in too soon would tip the FBI's hand, risking the loss of valuable intelligence. Harpham and Aldawsari looked like classic lone wolves, but investigators could not yet rule out accomplices. Were there opportunities to trace a network of support — financial, operational or ideological — that might lead to plotters of otherwise unrelated attacks?

This new way of thinking "is wickedly important to him," says Tracy Reinhold, the FBI's assistant director for intelligence. "You want to make sure that you gather all the intelligence you can possibly get before you decide to disrupt."

Mueller dug in, detail by granular detail. Did Harpham have offline contacts with his online correspondents in the Vanguard News Network, where he posted messages calling for race war? Had his Army service at Fort Lewis, Wash., overlapped with soldiers there who provoked a scandal with white-supremacist tattoos? What was holding up delivery of Harpham's Army DNA records?

In Lubbock, the team that searched Aldawsari's apartment had been interrupted and did not have time to learn whether he had unpacked his chemicals or whether he had the makings for a high explosive that required no phenol. The hasty retreat also left a gap in electronic surveillance, which nowadays has to include not only phone taps and pinhole cameras but voice-over-Internet, social-network messaging and online-gaming consoles. The Texas plot was unfolding across three e-mail addresses, which sent one another lists of "targets" and "nice targets" and directions for handling TNP. Was it one man? Two? Three?

The search team had to get back in. Mueller had no patience for explanations that agents were doing "pattern-of-life analysis" to find an opening. "You're not getting it done," Mueller said. "What are you going to do about it?" Later that day, the sneak-and-peek squad got it done. Then the investigators solved the mystery of the three e-mail addresses: Aldawsari was using all of them, they concluded, to send notes to himself.

One week later, on Feb. 24, agents placed Aldawsari under arrest. On March 9 the FBI's elite tactical force, the Hostage Rescue Team, moved in on Harpham. Both men were charged with attempted use of a weapon of mass destruction, which the law defines broadly enough to cover any kind of bomb. Both have pleaded not guilty, and their lawyers note they are entitled to a presumption of innocence.

Harpham's plot, if the allegations prove true, turned out to be the more advanced. He had built a powerful bomb and placed it, for maximum carnage, atop a metal bench with a brick wall behind it to focus the blast. The half-complete work of Aldawsari, an Arab whose jihadi aims fit the popular image of a terrorist, received far more public attention. More than a year ago, Mueller raised some eyebrows when he testified that "homegrown and lone-wolf extremists pose an equally serious threat." But that message did not take root in the body politic or even in the national-security establishment. As the FBI chased the twin terrorist plots all through February, President Obama's team heard daily reports about Aldawsari's case but not Harpham's. Some of Mueller's lieutenants marveled at the contrast.

Domestic plots are not routinely included in the President's daily briefing or the interagency threat matrix, an FBI official says, even though "the degree of harm is often greater" than in jihadi terrorist plots.

"Any questions? We've got a couple of minutes," Mueller says to me between meetings, eyes drifting to his wrist. "Actually, about one minute."

Well, sure. Any tough decisions lately? But Mueller is already trotting down the hall and two flights of stairs to the FBI headquarters' innermost sanctum. Minutes later, at 8:30, Attorney General Eric Holder Jr. arrives for his own daily briefing. The two of them disappear into an area labeled "Restricted Access" and "Authorized Personnel Only."

Unlike the White House Situation Room and other pale shadows of a Hollywood command post, the FBI's Strategic Intelligence Operations Center has the flash to live up to its name. It covers just under an acre in a profusion of sealed rooms and internal corridors. An elevated communications pod, walled in glass, overlooks doors with signs like "Ops H" and "Intel Watch 24/7." Large maps compete for wall space with expanses of flat-screen monitors and a bank of clocks labeled with the four U.S. time zones, Greenwich Mean Time and local times in Afghanistan and Iraq.

The SIOC filled to capacity on 9/11 and remained that way through PENTTBOM, the FBI cryptonym for "Pentagon," "Twin Towers" and "Bombing." From a standing start, Mueller ran the largest criminal investigation in FBI history and an equally massive intelligence effort to ward off the next catastrophe. FBI agents swarmed dive shops on a scuba-bomb tip and rural airfields on a crop-duster tip. They traced every long-haul truck that crossed one Canadian border post, some of which had since traveled thousands of miles, when the Energy Department reported a nuclear-weapon signature on a sensor it had started testing that day.

Only in retrospect, says a former Mueller lieutenant, did anyone treat as humorous another hunt that began with a source who overheard talk in a restroom in Ukraine of a stolen warhead. The resulting operation — which came to be known as Ukrainian Urinal — took on added urgency when then governor Tom Ridge called the White House and said, "I've just heard a report about a nuclear device in Pennsylvania." It turned out to be nothing. Ten years later, says Vahid Majidi, who runs the FBI's WMD directorate, the terrorist nuclear scenario is "very exciting, always good to see in a movie setting ... but we haven't seen a credible approach." (See TIME's photo essay "When Lawmakers Attack: Ukrainian Edition.")

On average, since 9/11, the FBI reckons that just over 100,000 terrorism leads each year have come over the transom. Analysts and agents designate them as immediate, priority or routine, but the bureau says every one is covered. Leads from the Stellar Wind program were so vague and voluminous that field agents called them "Pizza Hut cases" — ostensibly suspicious calls that turned out to be takeout food orders. "In a year, we'll do, I don't know, 500 white powders, but you don't know which of those white powders in envelopes may contain something that kills somebody," Mueller said. "And so, yes, is it time-consuming? Absolutely. Do 99% of them wash out? Yes, but it's that other 1% that we've got to be concerned about."

By 2:30 p.m., Mueller was back in the big blue chair at the helm of his conference room. Four big-city special agents in charge, linked in from their offices, faced the director on his wall-size plasma screens.

For the next two hours, Mueller interrogated the SACs in Baltimore, Newark, N.J., Boston and Philadelphia about their records. TIME sat in on the first half hour, before the talk turned classified.

Mueller has made strikingly public events of these reviews: not only could each man see and hear the others, but each was surrounded by subordinates. Few SACs emerge unscathed from the ritual, which is intended to spread Mueller's message quickly through the ranks. Nobody missed the point last year when the SAC in Albany, N.Y. — whose convictions produced half the FBI's average prison term — retired early. Mueller concluded he had been choosing easy targets.

In 2008, when Mueller unveiled the new reviews, he rated only 1 in 7 SACs as "good." Another 20% earned a "fair," and the rest were deemed deficient.

Before the Feb. 17 session, each SAC reported his assessment of top threats and accomplishments in counterterrorism, counterintelligence, cyber- and criminal operations. Baltimore ranked "al-Qaeda/Sunni" extremists as its most lethal threat, while Newark put down "homegrown Sunni extremists" and Boston the "self-radicalized, globally inspired." Philadelphia foresaw emerging threats from foreign spies looking to steal nanotechnology research. Mueller hammers on his SACs to justify these assessments and share the evidence with other agencies. If a field office has been stingy with intelligence-information reports (IIRs), which circulate around the government, former assistant FBI director John Miller says, the SAC will face relentless questioning. Mueller, he says, asks: "Is it that your sources don't have much information ... or is it that you're getting good information and your agents aren't bothering to write up IIRs?"

At that, Miller says, "you see that SAC sit there uncomfortably and try to decide what he wants to admit."

Mueller says later, poker-faced, that "it's probably been a growth experience for some SACs."

That afternoon Mueller directed an opening shot at Philadelphia "because I don't like the Phillies' pitching rotation." A Red Sox fan, Mueller has been known to consult Major League Baseball's At Bat app on his iPad during lunch.

Harrington, the FBI's No. 3, says softly, "Get ready." Mueller had spent hours reviewing line graphs and pie charts of results against resources for each field office. His jokes were often a barometer of mood.

SAC George Venizelos described a gang-control initiative in Camden, N.J., across the Delaware River from Philadelphia. Already there had been 58 arrests. Mueller's left eyebrow climbed.

"How are you measuring positive community impact?" he asked. Venizelos kicked the question to John Cosenza, his No. 2. "Initially, when you go in and make arrests, you can create more crime — territorial, people coming in and trying to take over," Cosenza said. "Hopefully, some of the crime statistics will get lower."

Hopefully. Mueller turned away. Boston (gang violence) and Baltimore (armed robbery) sounded much the same.

Michael Ward in Newark had results. He had come to the aid of local police when carjackings spiked 2,000% in Newark and Trenton, N.J., and his measure of impact was "a reduction in the carjacking rate." He threw 30 to 40 agents at the problem and brought the numbers back down.

Mueller's fingers drummed. He shifted in his seat. Carjackings? Weeks later, Ward says he doesn't know "how it registered at headquarters," but he defends his work as a model of "how you're supposed to deal with emerging threats." Mueller, looking back, says, "I learned a lot that day in terms of what was happening in Trenton." It is good to lend a hand to local police, but carjacking "is not one of the top priorities." Mueller says he is still "trying to drive out ... the usual metric of arrests, indictments and convictions by numbers."

In the moment, there was nothing Mueller wanted to say to Ward with a reporter in the room. Shortly afterward, Mueller looked at his watch, looked at me and looked pointedly at the door.

"O.K.," he said. "We're going to turn to national security in 15 seconds."

Mueller's interrogation of SACs, according to David Schlendorf, the FBI's assistant director for resource planning, arose from a frustrated question: "How do I, as one person, pull the levers so that 35,000 people do what I want them to do?" Schlendorf embodies a startling invasion of private-sector managers into Mueller's FBI. He arrived as a special assistant in 2003 with a Harvard MBA and was amazed to discover that he had to walk down the hall to find the Internet. Within five years, he had leapfrogged a generation of agents to the FBI's top executive ranks.

Mueller wants more like him and makes regular recruiting trips to business schools. Their graduates have brought modern office tools to an FBI that still cannot buy a box of pencils without filling out Form FD 369 in quintuplicate — using carbon paper. They also brought exotic business jargon and a four-color FBI strategy map of arrows chasing ovals. Outsiders displaced agents with badges and guns as assistant directors in charge of finance, human resources, information technology and the directorate of weapons of mass destruction.

Mueller spurred the change of guard with an up-or-out rule for field supervisors. Hundreds retired, quit or were removed from their posts, an enormous loss of collective memory. "These were people who knew their craft very well," says Konrad Motyka, president of the FBI Agents Association. "There are certain things the field knows and certain things headquarters knows, and sometimes they don't exactly mesh." The old guard calls Mueller's rising stars the "blue flamers," which is not a compliment. Schlendorf was equally undiplomatic. "To use a loaded term, the legacy employees — sometimes we've had an issue where they might be threatened by the younger, newer generation, more tech-savvy," he says. "So that's been a challenge. But we need to be competing with Google, with GE, for the best talent."

And then there is Mueller himself. Years ago, when he ran the Justice Department's criminal division, subordinates dubbed him Bobby Three Sticks. The Mob-style sobriquet made sport of his Brahmin demeanor and fancy Philadelphia name, Robert Swan Mueller III. Only one old friend, Associate Deputy Attorney General David Margolis, "has ever used that name to my face," Mueller says. In the FBI, it is not pronounced with affection. Michael Mason, who retired in 2007, says Mueller's Princeton diploma and prep-school pedigree gave agents an excuse to oppose reforms: "People tend to look for 'How are you not like me? Why is it O.K. for me to not like this?'"

Mueller's occasional efforts to show a softer side tend to be awkward. One legendary example, recounted fondly by former counsel Chuck Rosenberg, began with a phone call before 6 a.m. at the office.

"Yes, sir," Rosenberg said.

"How are you?" Mueller asked.


"Everything O.K.?"

"Yes, sir. Everything's fine. Do you need anything?"

"Nope," Mueller said.

The line went dead, and the phone rang next door. A moment later, Mueller's special assistant told Rosenberg, "I just got the strangest call from the director."

After 9/11, Bush summoned Mueller and Ashcroft to brief him daily in the Oval Office. He scaled back eventually to twice a week. Obama convenes a weekly Terror Tuesday to review threats and operations with a large cast of Cabinet and agency chiefs. Mueller likes to use visual aids. When he met President-elect Obama in Chicago, he and Michael Leiter, director of the National Counterterrorism Center, brought an al-Qaeda map so large they call it the "horse blanket." But Mueller drew the line at showing Obama a staff-produced model of the underwear bomb — explosives stuffed into the crotch — that Umar Farouk Abdulmutallab wore aboard a flight to Detroit in the failed Christmas bombing attempt of 2009. "Not a good idea," he said. Instead he showed a video clip of the basketball-size hole blown through the fuselage of a test aircraft when FBI technicians set off a replica of Abdulmutallab's bomb. Says Holder of Mueller: "The President relies on him, has faith in him, is anxious to hear from him."

Under Obama as under Bush, many of the tough calls fall to Mueller. One of the toughest began on Sept. 9, 2009, when a shuttle-bus driver named Najibullah Zazi set out from Denver to New York City. A multiagency intelligence effort had identified him as an al-Qaeda operative on his way to a suicide bombing, but crucial details were unknown. He was thought to be carrying detonators and the explosive TATP. The case, Holder says, "literally developed as Zazi was driving across the country. How far are you going to let him go? If the concern is that he's bringing explosive material in the car, how do you deal with that?" Surveillance, hampered by weather, could not be guaranteed.

As Zazi neared the Hudson River, Leiter says, the question was, "Do we let him go into New York City? You're approaching the Sept. 11 anniversary. You know he's talking to al-Qaeda. You don't know who he's going to meet, what he's going to do."

The stakes were high for New York, and for Mueller, if Zazi decided to set off his charges on the George Washington Bridge. Arresting him would prevent a disaster like that, but Mueller held back, intent on identifying confederates. He arranged for ruses to search Zazi's rental car at a fake drug-screening checkpoint and then an impoundment lot, where traffic police towed it on a trumped-up infraction. Only when New York City detectives spooked Zazi did Mueller's agents move in.

By then, the FBI and National Security Agency had enough in hand to unravel the plot. Zazi and two high school friends, all trained in Pakistan, planned to detonate backpack bombs simultaneously aboard subway trains in Times Square and Grand Central Station. Threats to prosecute his parents for immigration fraud induced Zazi to give up the details. He pleaded guilty to conspiracy to use a weapon of mass destruction and two other charges. Sentencing is expected in June.

The threat stream since 9/11 has brought perhaps a dozen plots as grave and near at hand as Zazi's. It is no small victory that all of them failed, even if a balky shoe-bomb fuse and other gifts of fortune played their roles. But the FBI has expended great effort too against less obvious threats, using controversial undercover tools. In case after case, agents or informants have fanned loose talk of violence by angry Muslims into FBI-led plots — recruiting participants, selecting targets, teaching tradecraft, providing cash or matériel and then swooping in with arrests. The Liberty City Seven in Miami were said to be conspiring to destroy the Willis (then Sears) Tower, but the consensus among trial observers was that they "probably couldn't have found their way to Chicago," as Posner puts it with only mild hyperbole. Six men aroused suspicion when they tried to copy a video about jihad. An informant, recruited under threat of deportation, offered weapons and drove them on surveillance routes, culminating in charges that they planned an attack on New Jersey's Fort Dix. Thus far, prosecutors have fought off entrapment defenses, but the Mutt and Jeff–style cases raise doubts about the FBI's priorities. "If we don't, someone else may very well help them," says David Kris, who oversaw national-security cases at Justice. "We can't afford to ignore them."

The director's unmarked Gulfstream jet rolled into a fast descent, corkscrewing to avoid potential ground fire. The U.S. embassy in Yemen had come under mortar attack three days earlier, on April 6, 2008, and the threat stream in Sana'a was surging. Mueller turned to Ed McCormack, chief of his security detail, shortly after landing. "Got a spare set of handcuffs?" he asked. McCormack obliged with a well-scuffed pair that had seen hard use on bank robbers in his street-agent days. Mueller stuffed them under his belt and set off for the presidential palace.

Some hours later, Mueller's meeting with President Ali Abdullah Saleh was ending badly. The FBI chief pressed for the extradition of convicted al-Qaeda terrorist Jamal al-Badawi, who kept making unlikely escapes from Yemeni prison. Saleh dodged. He would need an act of parliament. He had personally obtained al-Badawi's promise to give up terrorism.

Mueller was unmoved. Saleh turned to bluster. "He flared his arms, raised his voice, made it clear this was his country," recalls Carlos Fernandez, then the FBI's legal attaché in Yemen. The President stood and escorted his visitors to the door, past a gold-plated Kalashnikov rifle sent by Saddam Hussein. Mueller stopped and reached for the small of his back. He pulled out the 10-oz. Peerless cuffs and plunked them into Saleh's hand. "Next time I'm here, I'd like to see these on Mr. Badawi," Mueller said. Saleh's eyes widened as the translator caught up. Then Mueller cracked a smile and clapped the smaller man on the shoulder. Saleh threw back his head and laughed. (See pictures of clashes in Yemem.)

The encounter highlighted a remarkable expansion of the FBI's global role. The bureau has more legal attachés — 60 full-time overseas posts in countries ranging from Saudi Arabia to Sierra Leone — than domestic field offices. Mueller has traveled to 40 countries in 110 visits overseas.

To admirers, the Yemen trip showed off Mueller as an effective diplomat. "Saleh is very much a man's man in his own mind," says former U.S. ambassador Stephen Seche, who witnessed the stunt. "Mueller's strategy was to play to this element of his character." Saleh stood firm on extradition, but he gave Mueller a quiet guarantee "that Badawi was going to stay behind bars forever," Fernandez says.

But the episode could equally be said to show the limits of Mueller's reach. This was his ninth unsuccessful attempt to persuade Saleh to extradite a man on the FBI's most-wanted-terrorists list. Two months ago, Saleh released several dozen al-Qaeda fighters from jail. The FBI will not say whether it knows al-Badawi's whereabouts. Meanwhile, Saleh himself is fighting for survival in Yemen and may soon be heading out the door.

Mueller has had his share of failures, including missteps in the lead-up to the Fort Hood, Texas, shooting, disregarded warnings about the abuse of national-security letters and an epochal investigation of the 2001 anthrax letters that concentrated for years on the wrong man. Not least of the black marks is the serially disastrous effort to build a modern information system for the FBI. Mueller struggled throughout his term to replace what the Government Accountability Office called an "antiquated, paper-based, legacy system" for managing intelligence and case files. The first attempt, Virtual Case File, spent $104 million over three years on a project so badly broken that it had to be discarded altogether. He has promised delivery of the replacement project, called Sentinel, nearly every year since 2006. Mueller's most recent projection calls for "full operability" in September, the month he steps down.

Yet even Glenn Fine, who dogged the FBI for 10 years as the Justice Department inspector general, gave a watchdog's grudging endorsement. "They haven't done everything perfectly. They've made mistakes," he says. "By and large, he has moved the FBI in the right direction."

Mueller's goal of an agile, intelligence-driven service may spill the banks of plausible ambition, but there is not much doubt that important change is under way. "Our organization historically has been criticized for collecting a lot and either not doing anything with it or not sharing it," says Shawn Henry, who oversees the criminal and cyber divisions. When he sees valuable intelligence shared with other agencies, "it astounds me because I still expect some reluctance," but field agents increasingly accept that "if I can't action this, somebody else might be able to action it. If it's sitting in my drawer, or worse, sitting in my head, shame on me."

Mueller maintains that the FBI's police role complements intelligence gathering. "Because of the cooperation we get in just about every case, because of plea bargains, we get a substantial amount of intelligence," he says. The hardened terrorists of myth, he says, "are like everybody else. There are very few that have not in some way cooperated for some period of time."

Most people inside the bureau believe that the blown opportunities to head off 9/11 would not recur today. Even among the FBI's doubters, few disagree that the bureau has come a long way. Comey, whom Mueller has described privately as his preferred successor, says it will take another generation to reach the goals that Mueller set. "I think he has started the turning of the cultural battleship," Comey says. "I don't know if it's a quarter-turn or a half-turn, but the job of the next director is to keep pushing."











 ミュラーは資金を自分の部署に集め、国家保安部の捜査官の数を倍に、分析官の数を3倍にした。重大な陰謀を事前に潰すために、FBIは早期警戒トリップワイヤーシステムを導入した。しかし、10年の改革をもってしてもJ.エドガー・フーバーの軍団を、21世紀の対テロ戦力に変えることはできなかった。FBIは、国内法の執行という任務(誘拐、銀行詐欺、組織犯罪の取り締まりなど)と、国内での情報活動の任務(テロや謀略計画との闘いなど)を1つの特別上級機関に統合している。しかし米国のほとんどの連合国はそれらを分離している。たとえば英国では、ロンドン警視庁とMI5(Military Intelligence5:軍事情報活動第5部・保安部)を別々に設置している。1つの部署が2つの任務を十分にこなすことなど、おそらくできないだろう。FBIの問題は「情報が要求するものに上手く噛み合っていないという組織風土が根本にあることだ」と第7巡回控訴裁判所の判事、リチャード・ポスナーは言う。警察は、既に確実になった犯罪と犯罪者の世界で自分たちの仕事をするのであり、一方情報局は、存在していないかもしれないものを、何年もかけて必死になって的確に捜査しなければならないのだ。






 長官としての自分の任期が、この日がくるずっと以前に終わっていただろうに、とミュラー思うのには、それなりの理由があった。2004年3月12日に辞表をしたため、提出しようと彼は本気で考えていた。コードネーム「恒星風(Stellar Wind)」という高度に機密化された監視プログラムは、9.11後にブッシュ大統領に承認されたのだが、まだ意見が分かれていた。1978年に議会がこのプログラムの実施を禁止して以降、初めて司法長官ジョン・アシュクロフト率いる司法省は、「恒星風」が違法だと判決を下した。翌日、アシュクロフトは激烈な急性膵炎に襲われた。ブッシュは2人の主任補佐官をジョージワシントン大学病院へと送り込んだが、そこには重篤な状態で司法長官が身を横たえていた。大統領法律顧問アルベルト・ゴンザレスと主席補佐官アンドリュー・カルドJr.は、意識が朦朧としたアシュクロフトに司法省の決定を覆すように迫った。ミュラーが病院に着いたのは、カルドとゴンザレスが諦めて引き返した直後だった。ミュラーのメモには、アシュクロフトが「たいそう弱っていて、彼が話す言葉もほとんど聞き取れないほどだった」と書かれている。








ミュラーの場合はそうはならなかった。2年後に同じことをしたが、ほぼ同じ結果を得た。 5月18日、司法省の支持を受け、ミュラーは下院議員ウィリアム・ジェファーソンの議員事務所に対して捜査令状を取った。汚職調査のための書類の押収は、国会での猛烈な抗議を巻き起こし、与野党議員はブッシュ政権が憲法の一線を越えたと非難した。三権分立は、守られるべき場所である国会に行政府が侵犯することを禁じている、とジェファーソンの弁護士は言い立てた。















 ホワイトハウスの危機管理室や他のハリウッドのうす暗い指揮所とは違って、FBIの戦略情報センターはその名に相応しく明るく照らされていた。それは多くの密閉された部屋と内廊下の中の1エーカー分を占めていた。隆起したコミュニケーションポッドはガラス張りで、OPS Hや内部監視24/7のような文字を映し出して、ドアを監視していた。大きな地図と、4つの米国時間帯、グリニッジ標準時、アフガニスタンおよびイラクの現地時間を示す時計一式が、所狭しと壁にかかっていた。








 その日の午後、ミュラーはセッションの皮切りをフィラデルフィアSACをターゲットにして行ったが、理由は「フィラデルフィア・フィリーズのピッチャーのローテーションが気に入らないから」だそうだ。レッドソックスのファンであるミュラーは、昼食時にiPadの野球アプリケーション、Major League at Bat(MLB At Bat)を参考にしているのは有名だった。









 ミュラーは総局に、いつまでも昇進しない現場管理者の交替を急がせた。何百人もの退職、辞職、あるいは降格があり、莫大な集合的記憶を失うことになった。「このような人たちは、自分たちの手仕事をよく知っていました」とFBI捜査官連合会の会長コンラッド・モチカは言う。「現場しか知らないことがあり、本部しか知らないことがあり、それらが互いにきっちりと噛み合っていない時があるのです」古参捜査官はミュラーの新星を「青い炎」と呼ぶが、それは褒め言葉ではなかった。シュレンドルフも同様に外交的手腕はなかった。「『遺産的価値の職員(legacy employees)』などの隠語を使って、新しい世代の、テクノロジーにより精通した若手に、現場捜査官が脅かされるという問題を、我々は抱えています」と彼は言う。「ですからそれは挑戦でした。しかし我々は、最も優秀な人材の争奪戦を、GE(地上機材)を使ってグーグルと闘っていく必要があるのです」

 それから、ミュラー自身のことがある。何年か前、ミュラーが司法省犯罪捜査課を担当している時、部下たちは彼にボビーの3本の棍棒(Bobby Three Sticks)という綽名をつけた。このマフィア的ニックネームは、ミュラーのエリート的態度や、ロバート・スワン・ミュラー三世というお上品でフィラデルフィア風な名前を馬鹿にしたものだ。司法長官次長補デビッド・マルゴリスは、「面と向かってその名前で私を呼んだただ一人の旧友です」とミュラーは言う。FBIでは、そのニックネームは愛情をこめては口にされない。2007年に退職したマイケル・メイソンは次のように言う。ミュラーのプリンストン大学卒業証書やプレパラトリースクールの経歴を、捜査官たちは改革に反対する口実にした。「人は得てして、『自分と違っているところを捜そうとするものです。俺が気に入らないことをなんで我慢しなきゃならないんだ』ということを見つけようとするものです」




 ザジがハドソン川に近づいた時、問題は「奴をニューヨーク市に入らせるのか。9.11から10年目がやってくる。奴はアルカイダと連絡を取っていることはわかっている。奴が誰と会おうとしていて、何をしようとしているのかはわかっていない」ことだった、とライターは言う。 もしザジが自分の任務であるジョージワシントン橋の爆破を遂行するならば、ニューヨークにとっての犠牲は大きかったし、ミュラーにとっての犠牲も大きかった。彼を逮捕すれば、そのような危険は阻止できるだろうが、ミュラーは踏みとどまり、共犯者を特定しようとした。ミュラーは罠をしかけ、ザジのレンタカーを見つけるために偽のドラッグ検閲所を設け、次に交通巡査が違反容疑をデッチ上げてザジのレンタカーを引っ張っていく押収所を設けるように手配した。FBI捜査官が動いたのは、ニューヨーク市の警部がザジを尋問した時だった


 9.11以降の一連の脅威で、ザジの計画のように深刻で差し迫ったものはおよそ10件もあった。それらすべてを未遂に終わらせたことは、たとえ操作が困難な靴爆弾のヒューズや幸運に助けられたのだとしても、決して小さな勝利ではなかった。しかしFBIはさほど明らかではない脅威に対しても、反対も多い極秘手段を駆使しながら、多大な努力を傾けてきた。次々に、怒れるムスリムがテロについて交わすふとした会話が捜査官や情報提供者によって炙り出され、FBIが仕掛けるおとり捜査へと導かれた。それは仲間を募ったり、標的を絞ったり、スパイ活動のノウハウを伝授したり、現金や原料などを餌に誘って、一気に逮捕するというものだった。7人のマイアミ自由都市市民(Liberty City Seven in Miami)は、ウィリス・タワー(旧称シアーズ・タワー)を爆破しようと企てていたと言われたが、彼らは「おそらくシカゴへ向かうことすらできなかっただろう」というのが法廷立会人の間の意見の大勢だった、とポスナーは言うが、その言葉に大した誇張はないようだ。6人の男がハイジャックに関するビデオをコビーしようとして疑惑をもたれた。国外退去で脅されて情報提供者になった男は、6人を武器で誘って、監視ルートへと誘導し、ニュージャージー州フォートディックス基地を攻撃しようと企てた、というクライマックスへともっていく。これまで検察は「罠の抗弁」(おとり捜査の違法性)を寄せ付けなかったが、マットとジェフ風の事件簿は、FBIの最優先事項という主張に疑念を生じさせた。「もし我々がやらなかったら、誰かが彼らを助けることになるでしょう」と司法省で国家保安事件を監視したデビッド・クリスは言う。「無視したままではいられないのです」







 ミュラー自身もそれなりに失敗を繰り返してきた。テキサス州フォートフッド陸軍基地での乱射事件の初動捜査おける失敗、国家安全保障書簡(National-Security Letters:団体などに対して個人情報を提供するように要請する書簡)の乱用に対する無警戒、何年も見当違いの容疑者を捜査していた画期的な2001年炭疽菌手紙事件などだ。少ないとはいえない黒星の数々は、FBIに近代的情報システムを確立しようとして繰り返された涙ぐましい努力だ。情報戦や事件を扱うために、米国政府説明責任局が『時代遅れの、紙媒体に頼った、化石のようなシステム』と呼ぶところのものを変革するために、在任期間を通じてミュラーは奮闘してきた。最初の試みは、仮想事件簿(Virtual Case File)というソフトウェアの開発だったが、3年がかりで総額10,400万ドル使って壮大な失敗に終わり、すべて破棄された。2006年からほぼ毎年、センチネルという代替えプロジェクトの実施をミュラーは約束してきた。彼の任期が終わる9月に、最も新しい現実性のあるミュラー案を出すと標榜している。





Apocalypse Today: Visiting Chernobyl, 25 Years Later
Tuesday, Apr. 26, 2011
By Eben Harrell and James Marson / Prypyat

The long afterlife of the worst nuclear accident in history holds importnt lessons for Japan today.

The 30-km radius around the Chernobyl nuclear power plant is known officially as the "zone of alienation." Here, abandoned cars, tractors, buildings and homes are slowly being devoured by trees and shrubs. A classroom bulletin board not far from Lenin Street, in the center of town, where the plant workers used to live reads, "No return. Farewell, Pripyat, April 28, 1986."

This eerie landscape, about 80 km from Kiev, the capital of Ukraine, is the product of the frenzied evacuation 25 years ago after reactor No. 4 exploded, sending a radioactive plume across the northern hemisphere in history's worst nuclear accident. It also presents a stark vision of the possible future thousands of miles away in Japan's Fukushima prefecture, where emergency workers are in the seventh week of a battle to cool several partially melted reactor cores.

Even now, the effort to contain the Chernobyl accident is far from over: workers in white suits and respirator masks show up for work every day, constructing a new concrete shield to replace a massive sarcophagus built in 1986 that contains the still-radioactive core. The sarcophagus is starting to crumble and could collapse, which could release another radioactive cloud into the air.

Chernobyl offers many lessons about what Princeton University engineering professor Robert Socolow calls the "afterheat" of a nuclear disaster, but it's the generational lesson that's most important. Because some of the isotopes released during a nuclear accident remain radioactive for tens of thousands of years, cleanup is the work not just of first responders but also of their descendants and their descendants' descendants. Asked when the reactor site would again become inhabitable, Ihor Gramotkin, director of the Chernobyl power plant, replies, "At least 20,000 years."

That timescale makes things more than simply frustrating. How can safety measures be tracked over the course of millennia? Already, the financing of cleanup and maintenance operations is proving difficult. On April 19 the Ukrainian government hosted an international donor conference in Kiev to raise money for the new $1.1 billion concrete shelter. The collection fell some $300 million short of that goal, and Kiev is holding out for further pledges. It's sobering to think that the gigantic concrete shield — 110 m high and weighing 29,000 tons — has a woefully brief life when measured in radiological time: it will need to be replaced in a century unless the extremely radio-active core inside can be safely removed and stored somewhere else — itself an expensive and difficult operation. "Neither Ukraine nor the world community has the right to turn its back" on Chernobyl, Ukrainian President Viktor Yanukovych said at the end of the conference. "The accident left a deep wound that we will have to cope with for many years."

Everything to do with radiation moves at an insidiously slow pace. Exposure to radioactive particles increases the risk of cancer, but the level of the danger depends on the dose and the age and health of the affected population. When radiation does kill, it can still take years. Around Chernobyl, no accurate dosage estimates for the most heavily affected population were made until after the breakup of the Soviet Union; as a result, Belarus, Russia and Ukraine all use different techniques for measuring exposure. The International Agency for Research on Cancer has estimated 16,000 cancer deaths in Europe through 2065 that would not have happened but for Chernobyl. Because radiation spread beyond Europe to other areas in the northern hemisphere — Asia, Africa and the Americas — the Union of Concerned Scientists, a nonprofit watchdog, puts the global death toll closer to 27,000.

So far, health experts have been paradoxically more concerned about the millions of people who will not die from the dose of radiation they received but instead live with the torment of not knowing for sure what will happen to them. For them, the toll is psychological. Some 300,000 residents near the power plant were forced to leave, often on short notice. The dual stress of dislocation and uncertainty has, according to several international studies, led to anxiety levels twice as high in exposed populations as in control groups. Such populations are also more likely to report multiple unexplained physical symptoms and subjective poor health, even though most medical experts attribute these symptoms not to radiation but to poverty, alcoholism and stress.

Millions of people in Russia, Ukraine and Belarus who live in areas most affected by fallout receive some form of compensation for the Chernobyl accident, whether they show any symptoms or not. But that may only be making matters worse. A 2005 report by the World Health Organization (WHO) says such compensation schemes have created a culture of dependency and victimhood. In Ukraine, for instance, recipients of benefits are designated poterpily — literally, sufferers. The report says, "The designation of the affected population as victims rather than 'survivors' has led them to perceive themselves as helpless, weak and lacking control over their future."

Two years ago, WHO launched a $2.5 million education program to spread the message that affected populations have little to fear from radiation. "We need to demystify the situation by passing on the message that [affected citizens] can live a normal life," says Dr. Maria Neira, the director of WHO's department of public health and environment. "If you support this population but you don't put the mechanisms in place for their recovery, you create a population that feels assisted, and you block their initiative and ability to move on."

That's an important lesson for Fukushima too, where the plant operator and government have already begun discussing compensation schemes. Preventing a culture of dependency from taking hold there, however, will be easier than reversing the one that's been in place for a quarter-century in Ukraine, Belarus and parts of Russia. On April 17, several hundred of the 500,000 or so "liquidators," who were exposed to high radiation doses during efforts to clean up the Chernobyl site in the weeks following the accident, gathered in central Kiev to protest proposed cuts to benefits. "With our own hands, we protected Ukraine and half of Europe, and now we are suffering," says Yuriy Danilov, 66, a former army officer who took part in the Chernobyl cleanup. In the face of similar protests, past efforts to reform the benefits program have stalled.

Whatever the final tally of the dead, health officials say the effects of Chernobyl pale in comparison with those caused by the economic and social turmoil following the collapse of the Soviet Union. But around Chernobyl, the two cataclysms remain linked, with the environmental devastation preventing the region from benefiting from the relative economic rebound in other parts of the former Soviet Union. Dzvinka Kachur of the U.N.'s Chernobyl Recovery and Development Program says the zoning of radioactive areas around Chernobyl restricts investment from businesses, which simply increases the locals' dependency on benefits.

In the years following Chernobyl, the nuclear industry claimed such an accident could never happen again. As of today, about 80,000 residents near Fukushima have been evacuated from their homes and may never be allowed to return. The afterlife of the Chernobyl accident offers a sobering reminder that the effects of radiation linger for generations. Radiation is, in the words of Princeton engineering professor Socolow, "a fire that cannot be put out."















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