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WASHINGTON – The American Civil Liberties Union today announced its opposition to President Obama’s request to Congress that it extend FBI Director Robert S. Mueller’s 10-year term for another two years.
The tenure of an FBI director has not been extended since 1969, when Richard M. Nixon was elected president and chose to retain J. Edgar Hoover as director, a position he had held since Attorney General Harlan Fiske Stone appointed him director of the Bureau of Investigation, the predecessor organization to the FBI, in 1924. The reason Congress chose to limit the tenure of the FBI director was borne from this experience, when an unelected government official with access to the most powerful investigative tools a domestic intelligence agency could muster became so powerful presidents and members of Congress feared to cross him. It was only after Hoover’s death in 1972 that the extent of his abuse of these authorities was publicly revealed, to America’s shame and horror.
The following can be attributed to Anthony D. Romero, Executive Director of the ACLU:
“While we appreciate FBI Director Mueller’s willingness to listen to a variety of viewpoints, including those of the ACLU, we oppose President Obama’s two-year term extension for the FBI director.
“FBI Director Robert Mueller should be thanked for his public service during an extraordinarily challenging period in American history. However, the FBI’s significant misuse of its authorities under the USA Patriot Act and the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act, the infiltration of mosques, the abuse of the material witness statute, the FBI surveillance of peaceful groups with no evidence of criminal wrongdoing and the mishandling of the FBI watch list have raised significant civil liberties concerns.
“It was for good reason that Congress chose to limit the tenure of future FBI directors. By setting a 10-year term, Congress sought to protect both the FBI director from undue political influence and our democratic institutions from allowing an unelected official to hold the power to examine the lives of Americans, including political leaders, for longer than is appropriate.
“While we appreciate Director Mueller’s service, Congress should respectfully decline President Obama’s request to extend it.”