FBI chief defends post-9/11 detention policies
WASHINGTON: FBI Director Robert Mueller defended US policies on detention of terror suspects, but told the American Civil Liberties Union on Friday his agency would be judged on how it protects Americans’ civil rights.
“The FBI will be judged not just on how we effectively disrupt and deter terrorism, but also on how we protect the civil liberties and the constitutional rights of all Americans, including those who wish us ill,” Mueller said at the ACLU’s first-ever membership conference in Washington.
He received a standing ovation from members of the civil libertarian group, which has criticized the Bush administration’s Patriot Act for its intrusions on privacy and individual rights in response to the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks.
Mueller agreed with the ACLU’s opposition to the creation of a domestic spy agency, saying the FBI is ideally placed to do the job.
“Proponents of a separate agency see an advantage in separating law enforcement and domestic intelligence,” he said. “The reality is that the two functions are synergistic in the fight against terrorism” and the FBI can do both law enforcement and surveillance.
On the Patriot Act, Mueller told the conference, “This is an area we are going to disagree on what exactly the first Patriot act did ... The benefit of the first Patriot Act is to tear down the walls between the criminal side and the intelligence side, not only within the FBI but also between the FBI and the intelligence committees.”
Hundreds of ACLU members asked written questions of Mueller after his speech, though only a dozen or so could be posed to the director. —Reuters