[What follows is excerpted from a long article headlined How Donald Trump Misunderstood the FBI that was published yesterday in The New York Times Magazine:]
President George W Bush [chose] Robert Mueller as the sixth director of the FBI.
Born into a wealthy family, Mueller exemplified ‘‘the tradition of the ‘muscular Christian’ that came out of the English public-school world of the 19th century,’’ Maxwell King, Mueller’s classmate at St Paul’s, the elite New England prep school, told me. Mueller arrived at FBI headquarters with a distinguished military record — he earned a bronze star as a Marine in Vietnam — and years of service as a United States attorney and Justice Department official. It was a week before the Sept 11 attacks, and he was inheriting an agency ill suited for the mission that would soon loom enormously before it. Richard A Clarke, the White House counterterrorism czar under Clinton and Bush, later wrote that [Louis] Freeh’s FBI had not done enough to seek out foreign terrorists. Clarke also wrote that Freeh’s counterterror chief, Dale Watson, had told him: ‘‘We have to smash the FBI into bits and rebuild it.’’
Mueller had already earned the respect of the FBI rank and file during his tenure as chief of the criminal division of the Justice Department. When he started work at the Justice Department in 1990, the FBI had been trying and failing for two years to solve the bombing of Pan Am Flight 103 over Lockerbie, Scotland. ‘‘The FBI was not set up to deal with a major investigation like this,’’ Richard Marquise, an FBI intelligence analyst who became the leader of the Lockerbie investigation under Mueller, said in an FBI oral history. ‘‘I blame the institution.’’
Mueller used his power under law to obliterate the FBI’s byzantine flow charts of authority in the case. ‘‘We literally cut out the chains of command,’’ Marquise said. ‘‘We brought in the CIA. We brought the Scots. We brought MI5 to Washington. And we sat down and we said: ‘We need to change the way we’re doing business.... We need to start sharing information.’ ’’ It was a tip from the Scots that put Marquise on the trail of the eventual suspect: one of Col Muammar el-Qaddafi’s intelligence officers, whose cover was security chief for the Libyan state airlines. Qaddafi’s spy, Abdel Basset Ali al-Megrahi, was indicted in 1991. It took until the turn of the 21st century, but he was convicted.
It meant a great deal to Mueller, in the Lockerbie case, that the evidence the FBI produced be deployed as evidence in court, not justification for war. In a speech he gave at Stanford University in 2002, concerning the nation’s newest threat, he spoke of ‘‘the balance we must strike to protect our national security and our civil liberties as we address the threat of terrorism.’’ He concluded: ‘‘We will be judged by history, not just on how we disrupt and deter terrorism, but also on how we protect the civil liberties and the constitutional rights of all Americans, including those Americans who wish us ill. We must do both of these things, and we must do them exceptionally well.’’