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Mueller assumes the helm of FBI

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Mueller  


WASHINGTON (CNN) -- Robert Mueller took charge of the FBI Tuesday, becoming the sixth director of the United States' top law enforcement agency, which has been plagued by a recent series of blunders.

Justice Department and FBI officials said Mueller was sworn in during an early-morning, private ceremony in Attorney General John Ashcroft's office across the street from FBI headquarters.

A former top Justice Department official, Mueller faces more than a half-dozen investigations and a series of recent embarrassments for agency.

Congress, the Justice Department and outside experts are reviewing several FBI blunders, including:

-- The probe of the Atlanta Olympic Park bombing in 1996 in which security guard Richard Jewell was wrongly identified as a suspect. The man eventually charged in the blast, Eric Robert Rudolph, fled into the North Carolina woods and has not been found.

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Robert Mueller promises changes at the FBI if confirmed as director. CNN's Kelli Arena reports (July 30)

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Senators may like Robert Mueller, but they want to know if he has what it takes to turn the FBI around. CNN's Kelli Arena reports (July 30)

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Formerly top secret Dept. of Justice report critical of Wen Ho Lee investigation Part 1  
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-- Its investigation into espionage allegations at the Los Alamos National Laboratory that led to the controversial arrest of Chinese-American nuclear scientist Wen Ho Lee, who was charged with 59 felony counts of mishandling classified data and was jailed for nine months. He eventually pleaded guilty to a single count, and the FBI was criticized for its treatment of the Taiwan-born naturalized citizen.

-- The arrest of FBI agent Robert Hanssen, who recently pleaded guilty to 15 counts of espionage.

-- The fact that hundreds of FBI documents in the Oklahoma City bombing investigation were not disclosed to defense attorneys in the case until days before the scheduled execution of Timothy McVeigh. That revelation prompted a delay in McVeigh's execution.

-- Whether top FBI officials are immune from punishment while agents take the blame. Justice Department Inspector General Glenn Fine is also looking into claims of retaliation against the agents assigned to review the FBI's handling of the bloody 1992 standoff with white separatists at Ruby Ridge, Idaho.

A report earlier this year by prosecutor Randy Bellows was highly critical of the FBI's handling of the spy investigation of Los Alamos National Laboratory scientist Wen Ho Lee.

Bellows wrote that the FBI botched the Lee investigation by relying too heavily on Energy Department suspicions of the Taiwan-born nuclear scientist. Lee was never charged with spying and the criminal case against him for mishandling nuclear secrets crumbled after a federal judge accused FBI agents of making misleading statements.

Lee, who had been charged with 59 felonies and held in solitary confinement for nine months, pleaded guilty to one charge. He was set free last year.

At the July White House announcement of his nomination by President Bush, Mueller pledged to "enforce our nation's laws fairly and with respect to the rights of all Americans."

Mueller takes over as agents wrap up back-to-basics training on everything from ethics to records retention. Agents have been required to attend eight hours of such training, part of a program put in place by former FBI Director Louis Freeh in response to the series of problems, including the belated discovery of the Oklahoma City bombing documents.

One of Mueller's last acts as a top assistant to Attorney General John Ashcroft in May was approving a subpoena for an Associated Press reporter's home telephone records.

President Bush picked Mueller in July, a former federal prosecutor in San Francisco and Boston, to help fix the FBI's problems after Freeh stepped down. Mueller was unanimously approved by the Senate in early August.



Greta@LAW




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