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FBI director on track for 2-year extension, despite agent grumbling

By Terry Frieden, CNN Justice Producer
  • Lawmakers expected to approve extension before they leave for August break
  • FBI Director Robert Mueller nears 10 years in his post
  • President Obama wants a 10-year limit extended for Mueller
  • Obama says 12 years will allow for continuity during changes at the CIA and Pentagon

Washington (CNN) -- FBI Director Robert Mueller is on course to receive the two-year job extension urged by President Obama, despite scattered grumbling by some agents and legislative concerns about establishing a precedent, key lawmakers say.

Capitol Hill staffers expect lawmakers to approve the extension quickly and quietly before they leave for their August break. Mueller's term ends September 4, exactly a decade after he took the job.

Sen. Charles Grassley, R-Iowa, who is "open" to the extension but sees "a risky precedent," has urged a hearing on the issue. To date, Judiciary Committee Chairman Sen. Patrick Leahy, D-Vermont, has not scheduled a hearing. Leahy aides say the chairman is continuing to explore what legislation may be needed and hopes it will be bipartisan.

Under current law, an FBI director may serve no more than 10 years, but Obama wants the law changed to allow Mueller to serve a total of 12 years. The White House says it needs continuity in national security at the FBI while changes are taking place at the CIA and Pentagon.

The FBI Agents Association says it stands by its statement of May 12 in which the organization of rank-and-file agents backed the two-year extension.

However, FBI Agents Association President Konrad Motyka noted the irony of Mueller staying on, while FBI supervisors -- under a Mueller policy -- can be forced out after seven years if they are not promoted.

"In petitioning to extend Director Mueller's term, President Obama cited the need for stability," Motyka said. "Likewise in these extraordinary times, the FBIAA is renewing its call upon the director to terminate the "up or out" policy, a program with negative consequences for continuity and stability," Motyka said.

One agent told CNN that there's a wide range of views on FBI management and policy.

"I can tell you I think the majority of FBI agents are frustrated or even angry about various policies or practices, but that doesn't mean they're aimed at Director Mueller," the agent said. "The number of agents who would want him replaced is much lower," said the agent who requested anonymity because he was not authorized to comment.

FBI and Justice Department sources acknowledge a lingering resentment among some long-time agents resistant to changes pushed by the hard-charging director. But other officials point to the "up or out" policy as an example of change needed to help transform the FBI into a more modern, efficient organization with a focus on counterterrorism.