FBI director joins White House in opposing detainee rules

FBI Director Robert Mueller has joined the White House in opposing changes to the rules for handling terror detainees.  

In a letter sent late Monday, Mueller urged lawmakers to alter language in a defense bill that would set in place new procedures for handling terrorism suspects.

“By establishing a presumption of military detention for covered individuals within the United States, the legislation introduces a substantial element of uncertainty as to what procedures are to be followed in the course of a terrorism investigation in the United States,” Mueller wrote in the letter to Senate Armed Services Committee Chairman Carl Levin (D-Mich.) and other Senate committee heads.

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But Mueller said the legislation could alter the scope of the FBI’s counterterrorism operations. He wrote that the bill could restrict the FBI from using a grand jury to gather documents or subpoena witnesses.

“The legislation may call into question the FBI’s continued use or scope of its criminal investigative or national security authorities in further investigation of the [terror suspect],” Mueller wrote.

Mueller joins Defense Secretary Leon Panetta and Director of National Intelligence James Clapper in publicly opposing the Defense authorization bill’s provisions for detaining and prosecuting terror suspects. The White House has threatened to veto the legislation over the detainee provisions.

Levin and Armed Services Committee ranking member John McCain (R-Ariz.) agreed to the current detainee provisions in a compromise reached earlier this month, and have since defended them against the Obama administration’s objections. The senators argue that a waiver provision allowing the FBI and law enforcement to handle terror cases would not impede counterterrorism efforts.