FBI Director Robert S. Mueller III does not deserve to have his term extended.

Mueller has presided over the resurrection of many long-discredited practices that violate the constitutional rights of law-abiding Americans.

Yet the Obama administration has proposed extending Mueller’s term by two years. The Senate should reject the proposal. It sets a bad precedent, it concentrates too much power in the hands of the FBI director and it tacitly approves of Mueller’s wrongheaded moves.

Because of gross violations under the directorship of J. Edgar Hoover in the 1960s, the FBI came under intense scrutiny from Congress, which 35 years ago imposed a 10-year limit on future FBI directors. The idea was to prevent one person from accumulating too much power, as Hoover himself had done.

By essentially asking for a waiver on this time limit for Mueller, the Obama administration is setting a bad precedent and adding to the power of an already frightening power center.

The president’s proposal appears only worse when placed in the context of Mueller’s tenure.

“The FBI’s significant misuse of its authorities under the USA Patriot Act and the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act, the infiltration of mosques, the abuse of the material witness statute, the FBI surveillance of peaceful groups with no evidence of criminal wrongdoing and the mishandling of the FBI watch list have raised significant civil liberties concerns,” the American Civil Liberties Union says.

And Mueller has not been forthcoming in his testimony to the Senate. When the Senate Judiciary Committee questioned the FBI director about the bureau’s surveillance activities last July 28, Mueller did not tell the truth. He said the FBI’s Domestic Investigation and Operations Guide requires a reasonable suspicion of wrongdoing before FBI agents can conduct surveillance. But that’s not the case. So the FBI quickly sent a letter to the committee, which stated that Mueller “misspoke.” It added: “His answer should have been that there must be a proper purpose for the surveillance. Suspicion of wrongdoing could be a proper purpose, but it is not the only proper purpose.”

What’s more, the Justice Department’s internal watchdog has repeatedly examined the FBI’s use of national security letters. These are administrative subpoenas — immune from review, checks or balances — demanding private records (often from third parties) while gagging the recipients and preventing disclosure to the public, press or Congress. The inspector general has documented pervasive, systemic and even ongoing violations by the bureau.

In addition, the FBI has sent paid government informants to recruit Muslim Americans into making violent plots against the United States, plots they likely wouldn’t have joined if they weren’t egged on by the FBI. This is entrapment based on religious profiling.

It gets worse. Emboldened by a Supreme Court decision last spring, the FBI began a political witch hunt last fall targeting dozens of peace and labor activists in Chicago and Minneapolis. The raids and secret grand jury investigations not only offend the First Amendment, but also reflect the kind of abuse for which the bureau grew infamous under Hoover’s leadership.

Rather than extend Mueller’s term, Congress should insist on a nominee from outside the bureau, and it should impose a legislative charter to restore law to a domestic intelligence agency that has, yet again, run amok.

Shahid Buttar is the executive director of the Bill of Rights Defense Committee. He can be reached at pmproj@progressive.org.

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By Wendell Berry

Manifesto: The Mad Farmer Liberation Front

Love the quick profit, the annual raise,
vacation with pay. Want more 
of everything ready made. Be afraid 
to know your neighbors and to die.
And you will have a window in your head.
Not even your future will be a mystery 
any more. Your mind will be punched in a card 
and shut away in a little drawer.
When they want you to buy something 
they will call you. When they want you
to die for profit they will let you know. 
So, friends, every day do something
that won’t compute. Love the Lord. 
Love the world. Work for nothing. 
Take all that you have and be poor.
Love someone who does not deserve it. 
Denounce the government and embrace 
the flag. Hope to live in that free 
republic for which it stands. 
Give your approval to all you cannot
understand. Praise ignorance, for what man 
has not encountered he has not destroyed.
Ask the questions that have no answers. 
Invest in the millennium. Plant sequoias.
Say that your main crop is the forest
that you did not plant,
that you will not live to harvest.


Say that the leaves are harvested 
when they have rotted into the mold.
Call that profit. Prophesy such returns.
Put your faith in the two inches of humus 
that will build under the trees
every thousand years.
Listen to carrion—put your ear
close, and hear the faint chattering
of the songs that are to come. 
Expect the end of the world. Laugh. 
Laughter is immeasurable. Be joyful
though you have considered all the facts. 
So long as women do not go cheap 
for power, please women more than men.
Ask yourself: Will this satisfy 
a woman satisfied to bear a child?
Will this disturb the sleep 
of a woman near to giving birth? 
Go with your love to the fields.
Lie easy in the shade. Rest your head 
in her lap. Swear allegiance 
to what is nighest your thoughts.
As soon as the generals and the politicos 
can predict the motions of your mind, 
lose it. Leave it as a sign 
to mark the false trail, the way 
you didn’t go. Be like the fox 
who makes more tracks than necessary, 
some in the wrong direction.
Practice resurrection.

Wendell Berry is a poet, farmer, and environmentalist in Kentucky. This poem, first published in 1973, is reprinted by permission of the author and appears in his “New Collected Poems” (Counterpoint).


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