Disputes between the Justice Department and its congressional allies over FBI performance, leadership vacancies and management issues are causing tensions at a time when the department is seeking to remake its antiterrorism operations, reports the New York Times. Senate Judiciary Committee chairman Arlen Specter (R-Pa.) told the Times he is deeply dissatisfied with the pace of FBI reforms and that he hoped the national intelligence director’s new role in overseeing its terrorism operations would spur greater accountability at the Justice Department.
“When you have all these issues where the FBI has not performed, there’s no doubt that the director is on the spot,” he said in perhaps his harshest criticism to date of Robert Mueller. Among many problems cited, some lawmakers said Mueller had not been writing or reviewing written congressional responses that bore his name. Specter is concerned about the depth of criminal prosecution experience at the top of the Justice Department after the departure of James Comey, a veteran prosecutor in Manhattan, as deputy attorney general. Judiciary Committee members said that for the first time in memory, none of the most senior officials at the Justice Department would have experience as a criminal prosecutor. Specter said that while there were “lots of first-class professionals” throughout the ranks of prosecutors, “there are tough judgment calls that have to be made at the top, and it’s good to have some experience on what criminal intent means when you have to make those decisions.”