The fallout over Justice Department missteps has sidetracked discussions aimed at helping the FBI establish itself as a pre-eminent domestic intelligence agency, the Associated Press reports. An FBI report said last year that existing laws on electronic surveillance are inadequate to investigate homegrown Islamic extremists. The head of the new Justice Department national security division said congressional aides have had early discussions about whether the FBI needs new tools to investigate U.S.-born terror suspects who lack links to foreign organizations. “These homegrown terrorists sort of occupy a middle ground,” Assistant Attorney General Kenneth Wainstein told the AP. “They don’t necessarily have a connection to international terrorism,” he said. “On the other hand, they are not just quintessential criminals, where all we are concerned about is developing evidence of crimes they have already committed.”
Wainstein said possible authorization for wiretapping for “national security investigative purposes” Several government and congressional officials, who spoke on condition of anonymity, said Congress won’t support giving the department any new powers soon. Yesterday, FBI director Robert Mueller urged the Senate Judiciary Committee to let him fix the process and keep his powers. Chairman Patrick Leahy (D-Vt.) said the Bush administration had “badly bungled” using new powers granted by Congress.