FNC’s Catherine Herridge interviews outgoing FBI Director Robert Mueller


See my colleague Shayla Bezdrob’s notes from Catherine Herridge’s interview with outgoing FBI Director Robert Mueller:


Q – which is the greatest threat to us national security – al qaeda in pakistan, al qaeda in yemen, al qaeda in north africa or homegrown terrorism. 


MUELLER 16:39:50 I would start with homegrown terrorism. :39:53 The most immediate threat is homegrown terrorism as we’ve seen in the Boston marathon. 39:56

16:40:00 The increase in individuals who are radicalized on the internet and in addition to that can gain the knowledge on how you develop an explosive device on Internet, that is just the biggest threat at this juncture. And after that I would say probably Al Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula ,uh, out of ,uh, Yemen. 40:17



Q-   Alleged conference call among terrorists leaders & embassy closings – what does that say how AQ operates today?


MUELLER 16:40:26 A part from, I wouldn’t want to focus on one piece of intelligence assuming that that was the piece of intelligence, :40:33 uh, but I think it’s fair to say anyone that analyzes a situation would say that we went through a period of direct threats out of Pakistan, Afghanistan, Core Al Qaeda, :40:42 Bin Laden was killed, and uh, other leadership was taken out. :40:47 And consequently the threat has migrated to Al Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula, AQAP, Yemen, Somalia to a certain extent with Al Shabob, but most particularly as we saw in Benghazi, uh. and to North Africa and as the countries are going through the Arab Spring that will territorially present the uh, substantial threat down the road whether it be:41:14 Tunisia or Libya or Mali, uh, then you have Syria, uh, Egypt :41:21 one of the concerns that we all have at this juncture are  persons traveling to Syria, gaining expertise and (Herridge: bringing it back to this country – crosstalk) bringing it back to this country or bringing it back to Europe. :41:32



Q- have you seen documented case of american citizens traveling to Syria and back? 


MUELLER 16:41:38 Yes, and we’ve had at least one indictiment that I have directly in my mind, but others if we have not yet indicted may face charges down the road. :41:47




Q- The threat that closed the embassies – has the danger passed?


MUELLER 16:41:52 We are closely monitoring the situation. I would say that it may well have been postponed, but we’re monitoring it to make certain that we don’t miss anything. And to the extent that it has been postponed, we want to identify, identify any activity that would indicate that it’s, that it’s still on, on, on the tracks. :42:15


Q-   why was it postponed?


MUELLER16:42:23 It’s hard to say, but I think one the contributing factors I believe is the fact that we rampped up, and that precautions were taken and that the opportunity they thought they may have had at that juncture was no longer there. :42:34



Q-   who is your number one terrorist target?


MUELLER16:42:39 There are a number out there and I wouldn’t, I wouldn’t specify on one. :42:44 Still core Al Qaeda is on our minds because there’s an attempt to reach out and coordinate and orchestrate activites of the surrogate, uh,uh entities in various countries. :42:56 (Herridge crosstalk) :42:59 But Yemen the persons capable of constructing explosives devices are certaintly persons we’re concerned about. :43:07


Q-   so the top target would the bomb makes Al Asiri?

MUELLER16:43:11 He is one person we’re concerned about.


Q-   and we are seeing increase in coordination between core AQ and these affilaites?

MUELLER 16:43:18 I would say we’re seeing dialogue between core Al Qaeda and the affiliates. :43:24 I’m not certain it would raise to the level of coordination which would presume that somebody is orchestrating from Pakistan, I don’t think that’s the case. :43:33

16:43:39 No


16:43:50 I’m not going to, I can’t get into it, capabilites around the world effected by disclosures without getting into specifics


(16:44:32 Pause in interview – Yemen)


16:45:04 I can tell you that our capabilites around the world impacted by disclosures but i prefer not to get into specifics that may be classified




Q does the fbi collect any data on us citizens?

MUELLER: um yes. we collect data in us citizens we do investigations day in and [cross talk  – CH beyond the investigations i’m thinking in the reals of…] that’s a very broad question. in the way you mean it, collecting data that courts are not familiar with . collecting data that has not been approved  by whether be a disctric coiurt or fisa court, no.


Q – you testified in march that .. when there were questions about ft hood emails. there were technologocal improvements that allowed you – and i am quoating here ” to pull the past emails and future ones as they come in ”


Q what does that mean?

MUELLER – A it means that if you have the authority from the courts or otherwise under the statutes to capture emails of somebody, you  capture them and you review them. then you put it aside for a period of time. 151147 [ch so you are talking about us persons here?]


MUELLER we are talking about the us persons and or a foreign person., then having the ability in the database where you’ve kept  that information pursiuant that court order, being able to pull all of the emails as opposed to – or having it pushed to you as email come in – as opposed to having to go every day or every week or every month to pull up a series of emails.  sp basically it’s an organiation of an email account so that will help in reviewing thousands of emails the same way you would excercise some discipline in you handle your gmail account.,


Q so to be clear the fbi is only collecting americans’ emails under the court order.



Q – when did the fbi begin using drones domestically?

MUELLER  – uavs.. um.. i would say uavs… um maybe 2 years ago. i mean we’ve just had a handful of cases where we’ve used it in hopstage situation on static targets. where it makes some sense . but as you;ve sen in our exchange of correspondence with the hill, very limited circumctances.



Q – expanding the use of drones…


MUELLER  16:48:23 I think it will do so with, uh, uh, with the approval of certainly the Justice Department with full transparency to the Hill. :48:31 We’re talking about relatively small cameras on drones, and situations where it gives us a tactical advantage. :48:41 Particularly in hostage situations. :48:41


16:48:58 Feel so deeply for the victims and families initiatlly always wonder if there’s something you could’ve should’ve done but so busy initially keep in mind

16:49:19 apprehended and brought to justice but make certain there are no other explosive devices out there

16:49:33 Boston, much of Monday afternoon making sure no other explosives by backpack dropped

16:49:47 On one hand bring persons to justice on other no other attack




Q – should americans expect more bostons, more fort hoods?


MUELLER  16:49:59 i dont think so. i theink we do a .. i would never say expoect it. um … we do a pretty darn good job i think in identifying persons and bringing them to justice. often and in most cases before they are able to ujndertake an attack , but it’s not out othe question. and also what its not out of the question is often you will find that that person has been on our radar screen before hand as you found in boston.  and that’s because we are doing a much better job of identifyiubng persons who would harbor the intent to undertake those attacks, but often dont have sufficient evidence to bring that person withing the criminal justice system. :50:37


16:50:47 We do not see or have evidence as to his being instructed on the bomb making overseas in Russia quite obviously. :50:55

On the other hand we do and have seen that  componants that when put together, mass instructions on certain, uhhh, files that you can find on the internet. :51:15


16:51:19 There are pieces that are different modified somewhat substantial amount of the device was constructed pursuant to instructiosn on internet




Q – when did FBI agents first arrive atthe consulate?

MUELLER –  it was week or two after the occurance. which was the first time that we can get in there. with appropriate security to do what we could in terms of reviewuing the scene

Q – what was the hold up?

MUELLER – everytbody was trying.. there were a number of hold ups. one was ensutring security the other was working with the libyans to allow us to do it. and so on one hand it was dilpmatic inertia on part of the libyans. on the other hand there was also – when we send our agnets in we want to make sure that they have adequate security.


Q why were the libyans blocking us?

MUELLER –  16:52:21 i am not certain they were particularly blocking. and i am not ceratin of the inner conversation that our ambasador had  with lybian authorities. What i do know is the amnbassador was pushging hard for us to get in there as were we.


Q – What’s blocking the investigation now?

MUELLER – 16:52:41 well, um you have to say that this is a different investigation wehad even in east africa. in east africa embassy bombing we had the support of the host country that had an intelloignece law enforcement component there that could give us the support. libya had a transitory goverment. you’re not certyain if this particular prime minister is going to be there next week or next month. 16:53:02 we’ve gone through several in the year since benghazi.

MUELLER 16:53:09 It’s hard to know who to deal with, and we do not have the security forces that we’ve developed a repour with or have the capabilities that we would hope. :53:16 You also as you know in Benghazi and Dahrna are basically uncontrolled areas of libya where persons who seem to be in some way affiliated with the central government uh, are assasinated. :53:31 And consequently it is a difficult environment to do the investigation. :53:37 With that being said, I can tell you that we have pressed ahead and have had results and will continue to have results. :53:44 We are basically infaticable when it comes to pursuing cases like this and we will not give up until we have put the evidence together, and done everything we can to bring the persons to justice. :53:55 I use an example of pan am 103. Many years with many theories before we were able to pull together the various pieces that enabled us to indict persons (Herridge crosstalk) for that tragedy. :54:07

16:54:10 not necessarily no


(asked about the video)

MUELLER 16:54:21 I know the political implicatiosn of what you’re asking (Herridge crosstalk) I’m not certain, I’m not certain that i can focus on a particular point in time. :54:31

(did you consider it a terrorist attack)

MUELLER 16:54:34 how you define a terrorist, :54:35 I can tell you we treated, because we put it in a terrorism section, terrorism section is a terrorism, uh :54:43 terrorism division is the one that uh, (Herridge crosstalk) we had treated it as terrorist attack. :54:47 Yes


MUELLER 16:54:51 the persons we sent out were part of :54:56 Our decision is who we send out we’re not going to send out the uh, uh, uh, the greatest expertise in dealing with Libya in this particular area for a variety of reasons would be our terrorism person. so, :55:07 we send out the terrorism person we don’t sit here and say ok it’s terrorism or anything. Are people on the scene, for this are, the ones that are familiar with and deal with terrorism day in and day out. :55:20


MUELLER 16:55:23 I’m not going to comment (Herridge crosstalk) on that, :55:26 I’m not certain i can recall what i thought about. That was uh, that was uh, not something I was focused on at the time, what I was focused on at the time was identifying the presonnel that we needed to get out there as soon as possible, whether it be the evidence technician or the persons familiar with working with Libya because pushing hard to get additional information on Pan Am 103 so we had some relatinships there :55:47 and then identifying the witnesses, getting the, making certain that we got the video tapes from, the libyans as well as from the scene, :55:59 all of that was our focus and was not focused on what was happening in terms of how it was described and the like. :56:06


MUELLER 16:56:15 We do investigations. we go out. I want the people who are out there on the scene as soon as possible. :56:21 And then afterwards I want the witnesses identified, I want them intereviewed, either there or elsewhere, the case put together and presented to the prosecutors, and charges, charges filed. That’s my concern. :56:30


MUELLER 16:56:39 It’s very difficult because of it’s environment, but we’re use to hard cases. :56:42 With the ? bombing, in Yemen way back when, the East African bombing, ? tower, antrax, :56:50 We’ve had very difficult investigations over the years and ultimately, uh we’ve been successful. :56:58


(petraeus investigation)

MUELLER 16:57:10 not going to get into that

16:57:15 The discussios i have with the attorney general and president a like are not things I discuss, and even assuming there were, and I’m not saying there were such discussions, just not something I’m getting into.


16:57:33 I’m not going to you’re asking me something i’m not familiar with telling me something not familiar with those facts, not going to respond to question and for that reason i can’t give you an answer on it


16:58:24 I’m not familiar with any approach was not one but not familiar with an effort to do that


16:58:56 See i’d refer you back to my letter ro Wolf on this what we knew and did not know


16:59:13 Not going to sit and go through documents today


16:59:21 What do you mean by my own office


16:59:33 I don’t know what you’re talking about much is blacked out can’t expect to look at this, not familiar with any effort to have Awlaki become an asset to FBI, nothing to refresh my memory and not at all certain that is what you showed me

17:00:07 What I’m telling you I am not personally familiar with any effort recruit Awlawki as asset doesn’t mean . . . to do so


(sad to leave the office?)

MUELLER  17:00:52 I’m not certain it was, certainly everyone, just about everybody a live at that particular point in time, :00:59 you know where you were, it changes your life regardless of what position you’re in. :01:04 your, mine, others. :01:06 But the results of that day took I think some period of time to be assimilated :01:12 certainly by me. :01:15 I did not fully recognize the outset that the question that we were being asked to answer was not whether you were going to bring or how are you bringing these persons to justice, the question was what are you doing to prevent the next terrorist attack. :01:28 And that was a change of mission for us, which I was somewhat slow to assimilate. :01:32 But once you understand the change of mission, not that we had not done that before, we had, but once you understand the change of mission, there are a number of things that flow from that. :01:40 prioritization of what you’re going to do. :01:42 developing of intelligence componants, you can anticipate an attack as opposed to gather evidence to put in a courtroom. :01:49 are just two of the things. :01:50 the information technology you need to, to , uh be effective as an organization like this. :01:56 all of that to a certain extent in the developments flowed from what happened on that day, and we never forget the victims and their families. :02:05