[JURIST] FBI Director Robert Mueller [official profile] addressed the FBI's role in leading the new specialized interrogation group to question top terrorist suspects as well as many other topics in a wide ranging oversight hearing [materials; recorded video] before the Senate Judiciary Committee [official website] Wednesday. Mueller said that the new interrogation panel [JURIST report] will be a "joint effort" between the FBI and the Central Intelligence Agency (CIA) [official website]. In prepared remarks, Mueller said that while "safeguarding ... national security remains [the] primary concern," the FBI has also been making progress in other areas, such as combating white collar and violent crime. Mueller said that as of July 31, the FBI had more than 2,600 mortgage fraud cases pending, up from 1,600 cases in 2008, and that the agency has redirect resources into this area. Mueller also responded to a question about a recent Associated Press report [text] that the FBI and the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives (ATF) [official website] have been in conflict over each agency's responsibilities, saying that "as the inspector general points out, there are still issues." Mueller also denied that there is a proposal under consideration to strip protections from FBI whistleblowers.
Last month, the New York Times reported [text; JURIST report] that eight years after 9/11 [JURIST news archive], counterterrorism efforts continue to dominate the operations and budget of the FBI. Since the attacks, the bureau has doubled the number of agents it assigns to counterterrorism efforts and has created specialized "threat squads" to investigate possible threats. In March, Mueller told the Judiciary Committee that the rise in financial fraud investigations is limiting the ability [JURIST report] of the FBI to fight other crimes. In February, the FBI announced [JURIST report] that it was looking at shifting a number of agents from national security and counter terrorism activities to investigations involving financial fraud.