16 years ago, William Safire dubbed him J. Edgar Mueller in a New York Times column.
The June 3, 2002, column began, "Under the police powers it operated under last year, and with the lawful cooperation of a better-managed C.I.A., an efficiently run F.B.I. might well have prevented the catastrophe of Sept. 11. That is the dismaying probability that Congressional oversight (it should be called undersight) will begin to show this week.
"To fabricate an alibi for his nonfeasance, and to cover up his department's embarrassing cut of the counterterrorism budget last year, Attorney General John Ashcroft -- working with his hand-picked aide, F.B.I. Director J. Edgar Mueller III -- has gutted guidelines put in place a generation ago to prevent the abuse of police power by the federal government."
Safire pointed out that their excuse to seize power was to stop another 9/11.
He wrote, "Not so. They had the power to collect the intelligence, but lacked the intellect to analyze the data the agencies collected. The F.B.I.'s failure to absorb the Phoenix and Minneapolis memos was compounded by the C.I.A.'s failure to share information it had about two of the Arab terrorists in the U.S. who would become hijackers (as revealed by Newsweek today).
"Thus we see the seizure of new powers of surveillance is a smokescreen to hide failure to use the old power."
Safire saw the federal government for what it is: a bunch of blowhards covering their backsides. He also laid into John Ashcroft, the attorney general who proved conservatives are just as inept as liberals.
"But under the new Ashcroft-Mueller diktat, that necessary hint of potential criminal activity is swept away. With not a scintilla of evidence of a crime being committed, the feds will be able to run full investigations for one year. That's aimed at generating suspicion of criminal conduct -- the very definition of a 'fishing expedition,'" Safire wrote.
Fishing expeditions are Mueller's specialty.
Safire ended his column, "All your personal data is right there at the crossroads of modern marketing and federal law enforcement. And all in the name of the war on terror.
"This is not some nightmare of what may happen someday. It happened last week. Jim Sensenbrenner, chairman of House Judiciary, said the removal of restraints made him 'queasy;' Pat Leahy of Senate Judiciary is too busy blocking judges to object. Some sunshine libertarians are willing to suffer this loss of personal freedom in the hope that the Ashcroft-Mueller rules of intrusion may prevent a terror attack. They won't because they're a fraud."
Diana West found the column and wrote about it. Please read her take.