FBI chief visits Minneapolis to talk terrorism, Indian Country 6-7-07

MINNEAPOLIS (AP) - FBI Director Robert Mueller talked about combating terrorism, the need to continue fighting crime in Indian Country, and the importance of working with state and local agencies on Thursday when he made a rare visit to the FBI's Minneapolis division.

Mueller, who hasn't been in the Minneapolis office since 2002, said he wanted to meet with the local office and thank FBI agents and other law enforcement for their work.

“This office has made a huge impact in following the priorities of the bureau and in keeping the people of not only Minneapolis and Minnesota safe, but also those of South and North Dakota,” Mueller said. “We in the bureau recognize that we will not be successful alone ... that it will take the joint efforts of all of us working together to address any of these challenges that we now face.”

Mueller was appointed to the top FBI job in July 2001, months before the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks in New York and Washington. While the agency has since made counterterrorism a top priority and worked to prevent another attack, the agency has also focused on other issues - including violent crime in Indian Country.

“We understand the importance of what we contribute to the reduction of violent crime in those areas and we want to maintain our presence, and to the extent we can, enhance it,” he said.

It was recently revealed that former U.S. Attorney for Minnesota Tom Heffelfinger may have been targeted for dismissal because top Justice officials thought he spent too much time on Indian issues.

When asked about that, Mueller said: “(Heffelfinger) has always been a strong advocate for an enhanced presence in Indian Country, but he is not alone amongst U.S. attorneys. U.S. attorneys that have substantial Indian Country under their jurisdiction argue forcefully for enhanced resources to address the problems.”

Mueller was also asked about remarks made by Deputy Attorney General James Comey, who told a congressional panel last month that Mueller himself was considering resigning before changes were made to President Bush's wiretapping program.

Mueller wouldn't comment on that testimony, but he did say he would stay in his role as long as he feels he can contribute to the bureau's work.

Mueller said the FBI is already working on security plans for the 2008 Republican National Convention, which will be held in St. Paul. He said the FBI would work with the Secret Service and other federal and local agencies.

“The overall security will be substantial at that time,” he said.

Mueller's Thursday visit comes months after Ralph S. Boelter took over as head of the Minneapolis division, replacing Michael Tabman, who was recalled to headquarters last year amid an internal investigation. The nature of that investigation was not disclosed and Tabman has since retired, said Paul McCabe, local FBI spokesman.

Mueller also talked about recent reports of terrorism, saying that the FBI has a continuous inventory of cases it monitors.

He said there are “various facets of support of terrorism. But I can assure you where it needs immediate attention, it gets immediate attention.”

While he was in Minneapolis, Mueller presented the 2005 and 2006 FBI Director's Community Leadership Awards. Target Corp. received the 2005 award for its contributions to communities and law enforcement nationwide. The 2006 award went to Gordon Thayer, founder of groups that address issues of homelessness and alcoholism, particularly in the American Indian community.