Talk of a New FBI Director Heats Up

Patrick Fitzgerald/doj photo
By Allan Lengel

The FBI Agents Association’s endorsement Tuesday of ex-FBI agent Mike Mason to head the FBI in September offers no guarantees, but it could raise his profile as a candidate. He would be the first African-American to head the agency.

Mason, who served in the FBI for 23 years, and currently heads security as Verizon, was a popular figure at the FBI among the troops. He headed the field offices in Sacramento and Washington and retired from the agency in 2007 as executive assistant director in charge of the Criminal Division at headquarters.  Mason is native of Chicago, which can’t hurt in the Obama administration.

It comes as no surprise that the Agents Association endorsed a former agent. It has often expressed a feeling that a former federal agent should have the job. The job has never gone to a current agent.

Director Robert S. Mueller III will retire in September after serving out his 10-year appointment that began in September 2001.  His tenure has been met with mixed results inside the bureau, particularly among some who were considered loyalists of his predecessor Louis Freeh, who had been a former agent.

Mike Mason/fbi photo

Some agents feel Mueller, a former federal prosecutor, didn’t truly understand the mindset of the agents. Some felt Freeh far better understood the agents and the agency, though to be fair, Freeh had his share of critics within the agency.

Some agents have said if a former  agent were not to get the job, they would prefer someone like Chicago’s U.S. Attorney Patrick Fitzgerald.

But some observers inside the Beltway say Fitzgerald, considered a rock star among U.S. Attorneys, may have hurt his chances when he showed a little too much swagger in December 2008 when he announced the arrest of then-Ill. Gov. Rod Blagojevich, who was later convicted on only  1 of 24 counts. The outcome was an embarrassment for the office, which plans to retry Blagojevich next month on the charges in which the jury deadlocked.

Another name that has surfaced as a possible candidate is John Pistole, the former number two person at the FBI who now heads up the Transportation Security Administration.

Pistole over the years has appeared on Capitol Hill to testify before Congress. He’s considered well poised, but some think he may not have enough gravitas to land the job. Still, some  rumors put him as a serious candidate.

Others names that have surfaced include former deputy General James Comey, Frances Fragos Townsend, a top Bush terror adviser during the Bush administration, NYPD Police Commissioner Ray Kelly, former Justice Department official Ken Wainstein, William Bratton,  police chief of Los Angeles, Boston and New York, and Ron Noble, head of Interpol.

John Pistole/dhs photo

Townsend would be the first woman to head the agency. Though some seem to think her close ties to the Bush administration could ultimately diminish her chances.

The prevailing wisdom is that a decision on who the White House wants should be made by  June — enough time  for a nominee  to go through the confirmation process.

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