Michael J. García, a former head of the Immigrations and Customs Enforcement in the Department of Homeland Security with a strong background fighting terrorism, is in the running to become the first Hispanic Director of the FBI.
Earlier in his career, García successfully prosecuted the mastermind in the first World Trade Center bombing case in the mid-1990s. García, whose wife is an FBI agent, is on a list that includes six other possible candidates.
President Barack Obama will need to select a replacement for FBI Director Robert Mueller, whose 10-year, nonrenewable term expires Sept. 4. According to an Obama administration official, the selection process for Mueller's replacement started at the beginning of this year.
Obama's primary goal is to find a nominee who is viewed as a heavy hitter on the terrorism issues the FBI faces, one insider said.
Two other officials who also worked for President George W. Bush, including one who threatened to resign to block legally questionable anti-terror surveillance, are front-runners for the post, according to people familiar with the search.
James Comey and Kenneth Wainstein served in sensitive national security-related posts at the Justice Department in the Bush administration. Their service as political appointees under a Republican president is a key factor in explaining the rise of Comey and Wainstein in the search.
Comey became a hero to Democratic opponents of Bush's warrantless wiretapping when Comey refused for a time to reauthorize it. Bush revised the surveillance program when confronted with the threat of resignation by Comey and Mueller.
Wainstein was working for Mueller at the FBI when bureau agents at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba, objected to abusive interrogation techniques employed by the military and when Mueller decided FBI agents could not participate in interviews involving these techniques.
The Obama administration faces an expanded Republican minority in the Senate with the votes to seriously complicate the confirmation prospects of any nominee who draws their united opposition.
Names of other candidates have also surfaced.
Sen. Charles Schumer, D-N.Y., has backed New York Police Department Commissioner Ray Kelly, a 69-year-old former top Treasury law enforcement official who some believe would rather run for mayor of New York.
The FBI Agents Association has recommended Michael Mason, a 23-year bureau veteran who ran the Washington field office and became executive assistant director in charge of the bureau's criminal investigative division. Mason would be the FBI's first black director.
Insiders also say the president will want to consider female candidates. Jamie Gorelick, a former deputy attorney general in the Clinton administration, has been mentioned as one.
Based on reporting by the Associated Press.