Bush Names Mueller to Head FBI

President Bush on Thursday named San Francisco attorney Robert Mueller to head the FBI.

Mueller, the United States Attorney for the Northern District of California, was long considered the front-runner to replace retired FBI Director Louis Freeh at the helm of the troubled agency.

Among the FBI's alleged problems are a maverick independent streak, its snake-bitten relationship with the Clinton administration and a series of mishaps, including the botched investigation of former nuclear scientist Wen Ho Lee, and the mishandling of evidence in the Oklahoma City bombing trial that forced the postponement of Timothy McVeigh's execution.

In February, the FBI discovered that one of its own, veteran FBI agent Robert Hanssen, had been spying for the Russians for more than 15 years.

Mueller's nomination had been expected since last month, when Bush abruptly ordered the search for an FBI chief expanded.

The White House is seeking to rein in the independent-minded FBI and the president, aides said, wanted a director who defers to the Justice Department.

Mueller remained the strongest candidate to fit this bill. The former acting deputy attorney general won the support of Attorney General John Ashcroft by aiding in the transition from the Clinton administration.

Mueller was acting deputy attorney general from January until last month, when he returned to California to resume his job as U.S. attorney in San Francisco. Prior to his California posting, Mueller was chief of the homicide section at the U.S. attorney's office in Washington, D.C.

Under the first President Bush, Mueller was named assistant attorney general in charge of the Justice Department's criminal division. In that post, Mueller supervised the prosecutions of Manuel Noriega and John Gotti and headed up the investigations of the BCCI banking scandal and the 1988 bombing of Pan Am 103 over Lockerbie, Scotland.

Mueller also was assistant to Attorney General Richard Thornburgh and was a federal prosecutor in Boston and California, where he investigated and prosecuted major financial fraud, narcotics, terrorist and public corruption cases.

The FBI Director is nominated to a 10-year term. The nomination requires Senate confirmation through the Senate Judiciary Committee.

Louis Freeh left the FBI on June 22, after serving eight years of his ten-year term. Tom Pickard is the acting FBI Director until Robert Mueller is confirmed.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.