Newly confirmed FBI Director Robert Mueller isn't even on the job yet and already he's knee deep in controversy. Sources confirm it was Mueller who recently approved a highly unusual and hastily drawn up secret subpoena for a reporter's home telephone records. It was apparently one of the last decisions Mueller made on his old job at the Justice Department before President Bush tapped him for the FBI.
Mueller approved the subpoena after the publication of an Associated Press story on May 4 by veteran reporter John Soloman, who had been covering the Justice Department's investigation of fund raising by New Jersey Democrat Sen. Robert Torricelli. In the May 4 story, Soloman quoted from wiretap intercepts of the senator allegedly talking to relatives of a Chicago crime figure. Soloman wrote that "law enforcement officials" told him of the wiretaps.
Ten days after the story appeared, Mueller approved a secret subpoena for the reporter's home telephone records in an apparent attempt to discover who those law enforcement officials were. In 153 years, the Associated Press said it cannot recall any instance of a reporter's phone records being subpoenaed.
And, reports CBS News Correspondent Jim Stewart, the decision to do so appears to violate the Justice Department's own guidelines, which require that "all reasonable attempts" to get information from the news media should be made before issuing a subpoena. The Justice Department did neither, said Louis Boccardi, president of The AP.
"There is this provision in the federal regulation that the media representative or organization be informed that the Department wants this information. That did not happen," said Boccardi.
The Justice Department had no comment on the matter. Neither did Mueller, who reports for work at the FBI next Tuesday. He's likely to face more questions about his old job before he starts his new one.
©MMI, CBS Worldwide Inc. All Rights Reserved