ROBERT S. MUELLER III has been an extraordinarily able and effective director of the FBI. So news that he may be staying on the job for another two years provides reassurance that the agency will continue to function at the highest level.
Less welcome are the legal and political implications of Mr. Mueller’s possible extended tour of duty.
The FBI director is permitted by law to serve one 10-year, non-renewable term. Congress enacted the term limit for a reason: to prevent the kind of entrenchment and consolidation of power that facilitated the abuses by the late J. Edgar Hoover, who spent four decades in charge of the bureau.
To keep Mr. Mueller in the post beyond his Sept. 4 mandatory quit date, President Obama has asked Congress to lift the 10-year cap to allow Mr. Mueller to serve until September 2013. Senior administration officials cited the upcoming 10th anniversary of the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks as justification for keeping Mr. Mueller on. “Given the ongoing threats facing the United States, as well as the leadership transitions at other agencies like the Defense Department and Central Intelligence Agency, I believe continuity and stability at the FBI is critical at this time,” the president said in a statement.