Tales from the Trail

Washington Extra – In pursuit

Osama bin Laden is gone, but plenty of questions remain about how the al Qaeda leader evaded an intense decade-long manhunt that ended in a dramatic U.S. raid on a house in Pakistan.

The real breakthrough that led to bin Laden came from a mysterious CIA detainee, Hassan Ghul, according to a Reuters special report published today. It was Ghul who, after years of tantalizing hints from other detainees, finally provided the information that prompted the CIA to focus intensely on finding Abu Ahmed al Kuwaiti, pseudonym for the courier who would lead them to bin Laden.

Fresh from the victory of finding the world’s most wanted man, President Barack Obama wants no let-up in the pursuit of terrorism suspects and surprised everyone by seeking a two-year extension of FBI Director Robert Mueller’s 10-year term.

At a time when Obama is shifting around his national security team, he’s also seeking areas of continuity.

Here are our top stories from Washington…

Special Report: The bin Laden kill plan

The 13-year quest to find and eliminate Osama bin Laden was filled with missteps, course adjustments and radical new departures for security policy. Even with bin Laden buried at sea, the changes could linger for years, or decades. The mission to destroy bin Laden, and his network, sparked the creation of a chillingly bureaucratic process for deciding who would be on “kill lists,” authorized for death at the hands of the CIA. It revolutionized the use of pilotless drones to find and attack militants; drove the controversially brutal treatment of detainees in U.S. custody; and brought the United States and Pakistan closer together, then wrenched them apart.

Wanted: New FBI director ‘ready to go’

The search for a new FBI director is under way, and Attorney General Eric Holder wants someone “ready to go” to fill some large shoes.

Robert Mueller, the current FBI chief who took office right before the Sept. 11, 2001 attacks, is limited by law to serving a 10-year term.

The goal was to have somebody nominated and “ready to go” by the time Mueller steps down, Holder said. President Barack Obama’s nominee must be confirmed by the Senate.

FBI latest computer overhaul has more glitches

The FBI’s trouble-plagued, long-running effort to put in place a new computer system has hit a few more glitches.MARKETS-CHINA-STOCKS/

An audit report Tuesday by the Justice Department’s inspector general said the latest phase of the project for a fully electronic case management system will take three months longer than last expected and will cost $155 million — $18 million more than what had been budgeted.

It identified several new areas of concern with the overall progress of the so-called Sentinel project and with implementation of the project’s second phase.

FBI discussed advising Saddam Hussein of legal rights, decided no

Much has been made over the past few months by some Republicans in Congress about whether terrorism suspects arrested overseas by U.S. military forces must be read their legal rights and the answer has been largely no.IRAQ-SADDAM/

It turns out that the issue was debated at least as far back as early 2004 when American forces captured ousted Iraqi President Saddam Hussein, according to a document released late Friday night under Freedom of Information Act requests by the American Civil Liberties Union.

A few weeks after the former Iraqi leader was captured hiding in a hole in Tikrit, a memorandum was sent to the FBI’s general counsel, Valerie Caproni, discussing whether Saddam would have to be advised of his legal rights.

FBI stresses that it gets along with NYPD

When U.S. law enforcement authorities launched a series of raids in New York City that culminated in the arrest of an Afghan-born airport shuttle driver (Najibullah Zazi) for an alleged bombing plot, there was a fair bit of speculation afterward questioning whether the FBI or the New York Police Department bungled the investigation by acting too early.

But at a Senate committee hearing, Federal Bureau of Investigation Director Robert Mueller insisted that the two organizations were getting along despite the reports which he said were exaggerated.

“I believe our relations are exceptionally good, as good as they’ve been in a long time,” he told the Senate Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Committee.

FBI gives warm and fuzzy welcome to Obama

The Obama effect was in full force again.

This time an appearance by President Barack Obama had G-Men fainting and the normally stoic director of the FBI handing out teddy bears.

OBAMA/What’s with that?

Shortly after Obama started a speech at FBI headquarters to employees gathered in an outdoor courtyard under the searing sun, at the point where he started reminiscing about the bureau “back in 1908,”  someone in the audience fainted.

“This happened during my political campaign all the time. I was talking too long, people would be falling out every which way,” Obama said to laughter.