The Criminal Division held its annual awards ceremony this past week and the much-coveted Henry E. Petersen Award went to none other than FBI Director Bob Mueller, who, as you might recall, served as head of the division when President Bush's dad was president.
The award is named for longtime Criminal Division attorney Petersen, who rose to the level of assistant attorney general for the division and served in that post during the turbulent Watergate years.
In fact, one of the reasons he is so revered among "Crim" attorneys is that he battled valiantly during those troubling times to keep the division on the straight and narrow. But he was also a leading figure in the Justice Department's crusade against organized crime — and this was back in the old days before there were (court-authorized) wiretaps or immunity grants or the RICO anti-racketeering law or even investigative grand juries.
It was Petersen's notion that attorneys and investigators needed to work more closely together on cases — a notion that was heretical to former FBI chief J. Edgar Hoover, who wanted his agents to work a case and not bring it to the lawyers until they had finished their work and could deliver a package all tied up with a ribbon.
But Petersen created the Organized Crime Strike Forces — and, as one longtime division employee recalled it, had them set up, with agents assigned to them, before Hoover even knew about it.
As even casual observers of Justice and the FBI know, nowadays the norm is for investigators and attorneys to work closely together from the very beginning of a case. But in the late 1960s and early 1970s, the idea was revolutionary.
Deputy Assistant Attorney General Jack Keeney, another Criminal Division legend, remembers Petersen as "a brilliant guy, a very special person, tough as nails ... the finest public servant we've ever had in the Department of Justice."
Keeney and David Margolis — the other longtime "Crim" legend now serving in the deputy attorney general's shop — were the ones who first conceived the idea of the Petersen award, not long after his death in May 1991. They broached it with their then-boss, the assistant attorney general for Criminal Division, who honchoed it through the bureaucracy. In a nice little historical irony, that boss was Bob Mueller.
In announcing this year's award, current Assistant Attorney General for Crim Mike Chertoff noted Mueller's role in establishing the honor, and ad-libbed, "Even then he knew!"
Chertoff noted that Petersen's widow and daughter were in the audience at the Great Hall ceremony, as well as a number of past winners, including Margolis and Keeney, William Bryson, Joann Harris, Paul Coffey, Patty Stemler, Mary Lee Warren and Josh Hochberg.
He said the award, which is not given every year, is meant to honor those who best exemplify the "character, diligence, courage, professionalism and talent that Henry E. Petersen displayed during his long and illustrious career."
Chertoff summarized Mueller's long career with the department and praised not only his leadership and professional competence, but also his willingness to "seek bold solutions" to complex investigative and prospective problems.
He praised Mueller's recent efforts to refocus the Bureau's mission and priorities and enhance its flexibility. Deputy Attorney General Larry Thompson spoke briefly to laud Mueller, and the attorney general said it would be "hard to find a life devoted to justice more profoundly than the life of Robert Mueller."
When Mueller spoke he seemed almost overcome, as, turning to Mrs. Petersen, he said, "Jean, as you were to Henry Petersen, my wife Ann is to me; so thank you, Ann, for everything you've done. Those of you who know her and me understand I would not be here without her."
Then, quickly clearing his throat, the FBI director went on to delineate the qualities he said Petersen had embodied: toughness, candor, relentlessness in pursuing criminals and, "most particularly, integrity."
Mueller noted that he and Petersen, in addition to both having led the Criminal Division, had both been Marines and now also shared the FBI experience (albeit Petersen had been a clerk and Mueller is now the top guy).
Mueller closed by thanking the division employees gathered in the Great Hall and assured them, "You are the real reason that I'm standing up here accepting this award."
There's been so much said and written and worried over about the FBI's reorganization to face the new reality of fighting terrorism as its major priority; now the Criminal Division is shifting its focus as well.
Chertoff sent out a memo recently explaining his revamping of programs and resources to meet the new challenges; the changes took effect this past week. It's not just new faces but also some new names:
A new section created from the Alien Smuggling Task Force and the Violent Crime parts of TVCS (Terrorism and Violent Crime Section) is the Domestic Security Section. Teresa McHenry will head up the new DSS and Bruce Delaplaine will be her top deputy.
The terrorism part of the former TVCS is now the Counterterrorism Section and will encompass both domestic and international terrorism; its chief will continue to be Barry Sabin.
The section formerly known as Internal Security has been renamed to more accurately reflect its actual mission: the Counterespionage Section. It will continue to be headed up by John Dion.
A few other structural changes were also announced. The sections supervised by the five deputy assistant attorneys general were slightly shifted. The new lineup is as follows:
Jack Keeney (career): Organized Crime and Racketeering; Office of Enforcement Operations; and Public Integrity.
Mary Lee Warren (career): Asset Forfeiture and Money Laundering; Narcotic and Dangerous Drug; and Executive Office of the Organized Crime Drug Enforcement Task Forces.
Bruce Swartz (career): Office of International Affairs; Counterespionage; and International Criminal Investigative Training Assistance Program.
Alice Fisher (political): Fraud, Counterterrorism, and Appellate.
John Malcolm (political): Computer Crime and Intellectual Property; Child Exploitation and Obscenity; Office of Special Investigations; and Domestic Security.
Eric Jaso, who has been serving as counselor to the assistant attorney general, has now been "officially noted on the division's organization chart." Jaso was deputy general counsel in the Education Department until May; previously, he had worked with Chertoff at Latham & Watkins, and he also served a two-year stint on the Little Rock staff of Whitewater Independent Counsel Kenneth Starr.
Julie Myers, who arrived at Justice about a month ago from Customs, will be replacing Matt Martens as Chertoff's chief of staff in January. Martens says he had promised the boss he would stay 18 months; when he leaves at the end of the year it will have been 19.
He will become an assistant U.S. attorney in Charlotte, N.C., working for U.S. Attorney Bob Conrad, and focusing on white collar crime. Myers also previously worked for Starr.
Finally, Dick Rogers has thankfully returned to the division following a long illness; he will serve as Chertoff's deputy chief of staff.
Partisan Art History?
At his holiday party on Tuesday, John Ashcroft jocularly pointed out the murals in the attorney general's conference room to several guests, asserting that they represent the Democratic and Republican parties.
All of the murals in the department's main building are historic and fascinating. Their genesis was a letter George Biddle, a former classmate of Franklin Roosevelt, sent to FDR a few months after his first election.
Biddle came from an upper-crust family and was educated at Groton and Harvard, but ended up studying painting and befriending such artists as Mary Cassatt and Diego Rivera. His May 9, 1933, letter to FDR recounted how "Mexican artists have produced the greatest national school of mural painting since the Italian Renaissance. Diego Rivera tells me that it was only possible because Oregon allowed Mexican artists to work at plumbers' wages in order to express on the walls of the government buildings the social ideals of the Mexican revolution."
Biddle asserted that "the younger artists of America are conscious as they never have been of the social revolution that our country and civilization is going through and they would be very eager to express these ideals in a permanent mural art if they were given the government's cooperation. They would be contributing to and expressing in living monuments the social ideals that you are struggling to achieve."
Roosevelt told Biddle to contact an assistant secretary of the Treasury, but ultimately Treasury refused to fund the project. Biddle finally got the necessary funds when the money was transferred by Harold Ickes from the Public Works Administration, to Harry Hopkins' Relief Administration, earmarked for the Public Works of Art Project.
The artists finally selected for the Justice murals were Boardman Robinson, Maurice Sterne, Henry Varnum Poor, George Biddle, Leon Kroll and John Steuart Curry. A total of $68,000 was allocated for the artwork, which took six years (from 1935 to 1941) to complete.
Two of the most interesting are in the attorney general's conference room. They are lunettes created by Leon Kroll, and their official names are Justice Triumphant and Justice Defeated (not, need I say, Republicans and Democrats!). Here's the description of these two murals from the book about the department issued on the occasion of its 50TH anniversary:
"In the first mural, there are two figures symbolizing Justice, a woman and a black-robed Judge portrayed by Justice Harlan Stone. Justice Defeated represents the tragedy and havoc caused by the absence of Justice. The atmosphere is dark; dead trees, a threatening sky, and a barren landscape are depicted. The symbol of Justice in this mural is the beautiful recumbent woman; she has been overwhelmed by the black-robed figure holding a mask with a serene expression, but, revealing behind it his true face, cold, cruel, and vicious."
Former Attorney General Janet Reno used to always say it was important for her that when she sat at the head of her conference table she faced the specter of Justice Defeated, so that she would always be reminded of the dire consequences if justice were not carried out.
It's rather hard to imagine her joking in such a partisan manner as did Ashcroft. But then, some might say he had already amply demonstrated his lack of interest in the traditional artwork of the department.
Beverley Lumpkin has covered the Justice Department for 16 years for ABCNEWS. Halls of Justice appears every Saturday.