ADMINISTRATION solidifies list of prospects to head FBI

Tuesday, May 22nd 2001, 12:00 am
By: News On 6

WASHINGTON (AP) _ A federal judge in Chicago, a top legal strategist for President Bush during the Florida recount and a former special prosecutor in the Iran-Contra case are among top candidates for FBI director, government officials said Monday.

They said the White House has done a round of interviews with leading contenders, who were said to include:

_Washington lawyer George Terwilliger, a deputy attorney general in the previous Bush administration and a lawyer for George W. Bush during the Florida recount standoff that decided last year's presidential election. A former U.S. attorney for Vermont, Terwilliger specialized in white-collar crime and terrorism during his previous Justice Department service.

_Joel Flaum, chief judge of the 7th Circuit of the U.S. Court of Appeals in Chicago and a friend of Attorney General John Ashcroft. A former federal and state prosecutor in Illinois, Flaum served on the team that convicted Chicago mass murderer Richard Speck in 1967. Flaum was the youngest federal judge in the nation when he was appointed by President Ford in 1974 at age 38.

_Robert Mueller, former acting deputy attorney general who returned last week to his post as U.S. attorney in San Francisco. Mueller previously headed the homicide division at the U.S. attorney's office in Washington and was chosen by the first President Bush to run the criminal division at the Justice Department.

_Dan Webb, a Chicago attorney who prosecuted former National Security Adviser John Poindexter in the Iran-Contra case. A former U.S. attorney, Webb worked the Operation Greylord public corruption investigation in Chicago and defended former Rep. Dan Rostenkowski, D-Ill., in his corruption case. His recent clients have included corporations, including tobacco giant Philip Morris in a smoker liability case.

After completion of the White House interviews, Ashcroft will begin meeting with potential candidates this week, said the officials, who spoke on condition of anonymity.

Other candidates could be added to those under consideration to replace Louis Freeh, who retires next month, the officials said.

Meanwhile, a few potential candidates whose names surfaced earlier are not considered viable contenders, said one source. They include Oklahoma Gov. Frank Keating, former Montana Gov. Marc Racicot and Mary Jo White, U.S. Attorney for the Southern District of New York.

The search comes as the FBI struggles to regain its footing after two embarrassing controversies.

The bureau disclosed this month that it failed to turn over documents possibly related to the case against convicted Oklahoma City bomber Timothy McVeigh, which led to a delay of several weeks in McVeigh's planned execution. In February, veteran FBI counterintelligence agent Robert Hanssen was arrested for allegedly spying for Moscow. He was indicted last week on 21 counts of espionage.