WASHINGTON—In response to a probe into the bureau's operational costs, FBI director Robert Mueller timidly told Congress Wednesday that the organization he oversees has not technically solved any crimes since 2001.
After confirming that the FBI does indeed have more than 13,000 special agents deployed to investigate cases all across the country, Mueller stressed that the bureau's internal process was "complicated," and that the fact that not one case file has been closed in the past decade is not unexpected.
According to records, the last case the FBI officially solved was a Topeka, KS mail fraud offense in February 2001.
"It's hard to explain to a layman precisely how our operations work, but it's really more about analyzing crimes than it is about actually, you know, arresting perpetrators and convicting them," a fidgeting Mueller said. "It's a process, is what I'm trying to say. It isn't always so simple as 'solved' and 'unsolved.' That's been especially true this decade, I think."
"Besides, solving crimes, per se, is relatively basic," Mueller added. "We're trying to set our sights a little higher, is the thing."
According to Mueller, while the FBI has worked tirelessly over the past decade to obtain leads, collect a substantial amount of evidence, and organize a thorough criminal database, it has still failed to solve any cases, despite coming close several times.
Offering a variety of reasons for the surprising results, Mueller insisted that while many in the agency would love to be solving more federal crimes, in the end, the majority of cases usually work themselves out anyway.
"I think the problem here is that everybody is thinking too narrowly about this whole crime-solving thing," said Mueller, adding that preventing crimes from happening in the first place was much more important than solving crimes that had already been committed and that no one could do anything about at that point. "Besides, a lot of the really softball, solvable cases don't come across our desk at all. We let local law enforcement handle that stuff, and, you know, we don't want to step on their toes or anything."
"Honestly, I don't even associate the words 'FBI' and 'solving crimes' in my mind, really," Mueller added.
Mueller also said that investigative journalists basically solve 20 percent of crimes before the FBI even has a chance.
Growing increasingly frustrated, Mueller testified that in a broader sense, the problem of crime could not really be "solved" unless society were changed as a whole—a task, he said, that did not fall under the FBI's purview.
"We spend a lot of hours investigating and we have arrested suspects, but even if you convict someone, what have you accomplished?" Mueller asked. "At the end of the day, we can slap some cuffs on some creep, but that's not going to bring 15 decapitated kids back. That's not solving anything."
When asked for an accounting of the bureau's $7.9 billion budget, Mueller said a significant portion of those funds were dedicated to eliminating those who question the FBI's accounting.