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LIVE FROM THE HEADLINES

ACLU Tackles FBI Chief

Aired June 13, 2003 - 19:22   ET

THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.

ANDERSON COOPER, CNN ANCHOR: The American Civil Liberties Union prides itself as the nation's guardian of liberty. During a history- making conference day, FBI Director Robert Mueller spoke to more than 1,500 ACLU members. And as CNN's Kelli Arena reports, it was a day filled with both humor and some serious questions.
(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

KELLI ARENA, CNN JUSTICE CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): One FBI official said it was like sending Daniel into the lion's den. And at first, it sure looked like the 1,000 or so ACLU member were smelling blood.

ANTHONY ROMERO, ACLU EXECUTIVE DIRECTOR: We know that the FBI has a difficult and necessary mandate to protect Americans from the next terrorist attack. The ACLU also has a difficult and necessary mandate to protect Americans from a steady and dangerous erosion of our civil liberties.

ARENA: But there was hardly a slaughter. The FBI director came armed with humor.

ROBERT MUELLER, FBI DIRECTOR: I think you really do owe me, however, because the increase in membership, all of you here, I probably...

ARENA: It was first ever membership meeting for the ACLU. The organization even helped foot the bill for some of its youngest members to attend, a fact the guest speaker sought to capitalize on.

MUELLER: And you probably think I'm here to give a talk, but actually I'm here to recruit FBI agents, so...

ARENA: The mood was light, but not the issues. The director was hit with questions regarding the Patriot Act, which ACLU members say infringes on personal liberties in the name of national security.

MUELLER: I will tell you this is an area that we are going disagree.

ARENA: The detention of illegal aliens in the wake of September 11 and a Justice Department inspector general's report criticizing the way they were treated.

MUELLER: My hope is that we will never again face a situation we faced on September 11. But if we do, it is my expectation that those recommendations from the inspector general will be assimilated.

ARENA: And the FBI's new authority to obtain records from libraries and bookstores, which Mueller says is overstated.

In the end, some members were impressed, but not swayed.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: He did kind of dodge some of the answers.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: It's very impressive for him to come at this forum. I mean, he knew from the start that he did not have any supporters here.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

ARENA: Well, the speech may be over, but the dialogue is sure to continue, especially as the government pushes for more new powers to fight the war on terror -- Anderson.

COOPER: No doubt about that. Kelli Arena, thank you.

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