Who'll Follow Freeh Into the FBI Corner Office?

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J. PAT CARTER/AP

Oklahoma Gov. Frank Keating: Among those tipped to become FBI director

FBI Director Louis Freeh announced Tuesday he was stepping down from his post of 8 years. While Freeh is looking forward to spending time with his family and fielding lucrative offers from the private sector, Washington is abuzz with speculation as to his successor.

Who will replace Freeh?

TIME Justice Department correspondent Elaine Shannon is keeping her ear to the ground as candidates’ names start to pop up. She spoke with TIME.com Thursday.

Shannon: Freeh only told the White House about his plans on Monday and then told Attorney General John Ashcroft on Tuesday. Freeh has kept this very close; he didn’t even tell his most intimate aides at FBI that he was leaving until he actually walked out.

That timeframe hasn’t given the White House or Ashcroft a lot of time to think about replacements. But, as per usual when a post like this opens up, people already have lots of ideas as to who might take Freeh’s place.

Robert Mueller: Mueller served in both the Bush I and Clinton administrations, he was a U.S. attorney in Boston during the Reagan administration, and made his mark prosecuting corruption cases. He has impressed careerists in the FBI and at the Justice Department with his intellectual courage and his passion for public service. He is a patrician, an Ivy Leaguer who’s very smart very high-minded and idealistic. He’s also a decorated Vietnam War hero. Before Ashcroft’s confirmation, Mueller was essentially running the Justice Department as the acting deputy Attorney General. If there were a department-wide vote at Justice to name Freeh’s replacement, Mueller would get quite a few of them.

Ronald Noble: The secretary-general of Interpol, Noble held high-level Treasury Department posts in the Reagan and Bush I administrations. He’s seen as pretty conservative. He’s very highly regarded; he ran the Treasury Department’s investigation into what went wrong at Waco, and it was generally agreed that he did an excellent job with that assignment. His investigation is much more highly regarded than the Justice Department’s investigation. Noble is the only black man who’s been mentioned as a contender for the Freeh’s post.

Frank Keating: The Oklahoma governor was an official in both the Justice and Treasury Departments during the Reagan administration. He was also an FBI agent early in his adult life. There are ideological conservatives, however who are already putting up some resistance to Keating, expressing concern over his willingness to use devices like wiretaps to nab a criminal — devices which some conservatives worry are the first step to the end of privacy. Questions have also been raised surrounding Keating’s past financial dealings.

Jack Lawn: Was contacted during the transition by Bush aides who asked if he would be interested in a job. He said yes, but no job was ever specified. Lawn has lots of admirers in Washington’s inner circles, including Bush Senior. A former FBI agent, Lawn took over the Drug Enforcement Agency during Reagan’s second term. He’s in his 60s now, and retired. He worked, most recently, for New York Yankees owner George Steinbrenner and for the Century Council (an anti-alcohol, anti-drug organization).

Marc Racicot: The former Montana governor is definitely a long shot. Folks over at Justice are taking Racicot at his word when he says he needs to spend some time in the private sector.

Mary Jo White: People generally think very highly of the U.S. Attorney for Manhattan, but she’s a very long shot. It would be interesting to see a woman take over this job — especially because the Bureau thrives on a fairly militaristic, manly-man style. White’s name has come up a few times, because lots of Republicans think highly of her for her investigation into Bill Clinton’s pardon of Marc Rich.