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Whistle-Blower Alleges Retaliation

Magazine article Editor & Publisher

Whistle-Blower Alleges Retaliation

Article excerpt

AN FBI SPECIAL agent alleges the Bureau is engaged in a campaign to destroy his career because he is a "whistle-blower," who is suspected of leaking information to the news media, among others.

Department of Justice spokesman Carl Stern called that charge "absolute, contrived nonsense," and Attorney General Janet Reno told reporters that, "Nothing is being done in retaliation."

Frederic Whitehurst, a supervisory special agent for the FBI, recently was questioned by a special independent counsel about leaks to the press.

Stern said the questioning was part of an overall investigation into the disclosure to Playboy magazine of memos written by Whitehurst about ongoing-investigations, and which contained information protected by privacy law.

Stern said there also is a separate investigation into Whitehurst's earlier allegations involving the FBI crime lab.

"Since the memos were written by him, he obviously is one person who would be questioned," Stern said. "We have a responsibility to try to determine how that information was passed into the hands of Playboy magazine."

The DOJ first learned of the media leak when Playboy asked it to verify the authenticity of the documents, Stern said, emphasizing that the investigation is about the documents. not Whitehurst.

But Whitehurst's attorney Stephen M. Kohn, called that "baloney," and charged that when information about Whitehurst, some of which he said was false, was leaked to Newsweek magazine, there was no investigation.

"In looking through that stuff [in the letter from Playboy to DOJ], there is nothing about confidential sources and methods. There's nothing in it that struck me as being classified," Kohn said.

"There is stuff in it that people would be talking about," he added, declining to specify, but calling it "sensational information" about problems with the FBI crime lab in more than one case, with the "meat" of the material dealing with bombing cases, which are Whitehurst's specialty.

Kohn added that he was "not trying to justify whoever leaked this," and said that Whitehurst "played by the rules."

Stern said there is a "whole investigation in the Inspector General's office about the allegations he [Whitehurst] raised about the FBI crime lab. This new element has to do with an investigation of someone to find out how documents with raw information about Department of Justice employees were sent into Playboy magazine ....

"To distort and contort that into some inquisition of Frederic Whitehurst is tabloid rubbish. I wish you wouldn't print it," Stern said angrily

Giving Playboy "full credit" for contacting Justice about the documents, Stern said, "Obviously, when we become aware they have documents that privacy laws and other statutes required be confidential, obviously we have a responsibility to investigate.

"To make this some grand inquisition is absolute tabloid nonsense," he continued. "Because it involves him, is he supposed to be immune when we inquire about information taken from our files?"

But Whitehurst's attorney said this is approximately the sixth time Whitehurst has been investigated since 1989, when he first disclosed information about "misconduct" in the FBI lab to attorneys for the defense in a case Kohn would not identify.

"On that occasion; it's beyond any doubt that he blew the whistle on serious scientific misconduct," Kohn said, explaining that Whitehurst "went to an expert for the defense and explained some of the problems that the person they were about to call to the stand had. …

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