Magazine article Newsweek

FBI: The Feds under Fire

Magazine article Newsweek

FBI: The Feds under Fire

Article excerpt

From Richard Jewell to,Ruby Ridge, it was a tough week for the FBI s brick agent'

WHEN THE RICHARD JEWELL CASE finally collapsed in a sad, ugly heap last week, FBI Director Louis Freeh announced two investigations into the mess. One probe will explore what role, if any, agents had in leaking Jewell's name after the July 27 pipe bombing. But the second one could boomerang back to Freeh himself. Under extraordinary pressure from agency officials in Washington, Atlanta agents lured Jewell to its local headquarters three days after the explosion under the pretense that they wanted help with a training video. What they really wanted, according to Jewell's lawyers, was to interview him without spooking him into calling his lawyer. Was this a questionable tactic? Perhaps. Was it illegal? No one is sure.

What is clear is that Freeh himself played an extraordinary hands-on role in the entire Jewell investigation. NEWSWEEK has learned that top FBI executives even monitored the phony interview from the command center in the Hoover building and funneled questions while it was in progress. A senior FBI official says that "this was a significant case, and Freeh keeps close tabs on all significant cases." No one has asserted that Freeh actually knew about the plan to trick Jewell out of his rights. But he may have a difficult time wiping his fingerprints from what one FBI agent called "an unhealthy investigative environment."

Freeh was once the Clinton administration's golden boy, a "law-enforcement legend," in the president's words. But in recent months, that legend has been tarnished. From the Jewell case to Filegate to the inconclusive TWA Flight 800 investigation, Freeh's FBI has been under siege. Earlier this month, he was reduced to sending teletypes to the bureau's 56 field offices to counter rumors he'd soon be out of a job. If that wasn't bad enough, last week a top FBI official pleaded guilty to obstructing justice in the infamous 1992 Ruby Ridge case. …

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