Magazine article Insight on the News

Q: Has the White House Politicized the Federal Bureau of Investigation?

Magazine article Insight on the News

Q: Has the White House Politicized the Federal Bureau of Investigation?

Article excerpt

Yes: Running face-saving errands for Clinton has meant downgrading the bureau's national-security mission.

The term "politicization" fails to capture the true nature and gravity of what really is going wrong down at the headquarters of the Federal Bureau of Investigation, where I was employed as a special agent for more than 26 years.

The FBI's problems are a combination of micromanagement and abuse by politicians who believe the agency exists for the purpose of punishing political enemies or scoring political victories in the media. Most troubling is the fact that some in the FBI's senior management who were brought to the FBI by Director Louis Freeh cannot seem to bring themselves to say "no" to clearly improper and possibly illegal requests by the Clinton White House.

Keep in mind that the FBI is an agency housed within the Department of Justice, or DOJ, and therefore reports to the president's attorney general. Amazingly, many people think that somehow the FBI has "independence" when in fact it does not -- except to the extent to which each FBI director can demand it. (J. Edgar Hoover did and got it.) But should citizens be concerned about the way the White House is using the FBI? Consider some events of the recent past:

* After President Clinton's first inauguration, the FBI was asked to bend, twist and break the rules regarding the background-investigation process. In spite of warnings and pleas from two senior FBI agents (including me) who were assigned to the White House, and overwhelming evidence of serious character flaws of White House personnel, FBI headquarters did nothing to alert the White House or Congress that national security was being severely damaged. Soon it became clear to us in the trenches that the actions of Clinton staffers eventually would overwhelm the long-standing process by which national security and the president of the United States were protected.

* Former FBI Director William Sessions was left hanging for more than six months waiting for results of Attorney General Janet Reno's review of minor ethical problems. Sessions eventually was fired, but during that time he was a lame duck and a weakened FBI was less able to fend off White House pressure to manipulate and ignore the background-investigation process.

* When a standoff by a religious cult in Waco, Texas, became a serious public-relations problem for the Clinton administration, the FBI was pressured by the White House to bring the standoff to a hasty conclusion. This political pressure was applied to the FBI by DOJ through Webster Hubbell, who had met with frantic White House staff. As a result of political panic at the White House, many people died. The FBI presented to the U.S. attorney general the option to "wait out" David Koresh, the lunatic who eventually burned the Waco compound to the ground3 but this option was dismissed by the White House and DOJ in favor of meeting the president's political needs.

* The FBI was pressured to participate in the character assassination of Billy Dale, the former head of the White House Travel Office, and six of his coworkers, despite evidence that the White House was trying to cover up the real reason for the travel office staff's ouster -- namely, to free up "slots" for friends of Bill and Hillary and to throw the multimillion-dollar White House travel business to political cronies. As a result, Dale suffered through a 30-month criminal investigation by several FBI agents and two full-time prosecutors. This unfair and unnecessary investigation clearly was an attempt to save face for the White House and the FBI.

* The FBI stood silent in spring 1994 when the White House insisted to the media and Congress that national security indeed was being protected. At that time the bureau knew full well that the White House had dismantled any semblance of a serious security program. They knew that hundreds of individuals were wandering about the White House who had refused to undergo the FBI background investigation, which normally is required to work in the White House. …

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