Freeh: Leak in Atlanta Blast Calls for Charges

Article excerpt

FBI Director Louis Freeh said Thursday that he would like to fire and prosecute the official who first identified Richard Jewell as a suspect in last summer's Olympic Park bombing in Atlanta.

Freeh said he expected a report within about a week on a Justice Department investigation of the leak. But he acknowledged that the FBI's record in finding leakers is weak: In four years, 48 investigations have led to nine disciplinary actions, including one dismissal.

"I am mystified by those in law enforcement, including anyone in the FBI, that believe it is acceptable to so disrespect the criminal justice process by leaking investigatory information," Freeh told a Senate subcommittee looking into Jewell's treatment by law enforcement and the press. "I am at a loss to explain their motivation and apparent willingness to cause so much harm to the process to which we have devoted our lives." Three spokesmen called to discuss press ethics disagreed among themselves on whether the media behaved deplorably in the matter. After 88 days of intense scrutiny, Jewell, a security guard, was exonerated in October by a federal prosecutor. He subsequently said that "the FBI and the media almost destroyed me and my mother." He also said he would sue The Atlanta Journal-Constitution, which broke the story and has declined to run a retraction, saying its account was not inaccurate. "We, the media, blew it in July," said Steve Geimann, a senior editor of Communications Daily and president of the 13,500-member Society of Professional Journalists. "Our coverage of the bombing and the search for a suspect was, in hindsight, excessive, overblown and unnecessarily intruded into the life of Mr. Jewell." But Paul McMasters, a First Amendment expert at the Freedom Forum, no ted that almost all stories about Jewell had made it clear that Jewell had not been charged with a crime and, he said, the press put pressure on the FBI "to clear Mr. …


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