Accuracy in Media

To restore the standards of conduct expected of federal government employees to pre-Clinton levels, the Bush administration should apply the same high standards to the employees it inherits that it demands of those that it is hiring. They cannot review the records of every federal employee, but they can and should review the records of those who have held high positions in the Clinton administration and are maneuvering to remain on the government payroll. This should include those who have acquired civil service status or are serving terms fixed by law. If they have violated or condoned serious violations of law, such as perjury and obstruction of justice, in their present positions or positions they previously held they can and should be asked to resign.

Two very high ranking officials who should be removed are FBI Director Louis Freeh and Director of Central Intelligence George Tenet. Both have poor records of managing their organizations, which on their watch have participated in efforts to conceal the truth and obstruct justice in cases involving multiple deaths. Our news media provided no guidance or bad guidance as the Bush team considered what it should do.

In the last months of the year 2000, rumors were rife that FBI Director Louis Freeh was considering transferring to a better paying job in the private sector, but just before Christmas, Freeh stated that he intended to serve out his ten-year term, which expires in 2003. USA Today reported on Jan. 4 that “officials close to the situation” said that Freeh “has been asked to stay on the job in the new administration.” Freeh and Bush transition officials had declined to comment.

The next day, the Washington Post reported that Bush spokesman Ari Fleischer had told reporters, “We never have been looking for an FBI director. Our nation has an FBI director.” The Post interpreted that as meaning that Bush wanted Freeh to remain as director of the FBI, but a well-placed source in the transition team has dismissed this as one of many rumors about personnel decisions that had not yet been made.

The Washington Times, misled by the Post, followed up with an editorial on Jan. 7, saying, “Bush spokesman Ari Fleischer said that President-elect Bush…welcomed Mr. Freeh’s decision to become a member of the new Bush administration.” It called Freeh’s decision to remain on the job “an encouraging development for the incoming Bush administration, the nation’s law-enforcement community and law-abiding citizens everywhere.” It explained, “With the inestimable honor and integrity he brought to his job seven and a half years ago still completely intact, Mr. Freeh has cleanly emerged from an administration notable for its massive ethical?and in some cases, criminal? violations.”

The Record Tells A Different Story

The editorial writer apparently had not bothered to examine Freeh’s record. Clinton chose him to succeed Judge William Sessions, who was abruptly fired and ordered to clear out of his office the day before Deputy White House Counsel Vincent W. Foster, Jr. was found shot to death in Fort Marcy Park. Judge Sessions issued a statement six months later saying that he was fired because he had resisted the efforts of the Justice Department and the White House to subject the FBI to political interference. He said this explained why the investigation of Foster’s death was assigned to the U.S. Park Police instead of the FBI. He said that the decision about the investigative role of the FBI in the Foster case “was compromised from the beginning.”

This suggests that the Clinton White House thought Freeh, who was only 43, would be more pliable than Sessions. Dennis Sculimbrene, an FBI agent assigned to the White House along with Gary Aldrich, says it was his understanding that they first proposed giving the job to Howard Shapiro, who was only 33 and had only five years experience as an assistant U.S. attorney. He would have had trouble getting confirmed. Freeh had six years as an FBI agent, ten years as an assistant U.S. attorney, and he was made a federal judge in 1991, but he had no experience managing a large organization. When he was sworn in as director, he vowed to “resist any effort from any source to impair the integrity of the FBI,” a vow he has failed to keep. He promised to hold agents “to the same standards to which I hold myself.” Those standards proved to be disappointingly low.

After censuring his friend, Larry Potts, for his handling of the Ruby Ridge siege that resulted in the killing of Randy Weaver’s wife, Freeh named Potts deputy director. There was an uproar. The promotion was withdrawn, and Potts went into retirement.

Freeh tried to hire three assistants with whom he worked when he was an assistant U.S. attorney. When polygraphs showed them to be deceptive about the use of drugs Freeh revealed his standards by issuing a new policy directive. It decreed that applicants were to be accepted if their use of hard drugs had been “experimental” or more than 10 years in the past. He then violated FBI policy by ordering new tests for his friends. Two still showed deception, and all three were rejected. Ron Kessler, author of Inside the FBI, reported that “insiders see this double standard” as typical of Freeh.

Freeh made a show of erecting a firewall between the FBI and the Clintons by refusing an invitation to view a movie at the White House. He said he did not want to socialize with people he might have to investigate. But that firewall proved to be full of holes.

Freeh Flowing FBI Files

Under Freeh, FBI files on more than 900 individuals flowed freely into the White House with no legitimate justification. This first broke in June 1996, when it was learned that Craig Livingstone, the director of White House personnel security, had obtained the FBI file of Billy Dale after he had fired Dale as head of the White House Travel Office. A few days later, it was discovered that he also had the FBI files of 339 individuals, some of them prominent officials in the Reagan and Bush administrations. Livingstone, a former bouncer and campaign advance man who took the blame for this, retained a high-priced lawyer, resigned and kept his mouth shut.

The media lost interest in reporting whose files the FBI had delivered to the White House after the numbers climbed into the high hundreds, including persons who were not well known. The files were poorly secured at the White House, and it is believed that information from them was entered into computers of White House officials and of Livingstone’s crony and special assistant, Tony Marceca. He dropped out of sight after taking the Fifth Amendment and refusing to testify. One of the charges that sent Nixon aide Charles Colson to prison was unauthorized possession and disclosure of the contents of one FBI file. No legal action has been taken against anyone in the Clinton White House for illegitimate acquisition and use of the more than 900 files the FBI delivered to Craig Livingstone.

Freeh said this was an egregious mistake that would not be repeated, but he didn’t fire anyone. When Congress learned about these files by chance, Howard Shapiro, the 33-year-old who had been named FBI general counsel, rushed to the White House to give his friend a heads-up. It would have been more appropriate for him to inform Congress about the transfer of the files when it was taking place. The Justice Department inspector general said Shapiro “showed very poor judgment,” made a “very serious mistake,” and “exacerbated a political problem by contributing to the appearance that the FBI…was not sufficiently independent of the White House.” A few months after that rebuke, Shapiro resigned.

Shapiro pulled a similar stunt in delivering a copy of the manuscript of retired special agent Gary Aldrich’s book, Unlimited Access, to the White House. That served two purposes: it could generate White House pressure on the FBI to refuse to approve the book’s publication, and it gave the White House more time to plan their campaign to discredit it.

White House/FBI vs. Aldrich/Sculimbrene

When approval of the book’s publication was not forthcoming after five months, Aldrich told the publisher to go ahead. In doing so, he risked losing all his royalties, but he was willing to take that chance to get out the book’s main message?that the Clinton White House staff showed little regard for the measures designed to protect national security and the security of the President and his family. Instead of helping expose a deplorable situation that cried out for correction, Freeh gave the White House the means and the time to prepare a defense that effectively blocked Aldrich’s access to television when the book was published.

Gary Aldrich opposes retention of Freeh as FBI director, but this is only partly because of the way they treated his book. What bothers him most is Freeh’s treatment of his partner at the White House, Dennis Sculimbrene. White House Counsel Bernie Nussbaum had told Sculimbrene that Hillary Clinton was responsible for hiring the infamous Craig Livingstone and he added that to his report on Livingstone that had been sent to FBI headquarters.

Three years later, two FBI agents were sent to Sculimbrene’s home to question him about that report. He thinks they were trying to find out if he had kept any notes to support what he reported. They later told Congress that they were investigating a possible crime by Sculimbrene?the submission of a false report that impugned the honesty of Hillary Clinton, who had denied having anything to do with Livingstone’s being hired. Sculimbrene was incensed by the implication that he had made up information given to him by the White House Counsel. The same information had been given to Gary Aldrich by Associate Counsel Bill Kennedy. Sculimbrene saw a copy of his report on Bill Kennedy’s desk in March 1993. No one questioned its accuracy in three years.

How FBI Facilitated Filegate

Sculimbrene was deeply troubled by the hundreds of FBI files that were turned over to the White House. He said that would never have happened if the system under which all White House requests to the FBI had to be sent through him had not been discontinued on orders from FBI headquarters. Also troubling was the White House treatment of Billy Dale, the head of the White House Travel Office, and his staff. Sculimbrene was subpoenaed to testify at Dale’s trial. He did so, and he testified truthfully. FBI headquarters did not like that either. They had tried hard to put together a case against Dale, but they had come up empty-handed. They should have been investigating the Clintons and their cronies who were conspiring to get the Travel Office business. Instead of keeping his distance from those he might have to investigate, Freeh put the FBI at their disposal to try to convict an innocent man.

Notra Trulock, the former Director of Intelligence of the Department of Energy, agrees with Gary Aldrich and Dennis Sculimbrene that it would be a serious mistake to allow Freeh to continue as Director of the FBI. Trulock says he watched with dismay the FBI’s bungling of the espionage investigation at the Los Alamos nuclear weapons laboratory. He says that Freeh’s handling of that probe was “abysmal” and that the FBI simply dropped the ball. In addition to that, he says that Freeh has dismantled the FBI’s counterintelligence division. These actions reflect badly on his management skills. Trulock says that this alone is sufficient reason to show him the door.

Corruption In The FBI Lab

Bad management and corruption are serious twin problems in the vaunted FBI crime lab. Anyone who thinks that Freeh’s FBI is the world’s finest law enforcement organization, incorruptible and at the cutting edge in using science and technology to combat crime, is badly mistaken. Shocking revelations about the FBI crime lab in recent years have opened the eyes of those members of Congress who have taken the time to study them and work for correction of the flaws and abuses that Director Freeh was finally forced to admit. The respect that the bureau commanded throughout so much of its existence, which is reflected in that adulatory editorial in The Washington Times, is not deserved today.

Dr. Frederic Whitehurst, a former Marine with a Ph. D. in chemistry and a law degree, was probably the best educated special agent in the FBI when Freeh was confirmed as director in September 1993. Dr. Whitehurst tried for eight years, working through channels, to get reforms that would correct serious deficiencies that he observed in the work of the FBI crime lab where he was employed. He pointed out that many of those on the lab’s staff lacked scientific training and were incompetent and often dishonest. He claimed that they fabricated and tampered with evidence and that they often reached faulty conclusions about which they testified in court, often helping convict innocent defendants on the basis of invalid evidence. He also found that they often withheld exculpatory evidence from defense attorneys.

Justice Department Inspector General Michael Bromwich issued a 529-page report on April 15, 1997 about the “extremely serious and significant problems” in the FBI crime lab that had been exposed by Whitehurst. Bromwich had been pressured to investigate Whitehurst’s charges by Sen. Charles Grassley, R-Iowa. His report was very embarrassing for Freeh. In October 1995, Freeh had said that the complaints about the lab had been “vigorously investigated” and that there was no evidence of the improper and illegal conduct cited by Dr. Whitehurst. This investigation had been conducted by none other than the young man who had shown himself so helpful to the White House, the FBI General Counsel Howard Shapiro.

Bromwich did not confirm all of Whitehurst’s charges, but he acknowledged the validity of many of them. He recommended that disciplinary action be taken against five of the laboratory staff. He recommended that the Scientific Analysis Section be staffed by men and women with good scientific training, not by English majors. This was vindication for Dr. Whitehurst, but rather than commending and rewarding him, Freeh punished him by putting him on administrative leave. He then testified before a House committee that this was done solely because of Bromwich’s report and its recommendations. Bromwich promptly wrote to Freeh saying that he had opposed putting Whitehurst on leave. He demanded that he correct his testimony. Freeh grudgingly made a half-hearted, semi-correction.

The Illusion Of Reform

Dr. Donald M. Kerr, who has a scientific background, was hired to head the crime lab. One of the goals of the reform was to have the FBI lab subjected to rigorous scientific audits which would entitle it to accreditation. On Sept. 22, 1998 the bureau issued a news release that said: “FBI Director Louis J. Freeh said the accreditation the FBI Laboratory has received from ASCLD/LAB is another firm sign that the FBI facility is one of the finest forensic laboratories in the world. ‘This has been one of my goals since becoming Director of the FBI, and it culminates a long-term Bureau commitment and tireless work by FBI personnel,’ Freeh said.”

For Freeh to say that securing accreditation had been one of his goals from the beginning of his term when he had categorically rejected Whitehurst’s recommendations in 1995 exposes his dishonesty. But that is not all. According to Dr. Whitehurst and Janine Arvizo, the head of Consolidated Technology Services, Inc., a private company that audits scientific testing laboratories, the audit and accreditation that Freeh so proudly announced in 1998 is just window-dressing. Both Whitehurst and Arvizo say that the rigor of the audit, which was conducted by ASCLD/LAB, a creation of the American Society of Crime Laboratory Directors, does not begin to compare with the rigor of the audits that the government requires of private testing labs with which it does business.

Arvizo says there is not a law enforcement forensic lab in the country that is subjected to a truly rigorous audit. She points out that the rigor of an audit should depend on the importance attached to the accuracy of the work product. Forensic labs provide evidence that may send men and women to prison or even condemn them to death. Such evidence, she says, ought to be required to meet very high standards of accuracy.

ASCLD/LAB uses personnel from ASCLD member labs to audit other member labs. Arvizo says the requirements for accreditation described in their manual are the weakest that she has ever seen in terms of technical rigor. Most testing labs, she says, have to submit to rigorous audits from once every six months to once every two years. Most are audited annually. ASCLD/LAB requires an audit only every five years, except for DNA testing, for which an audit every two years is required.

Dr. Whitehurst says the ASCLD/LAB accreditation of the FBI lab does not mean that the reforms he fought for have actually been made. He says the FBI crime lab will continue to lack credibility as long as it refuses to undergo genuine independent rigorous audits on a regular basis. As matters now stand, the lab was audited superficially in 1998 and it will not be given another superficial audit until 2003. In the meantime, no outsider is permitted to even superficially inspect the lab to see if even the ASCLD/LAB requirements are being met.

Why FBI Agents Don’t Record Interviews

When asked about the backwardness of the FBI in not having its agents tape record their interviews, Dr. Whitehurst said this is because they don’t want to be tied down to what the person being interviewed actually says. They want to be able to embroider the interview or trim it. He said he had recommended equipping all the agents with eyeglasses that have a built-in video camera that will record both what is said and what the agent can see. He said that was rejected. It would deprive the agents of their freedom to misreport what the witnesses had said.

Dennis Sculimbrene confirms this. The idea that all FBI agents are looking for the truth and nothing but the truth is a misconception. Some are frequently looking for evidence to satisfy a prosecutor, a boss or their own preconceptions of what the answer should be. Dr. Whitehurst saw that in the crime lab. Sculimbrene saw it in the agents who were assuming that he had falsified his report on Craig Livingstone. Gary Aldrich saw it in the bureau’s collaboration with the White House to help them discredit his book.

FBI/CIA Try To Discredit Eyewitnesses

The most ambitious example of an effort to discredit eyewitnesses to win support for an official lie was seen by millions nationwide in November 1997 when James Kallstrom, the FBI assistant director in charge of the investigation of the crash of TWA Flight 800, announced that the FBI was ending its probe. He showed a video made by the CIA to discredit the hundreds of people who said that they had seen something like fireworks or a flare ascending or already high in the sky that was moving in the direction of TWA 800 and apparently blew it up. They were describing a missile.

The eyewitness testimony was so strong that they decided it would have to be discredited. To do that, the help of the CIA was obtained. The CIA video tried to prove that every person who said that they had seen anything like a streak of light moving in the direction of TWA 800 was mistaken. They had decided that the best way to dispose of these hundreds of troublesome witnesses was to convince the public that none of them had seen anything in the sky that evening except TWA 800.

They created a video simulation showing that the huge jet’s fuel tank exploded and broke off the plane’s nose, causing it to climb 3000 feet at a sharp angle like a rocket, trailing burning fuel. And that, they said, was mistaken for the fireworks, the flare or whatever any eyewitness said they saw streaking toward TWA Flight 800.

This infuriates the eyewitnesses, who say the CIA simulation bears no resemblance to what they saw. It infuriates those who have studied the radar data that show that the plane accelerated sharply after the first explosion, proving that it was falling, not climbing. It infuriates those who know that a 747 cannot imitate a rocket even when it is undamaged and has all its power. The officials at the FBI, the CIA and the NTSB who made, showed or endorsed this Big Lie video are all parties to obstructing the search for the source of the missiles that the eyewitnesses really saw. In so doing they have forfeited any claim they might have on the jobs they now hold.

False FBI Reports On Foster’s Death

The FBI’s tolerance of false reporting by its agents is also seen in the reports of interviews (302s) by FBI agents working on the Vincent Foster case under special prosecutor Robert Fiske. The report of their interview of eyewitness Patrick Knowlton said that he had described a car with Arkansas tags that he saw in the Ft. Marcy parking lot as a brown 1988 to 1990 Honda.

Knowlton had told them that the car was rust brown in color and that it was a mid-eighties model. The rust-brown color panel that he had chosen in the FBI laboratory was used only on the 1983 and 1984 models. The FBI agents had tried hard to get Knowlton to change his testimony, because Foster’s Honda Accord was a light gray, 1989 model. When he refused to do so, he was subjected to intensive intimidating harassment just before he was to testify before a grand jury.

Knowlton’s description of the car was corroborated by two other people, the only other eyewitnesses who were in the Ft. Marcy parking lot that afternoon that are known to the police and FBI. They also said an older model brownish car was parked in the space that an hour later was occupied by Foster’s light-gray 1989 Honda Accord.

No comparable effort was made by the FBI to get them to change their story because, unlike Knowlton, they had no interest in convincing anyone that the official explanation of Foster’s death could not be true. Knowlton studied the evidence and he knew that Foster was dead long before his car appeared in the Ft. Marcy parking lot. He has tried to make that known, and has become a thorn in the side of the FBI. The other two have kept quiet.

What You Can Do

Send an e-mail or the enclosed card or your own card or letter to Clay Johnson, Director of Personnel, The White House, Washington, DC 20500 His e-mail address when this was written was (JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address)

Send the enclosed card on Notra Trulock and PD 61 to an editor of your choice.

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