Tags: FBI | Director | Freeh | Quits

FBI Director Freeh Quits

Tuesday, 01 May 2001 12:00 AM

In a statement released to the media, Freeh thanked President Bush and members of the administration for asking him to stay. He also thanked his former boss, former Attorney General Janet Reno, with whom he frequently and vehemently disagreed. Perhaps more surprisingly, he thanked former President Bill Clinton, for whom Freeh often privately expressed contempt and anger.

"I wish to thank former President Clinton for the honor and privilege of allowing me to serve the American people as the FBI director," Freeh said.

He thanked Reno "for her friendship and support to the FBI, particularly in our expanded efforts to combat cyber-crime, terrorism and international organized crime."

Bush expressed his disappointment over Freeh's departure during an afternoon press conference at the White House, saying that the resignation caught him by surprise.

"I found Louis Freeh to be a fine public servant. And our nation owes him a great debt of gratitude for his service to our country," Bush said.

Freeh's eight years at the FBI's helm were characterized by achievement and almost constant controversy.

In 1993, Clinton forced out then-FBI Director William Sessions for alleged ethics lapses and asked Freeh, a former FBI special agent in charge, U.S. attorney and federal judge, to take his place.

Freeh was almost immediately confronted with the aftermath of two federal sieges that occurred before his appointment: Ruby Ridge in August 1992, where an FBI sniper killed the wife of white separatist Randy Weaver; and Waco, Texas, in April 1993, where more than 80 members of the Branch Davidians died in a fire after FBI agents tried to force them out of their compound with tear gas.

In 1996, the FBI had to concede that its chief suspect in the Atlanta Olympic pipe bombing, security guard Richard Jewell, was innocent. The current suspect in that bombing and several others, Eric Robert Rudolph, remains at large.

Freeh also had to contend with the revelation that hundreds of FBI file summaries on Republicans had been sent to the White House security office in late 1993 and early 1994. Although an independent counsel's investigation would conclude that the files had been requested by the security office by mistake, the revelation was a severe embarrassment for Freeh, who was furious with the White House. The incident led to his final breach with Clinton.

The family-oriented Freeh would later look with a jaundiced eye at Clinton's sexual liaison with former White House intern Monica Lewinsky and at Republican attempts in Congress to impeach and remove the president.

Freeh repeatedly urged Reno to ask a three-judge panel to appoint an independent counsel to investigate Democratic fund-raising. Reno repeatedly rejected his advice and instead relied on a Justice Department task force that investigated fund-raising in both major parties.

The scandal of spy suspect Robert Hanssen, an FBI agent, was the most recent major humiliation.

Freeh's tenure also included significant advances in FBI power. For the first time, large FBI teams were dispatched overseas to investigate terrorist bombings, such as at the Khobar Tower site in Saudi Arabia, and at two embassies in East Africa. An FBI team also investigated mass killings in the former Yugoslavia.

Freeh took an internationalist approach to his job from the beginning.

"As director, I have traveled to 68 countries around the world and met with over 2,100 foreign leaders," Freeh said in his statement Tuesday. "At the same time, we have more than doubled the FBI's overseas presence - now in 44 critical foreign locations - in order to enhance our cooperation with our foreign counterparts."

Freeh said more than 50,000 foreign police officers had been trained at the bureau's academy in Quantico, Va.

He cited a 58 percent increase in the FBI's budget since 1993 - to $3.44 billion - and more diversity in the FBI.

"During my tenure," Freeh said, "three African-American men, four Hispanic men, one African-American woman and one white woman were appointed as assistant directors, the second highest rank in the career FBI."

Freeh's liberal critics throughout the mid- and late 1990s complained that he kowtowed to the Republican congressional leadership and other Clinton political enemies, but

His boss, Attorney General John Ashcroft, praised him lavishly after the announcement.

"Louis is a model law enforcement officer: diligent, moral, judicious and obedient to our Constitution … His legacy of uncompromising integrity will endure throughout the FBI's ranks."

He did not indicate what he would do once he steps down, but it has been an open Washington secret that Freeh has been looking for a job outside government. The father of six boys, 3 to 16, Freeh is said to be concerned about the low pay in government.

Copyright 2001 by United Press International.

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In a statement released to the media, Freeh thanked President Bush and members of the administration for asking him to stay. He also thanked his former boss, former Attorney General Janet Reno, with whom he frequently and vehemently disagreed. Perhaps more surprisingly, he...
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Tuesday, 01 May 2001 12:00 AM
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