Tags: Serve | Protect | Brag

To Serve, to Protect, to Brag

Wednesday, 04 June 2003 12:00 AM

Let this be said loud and clear before it becomes part of the self-created image of an agency that, like the Mounties, says it always gets its man: Eric Robert Rudolph was nabbed by a local cop on the beat. The FBI didn't have a damned thing to do with the capture of a man who had evaded the bureau for five long years while hiding practically under its nose.

After Attorney General Ashcroft, obviously miffed by the FBI's blatant grab for credit, showed the good sense to tell the bureau to shut up about the case, it went scavenging for an alternative route to the publicity bandwagon by joining in a widely publicized massive search for Rudolph's hiding place, which it couldn't find over a five-year period at the cost of a reported $30 million in taxpayer money.

Think about it. Remember the video shots of a thousand-man-strong search team acting under FBI control, looking under every rock and peering into every cave and every nook and cranny trying to find their prey, who appears to have been hiding in what amounts to plain sight somewhere in the area where he was ultimately caught by an alert local cop.

Also keep in mind the FBI's absurd fingering of Richard Jewell, who it subjected to extreme harassment, leaking what turned out to be false leads about the man's alleged culpability for the Olympic Park bombing, where in fact he'd been a hero.

They're up to the same kind of skullduggery, incidentally, with Dr. Steven Hatfill, where the harassment has now included an FBI employee, part of the 50-agent surveillance team dogging his heels, running over the man's foot when he tried to photograph his tormentor as evidence of what he is being subjected to.

Remember, the FBI candidly admits that it hasn't got a shred of evidence that Dr. Hatfill is the anthrax mail killer. Not one scintilla of evidence – yet they have 50 people on his tail 24 hours a day, seven days a week.

But let's get back to the bureau's never-sated craving for favorable publicity it doesn’t deserve. Think back a few months to the Elizabeth Smart case. Like Rudolph, Elizabeth was picked up by – guess what? – local police officers, after being missing for almost 10 months.

For a lot of that time, Elizabeth had been under the FBI's nose, but it couldn't find her, even though on occasion she was out and about in public. At one point she and her kidnappers were camped out in the hills almost within sight of Elizabeth's home, but FBI search planes and helicopters couldn't find her. It took alert local Sandy, Utah, cops to find her.

But during a press conference held to announce her recovery attended by Chief Steve Chapman of Sandy City Police and Chief Rick Dinse of Salt Lake City Police, FBI Special Agent in Charge Chip Burrus of the Salt Lake office of the bureau hogged center stage, preening in the limelight and crowing about his agency's delight in finding the girl even though the bureau had nothing to do with the outcome and had failed miserably to find her over more than nine months of searching.

Burrus admitted that Elizabeth was taken to a campsite about three miles from her home and remained there for two months. As with the FBI's current search for Rudolph's hiding place, Burrus said the campsite had been found and was being processed by the FBI evidence response team. If you can't get in on the recovery, go looking for what you missed, months after you missed it. At least it keeps the FBI in the news.

Getting back to Dr. Hatfill, who looks more and more like another Richard Jewell: The bureau's man in charge of the anthrax investigation, Van Harp, who presided over the FBI's failed investigation of the anthrax killings, is retiring.

In an amazing coincidence, as he approached retirement, news stories suddenly surfaced about a mysterious plastic box and a rope found in a Maryland pond, which the stories suggested had been used to manufacture anthrax underwater, a conclusion an FBI source dismissed as a fantasy. "It got a lot of giggles," the source said. Moreover, the so-called discovery contradicted reports at the time that the search uncovered nothing, nada, no plastic boxes, no traces of anthrax, no ropes, nothing!

The leaks from the bureau appear to have come from Harp himself, who seems to have wanted to leave the FBI with allegedly damning evidence against Hatfill, indicating that he'd been right all along.

Just who is Van Harp? Well, to begin with, he's an FBI executive who admitted submitting a questionable expense account, which he reimbursed without admitting guilt.

He is also the man who, according to a U.S. Department of Justice Office of Inspector General (OIG) report, "A Review of Allegations of a Double Standard of Discipline at the FBI," "acted with an improper purpose" when he covered up FBI wrongdoing at Ruby Ridge and improperly "edited" formal FBI investigative notes to delete information documenting FBI wrongdoing.

The OIG concluded that Harp "should have been disciplined for failure to carry out" his duties as an FBI agent. The OIG further criticized the FBI for promoting Harp and for awarding him with $22,000 in cash bonuses while he was under investigation.

At the time, Kris Kolesnik, executive director of the National Whistleblower Center, said: "Harp is currently in charge of the FBI’s investigation into the anthrax attacks on Congress and the Postal Service. Given the fact that his investigation of Ruby Ridge was 'at best ' 'grossly deficient' he should be immediately removed from that investigation. Moreover, Harp’s Washington Field Office has come under fire for misconduct within its translation department. Harp’s past conduct in ‘slanting’ investigations in order to protect senior FBI officials calls into question the FBI’s role in terminating a whistleblower in the translation department."

It's not surprising that Harp would have wanted to leave the bureau with some indication that he was at least right about Hatfill.

And the beat goes on. According to Pat Clawson, Hatfill's spokesman and friend, "The FBI doesn't have anything to show for its anthrax investigation, so they're trying to provoke him into taking a swing at an FBI agent or doing something else to give them an excuse to lock him up."

Newsweek swallowed the bureau's absurd pond story whole, joining the speculation about the "clear plastic container" found in that pond near Frederick, Md., which Clawson described as a "Kmart sweater box" by using a sensationalistic headline: "Anthrax: Finally, the FBI Uncovers a Tantalizing Clue."

Despite that fiasco, Van Harp told Jim Stewart of CBS News that, on the anthrax case, "they believe they already have their man, even if they never get his indictment. …" Stewart said former government scientist Dr. Steven Hatfill is "the FBI's number one suspect in the attacks, even though round-the-clock surveillance and extensive searches have failed to develop more than what even Justice Department prosecutors describe as a ‘highly circumstantial’ case."

That was followed by the curious stories about the FBI suspecting that Hatfill dumped lab equipment into a Maryland pond.

As NewsMax.com's Chris Ruddy wrote recently, it's about time to junk this agency and find a real federal law enforcement agency to take its place.

Phil Brennan is a veteran journalist who writes for NewsMax.com. He is editor & publisher of Wednesday on the Web (http://www.pvbr.com) and was Washington columnist for National Review magazine in the 1960s. He also served as a staff aide for the House Republican Policy Committee and helped handle the Washington public relations operation for the Alaska Statehood Committee which won statehood for Alaska. He is also a trustee of the Lincoln Heritage Institute and a member of the Association of Former Intelligence Officers He can be reached at

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Let this be said loud and clear before it becomes part of the self-created image of an agency that, like the Mounties, says it always gets its man: Eric Robert Rudolph was nabbed by a local cop on the beat. The FBI didn't have a damned thing to do with the capture of a man...
Wednesday, 04 June 2003 12:00 AM
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