Review of FBI 'mistakes' culture sought
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MAY 14, 2001

With the execution of convicted Oklahoma City bomber Timothy McVeigh now delayed a month due to fumbling by the FBI, lawmakers on Sunday called for a reform to the agency whose slip-ups have become as well known as its successes.

"We've had mistake after mistake after mistake," said Senator Charles Schumer (D-N.Y.) on CBS' Face The Nation yesterday. "A top to bottom review of what's going on in the FBI is called for."

The ranking Democrat on the Senate Judiciary subcommittee which has jurisdiction over the FBI, Schumer said he and subcommittee chairman Jeff Sessions (R-Ala.) are going to hold a hearing to investigate how the FBI failed to provide over 3,000 pages of documents to McVeigh's defense team. Just last week, Department of Justice officials discovered the oversight and only after being asked five times to produce such records.

The result of the mishap -- attributed by law and government experts to poor management decisions and inadequate technological resources, problems strikingly similar to those which plague the Indian trust fund system -- was Attorney General John Ashcroft's decision to delay McVeigh's execution. The first federal execution in 38 years is set to occur June 11, rather than next week.

Yet while Ashcroft on Friday said he regretted having to delay the execution, he sidestepped the issue of whether his faith in the FBI has been shaken by the incident. The decision was based on the interests of the American public in seeing justice served, he said.

But another lawmaker who has frequently blasted the FBI renewed his criticism of the agency as one which sometimes goes too far in the name of justice.

"I call it a cowboy culture," said Senator Charles Grassley (R-Iowa), chairman of the Finance Committee and a member of the Judiciary Committee, on ABC's This Week yesterday. "It's kind of a culture that puts image, public relations and headlines ahead of the fundamentals of the FBI."

By any account, the list of cases cited by FBI critics is a long and embarrassing one. The suppression of evidence in the 1963 Alabama church bombing. The intense prosecution of Los Alamos scientist Wen Ho Lee. The siege on the Branch Davidian compound in Texas.

For many in Indian Country, the list would also include the case of imprisoned American Indian Movement activist Leonard Peltier, convicted of killing two FBI agents on the Pine Ridge Reservation. For years, the FBI -- including director Louis Freeh -- have used the media to defend the way the case has been handled, exemplified last year with the 25th anniversary of the South Dakota shootout.

With Freeh set to resign in June, lawmakers are hoping their review of the FBI will extend to a new leader for the seemingly troubled agency. Once President Bush announces a nominee, the Senate Judiciary Committee will consider a new director.

Relevant Links:
Sen. Charles Schumer -
Senate Judiciary Committee -
Free Leonard Peltier -
The Leonard Peltier File, FBI -
The Peltier Trial Transcripts -
The No Parole Peltier Association -

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