Freeh takes blame for 'serious error' at FBI
Facebook Twitter Email
MAY 17, 2001

Angry lawmakers confronted FBI Director Louis J. Freeh on Wednesday, the day convicted Oklahoma City bomber Timothy McVeigh was supposed to die, questioning his agency on a number of its controversial mistakes.

Freeh, who will be stepping down in June, defended the FBI amidst the criticism of its actions in cases like the 1993 raid in Waco, Texas, and the 1963 church bombing in Birmingham, Alabama. But he took full blame for the failure to produce over 3,000 pages of documents in the McVeigh case, a mistake which has put the status of the first federal execution in 38 years into doubt.

"The FBI committed a serious error by not ensuring that every piece of information was properly accounted for and, where appropriate, provided to the prosecutors so they could fulfill their discovery obligations," Freeh told a House Appropriations subcommittee.

"As director, I have taken responsibility. I'm accountable for the failure," he said.

In response to the oversight, Freeh has promised to bring in a "world-class records expert" to the agency. He also said he will set up a separate records management division to address acknowledged technological and management issues.

Such tasks may be easier said than done. American Indian trust account holders who are suing the Departments of Interior and Treasury for breach of their financial assets have borne the brunt of more than one hundred years of poor record keeping and document production by the government, problems which continue despite the creation of additional offices to tackle them.

Indeed, in the case of the FBI, the mishaps bear striking similarity to the trust fund case. Only after being asked five times to produce documents in McVeigh's case did the FBI discover the missing files and even then, only 44 out of 56 field offices satisfactorily complied with Freeh's orders.

"It appears that most offices of the FBI either failed to locate the documents, misinterpreted their instructions and likely produced only those that would be disclosed under normal discovery or sent the documents only to have them unaccounted for on the other end," said Freeh. "Any of these cases is unacceptable."

Additionally, Freeh just this past Friday sent out another order for documents and said more were found. Like the others, however, he said they will not affect the outcome of McVeigh's case even as the 33-year-old man's lawyers consider options for delaying the execution or seeking alternative punishments.

For imprisoned American Indian Movement activist Leonard Peltier, the mistakes are all too familiar. In a statement from his Leavenworth, Kansas, prison cell, he compared his case to the numerous "abuses" at the FBI.

"These violations are most serious," said Peltier. "There can be no due process, there can be no such thing as an open government, there can be no real justice or democracy when an agency as powerful as the FBI can, decade after decade, break the laws it vows to uphold with no repercussions."

McVeigh is set to die on June 11. Attorney General John Ashcroft said last week there will be no additional delays in the execution.

Get Freeh's Testimony:
Statement for the Record of Louis J. Freeh, Director Federal Bureau of Investigation on FBI File Management (FBI 5/16)

Get Peltier's Statement:
Peltier Statement on FBI Abuses (LPDC)

Relevant Links:
Senate Appropriations Committee -
Free Leonard Peltier -
The Leonard Peltier File, FBI -
The Peltier Trial Transcripts -
The No Parole Peltier Association -

Related Stories:
Review of FBI 'mistakes', culture sought (5/14)
Peltier foe announces resignation from FBI (5/2)