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COLUMN SEVENTY-FIVE, SEPTEMBER 1, 2002
(Copyright © 2002 The Blacklisted Journalist)
BY JOSHUA MICAH MARSHALL
LOUIS FREEH: THE MAN WHO WASN'T THERE
FW: How Louis Freeh escaped responsibility for 9/11
Date: Mon, 15 Jul 2002 21:14:11 -0700
From: "venire" <firstname.lastname@example.org>
Man Who Wasn't There
How Louis Freeh escaped responsibility for 9/11.
By Joshua Micah Marshall
Posted Tuesday, July 9, 2002, at 9:26 AM PT
more than a month, congressional committees have been investigating America's
recent track record on intelligence and counterterrorism. Members of Congress
have heard from Robert Mueller, the current chief of the FBI, and George Tenet,
the current chief of the CIA. They've heard from former heads of these agencies,
such as William Webster. They've taken testimony from a star-studded array of
other intelligence and counterterrorism worthies. But along the way, it somehow
hasn't occurred to any of the committees doing post-9/11 investigations to call
up Louis J. Freeh, the man who headed the FBI---the country's primary domestic
intelligence and counterterrorism agency---from 1993 to June 2001, the most
critical eight years in question.
ran the bureau from the rise of al-Qaeda in the early 1990s until just two
months before Bin Laden landed his roundhouse blow on the United States. Under
his leadership, the FBI made many mistakes and missed many opportunities that
paved the way for 9/11. He presided over a bureau that fell almost laughably
behind in information technology. On his watch, the counterterrorism division
languished as a career-killing backwater. As David Plotz noted in Slate
more than a year ago, Freeh's chief accomplishment as FBI director was to
oversee an almost endless litany of fiascos while successfully ducking
responsibility for all of them.
some of Freeh's failures were rooted in problems that long predated his tenure.
But even if you subscribe to the unlikely notion that Freeh did a bang-up job
under the most difficult of circumstances, why not bring him up to the Hill and
hear what he has to say?
It's not in anyone's political interest to have him there. Freeh's feckless and
unfortunate tenure was a bipartisan blunder of immense and perhaps tragic
proportions. The normal rules say that politics is a zero-sum game and that even
if both parties have egg on their face, one must have more than the other. The
party with two eggs on its face should be trying to stick it to the party with
three. But in this case, it's pretty much just eggs all around.
don't want to talk about Freeh. Yes, Freeh---a Republican---never got along with
the Clinton White House, outspokenly pushed for independent counsels and
investigations of various Clintonites, and bickered with his nominal boss,
Attorney General Janet Reno. But much as Clintonites and Democrats might loathe
Freeh, at the end of the day, Bill Clinton appointed him, and whatever mistakes
Freeh might be responsible for happened on Bill Clinton's watch. True, a
president can fire an FBI director only for cause, not just because he wants to.
But that doesn't make it impossible. Clinton dismissed Freeh's predecessor,
William Sessions, in July 1993 for abusing the perquisites of his office. Firing
Freeh, however, was never politically possible because of the FBI's involvement
in the various investigations of the Clinton White House. If you're a Democrat
or a Clintonite, that's the sort of defense that makes you not want to get the
argument started in the first place.
the Republicans' eagerness to pin pre-9/11 failures on the Clinton
administration, you would think they would be clamoring to bring Freeh to the
Hill. But congressional Republicans are even more to blame for Freeh's
fecklessness than Clinton. If the White House found Freeh obstreperous and
unmanageable, it was largely because he had so much support from Republicans on
Capitol Hill. Whether it was the Richard Jewell disaster, or the Wen Ho Lee
debacle, or the cover-ups of Waco and Ruby Ridge, whenever a new problem at the
FBI would come to light, a senatorial Freeh-booster like Orrin Hatch or Arlen
Specter would use the occasion to give a tongue-lashing to Janet Reno or Bill
Clinton. If congressional Republicans started attacking Freeh today, they would
have to admit that they shortchanged their oversight responsibilities while he
was in office because they were such fans of his endless Clinton-bashing.
became a key player in the long-standing war between the Clinton White House and
the Republican Congress. And he, unlike the country, profited from it immensely.
He carved out a pocket of freedom for his agency and himself in which he was
accountable to pretty much no one. Both parties bear responsibility for that.
Now they are both conspiring to sweep the truth under the rug.
once again, Louis Freeh gets to skate away scot-free. ##
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