Sunday, December 04, 2005

Report Finds Cover-Up in an F.B.I. Terror Case

"WASHINGTON, Dec. 3 - Officials at the Federal Bureau of Investigation mishandled a Florida terror investigation, falsified documents in the case in an effort to cover repeated missteps and retaliated against an agent who first complained about the problems, Justice Department investigators have concluded."

In one instance, someone altered dates on three F.B.I. forms using correction fluid to conceal an apparent violation of federal wiretap law, according to a draft report of an investigation by the Justice Department inspector general's office obtained by The New York Times. But investigators were unable to determine who altered the documents.

The agent who first alerted the F.B.I. to problems in the case, a veteran undercover operative named Mike German, was "retaliated against" by his boss, who was angered by the agent's complaints and stopped using him for prestigious assignments in training new undercover agents, the draft report concluded.

Mr. German's case first became public last year, as he emerged as the latest in a string of whistle-blowers at the bureau who said they had been punished and effectively silenced for voicing concerns about the handling of terror investigations and other matters since Sept. 11, 2001.

The inspector general's draft report, dated Nov. 15 and awaiting final review, validated most of Mr. German's central accusations in the case. But the former agent, who left the bureau last year after he said his career had been derailed by the Florida episode, said he felt more disappointment than vindication.

"More than anything else, I'm saddened by all this," Mr. German said in an interview. "I still love the F.B.I., and I know that there are good, honest, hard-working agents out there trying to do the right thing, and this hurts all of them."

Robert S. Mueller III, director of the F.B.I., has emphasized repeatedly, both publicly and in private messages to his staff, that employees are encouraged to come forward with reports of wrongdoing and that he will not tolerate retaliation against whistle-blowers.

Senator Charles E. Grassley, an Iowa Republican who has been a frequent critic of the bureau, said of Mr. German: "Unfortunately, this is just another case in a long line of F.B.I. whistle-blowers who have had their careers derailed because the F.B.I. couldn't tolerate criticism."...

[bth: tolerance for this kind of extra-legal activity and the subsequent persecution of the one agent willing to confront the problem is what is wrong with the country today. It corrodes our country's rule of law one drop of acid at a time.]

No comments: