The FBI’s Unfinished Business
by Gary Aldrich
Robert Mueller reports to a Senate Committee today to be examined for his nomination as the new FBI Director. His record has been hashed and rehashed in the media and most agree that unless some surprise is waiting in the wings, he will be confirmed.
Two questions loom large. If confirmed what will Mueller do about the entrenched dysfunctional management system that is the cause of most of the FBI’s recent missteps? Many in Washington think that Louis Freeh’s resignation and the appointment of a new FBI Director will be enough to get the matter of serial FBI goofs off the front pages. Some cynics claim that this is as far as it will go, and the new administration will pay lip service to any recommendations that will result from the five different studies and investigations into the troubled agency’s operations.
When J. Edgar Hoover was first offered the job of Director of the young, unseasoned agency that was riddled with incompetence, laziness and corruption, he said he would only take the job on the condition that he be allowed to make the changes necessary to turn the agency around. President Coolidge and Attorney General Harlen F. Stone agreed, and Hoover made the FBI into the premier law enforcement agency that it is - or should we say was - at the time of Hoover’s death.
Mr. Mueller should be given the same blank check to make sorely needed change. But there are other matters that deserve his attention.
Shortly after Bill Clinton and his gang took over the White House, the FBI was coerced into conducting investigations that were anything but thorough. The quality of background investigations of White House personnel was downgraded dramatically due to the scheming of "Clinton’s clan." That’s not all. A few examples were the inappropriate criminal investigations of career White House employees because they might be in the way of an ambitious first "lady;" the turning over of more than 900 confidential FBI summary reports on former Reagan and Bush political appointees.
And last, but not least, a conspiracy with my former agency to silence two career FBI agents who were sick and tired of the threat to national security that Bill and Hillary Clinton’s Administration had become.
These two agents, of whom I was one, were given the usual abuse in store for government whistle blowers, but with an added twist. I tried to get my book, Unlimited Access, approved through the FBI before it went to print. There is a rudimentary process that exists to protect an FBI employee’s free speech rights, so I thought it only right to do so. However, when Howard Shapiro, FBI senior counsel and friend to Louis Freeh, got a hold of my manuscript, it was dashed to the White House and turned over to Clinton White House Counsel Jack Quinn.
This political "heads up" enabled the White House to formulate a very successful media campaign against me and the book I wrote, so much so that it effectively kept me off prime time TV.
Later, an agitated George Stephanopoulos, then top-advisor to Bill Clinton, declared to the world (with my family and friends watching) that I was a "pathological liar." The FBI Director and the thousands of FBI agents and employees who knew better were ordered to be silent, and like the "good soldiers" that they were, they did indeed remain silent.
Was the nation served by their failure to follow my lead in revealing the ugly truth about the Clinton Administration? I have my own opinions, but history will be the judge that. I think when the entire story is told, I’ll come out looking pretty good.
While the FBI stalled the approval of my "tell-some" manuscript, running up enormous legal fees that nearly bankrupted my family and me, they were in active cahoots with an obviously corrupted administration bent on destroying my FBI partner, Dennis Sculimbrene, and me.
Dennis and I had worked together at the White House for nearly six years. I knew him to be only honest and hard working. He was a patriot and a stickler for national security concerns. In other words, he was doing the job the FBI sent him to do at the White House. But when the FBI found I had written a book, they pounced on Dennis. Dennis told them that he didn’t know I was writing a book, and that he had nothing to do with my project.
But that was not good enough for top-level FBI managers who worked with the White House to destroy my credibility. They insisted that Dennis supply them with evidence that I was a liar, or that I was dishonest in some way. They were looking for something to corner me with, and Dennis refused to play along. Shortly after they failed to recruit Dennis to their questionable cause, they removed him from the White House where he had worked for fourteen years, under four presidents.
Dennis was brought back to the FBI Office, and this decorated Vietnam Veteran was given a do-nothing assignment. He was then ordered to undergo a psychiatric examination. His work area and computer hard drive was searched for evidence of something - anything that they could use to hang on him.
They found nothing on Dennis, but they had seriously damaged Dennis’s reputation and effectively destroyed his career. Dennis refused to compromise his conscience for political reasons and disgusted with the evidence that his agency had lost the ability to fend off crooked politicians, Dennis retired.
Former FBI agent, Dennis Sculimbrene, has since filed a federal civil suit against the FBI, the Department of Justice, and certain officials in the Clinton White House. It will, however, be years before he obtains satisfaction for what was done to him by a federal agency that exists for the sole purpose of truth gathering, and more important - truth telling.
As for my book, it was never approved for publication in spite of enormous evidence that I was indeed telling the truth - that I was not a pathological liar - and that I revealed nothing classified about the corruption in the Clinton White House. The FBI had no cause to delay the publication of Unlimited Access, but they did achieve their major objective. Because the printing was delayed four months by their failure to approve, and the FBI stood silently by while the Clinton White House tried to destroy my credibility, the strong medicine for what ailed the Executive Branch - the truth - did not have time enough to do its good work. Though the book rose to a #1 spot on most best seller lists, Bill Clinton was reelected.
Of course, in time Bill Clinton was impeached, as I had predicted. I did receive some personal and professional satisfaction, as well as vindication, in the long run.
The nominated FBI Director arrives at the time when new FBI scandals takes center-stage, so the matter which occurred during Bill Clinton’s first term may not even be surfaced during the Senate hearings. And yet, where is the evidence that "firewalls" have been erected between the FBI and some future corrupt White House?
Will a new FBI Director have the power and the courage to say "no" in the event the White House wants to use federal law enforcement powers to punish political enemies?
The FBI can benefit from new management techniques to be sure. But I am hopeful that a new director will help the agency avoid political abuses and regain the nation’s trust by finding and reporting the truth, no matter whose political ox is gored.
Maybe as a sign of good faith and recognition, a new attorney general and new FBI director can offer an apology and a settlement to my good and decent friend, Dennis Sculimbrene. Dennis is only guilty of being honest and loyal - to the best interests of the FBI, to the flag, to the Constitution, and to a friend.
A new FBI director could make certain this kind of unfair treatment is never meted out again by ordering his management to celebrate honesty within the ranks - and not vicious and unfair punishment for the messengers who are trying to surface serious wrongdoing.