JULY 13, 2004
Judicial Watch, the public interest group that investigates and prosecutes government corruption, called "unconscionable" the FBI’s efforts to retaliate against an agent who criticized the bureau for its handling of terrorism investigations. A memo written by a former FBI official and released today by U.S. Sen. Charles Grassley, R-Iowa, says that the FBI tried to "take out" Judicial Watch client and FBI Special Agent Robert Wright for saying publicly that the bureau was derelict and negligent in combating terrorism.
Written by retired FBI agent John Roberts, who was a unit chief within the bureau’s disciplinary office, the Office of Professional Responsibility (OPR), the memo details how top FBI officials in the OPR intentionally withheld information from and deliberately deceived the Justice Department’s Office of the Inspector General (OIG) in an effort to retain administrative control over the Wright case so that the OPR could fire him – in violation of its own rules. The OIG is responsible for reviewing all proposed disciplinary actions of the FBI and ensuring that the bureau’s rules are administered fairly. The memo was sent to Sens. Grassley and Patrick Leahy, D-Vt., both of whom serve on the Senate Judiciary Committee. In a letter sent today to Attorney General John Ashcroft and FBI Director Robert Mueller, Grassley and Leahy expressed concerns about the FBI’s "continued targeting" of Wright and about other problems that "show problems still fester at FBI OPR."
Wright, who works in the FBI’s Chicago office, was the first agent to seize funds ($1.4 million) from U.S.-based terrorists prior to the attacks on Sept. 11, 2001, and has been an outspoken critic of the bureau’s terrorism managers and the manner in which they investigate terrorism. Wright has two separate lawsuits pending against the FBI and is represented in both cases by Judicial Watch and former U.S. House impeachment counsel David Schippers.
Roberts’ memo also describes other efforts by the FBI to retaliate against employees who point out misconduct within the bureau, and he accuses the bureau of having a double standard for disciplining employees – one more lenient standard for senior officials and a harsher one for lower level employees, including agents. (Roberts also has faced retaliation from the FBI.)
"By deceiving the Justice Department and attempting to fire agent Wright without due process, the FBI has sunk to new lows in its attempt to quiet those who are merely trying to expose incompetence within the FBI and improve that organization. The FBI’s actions are unconscionable and likely violated the law," said Judicial Watch President Tom Fitton. "If the FBI worked as hard at catching terrorists as it does at trying to ‘take out’ internal agency dissenters, the United States might not be under the serious terrorism threat it is today."