- The Washington Times - Thursday, September 21, 2000

A top Justice Department executive bypassed normal immigration procedures to win visas for two Russian women with whom he "socialized extensively" during taxpayer-paid trips to Moscow, and a House committee will ask his boss today to explain how he was able to circumvent the system.
Robert K. Bratt, former head of the Criminal Division's international police training section, was accused in a report by the Justice Department's Office of Inspector General of improperly obtaining the visas after claiming through the U.S. Embassy in Moscow that visits by the women to this country were in the national interest.
The House Judiciary Committee, chaired by Rep. Henry J. Hyde, Illinois Republican, will ask Deputy Attorney General Eric H. Holder Jr., who oversees the Criminal Division, at a hearing today to clarify how Mr. Bratt was able to use his government position to procure the visas.
Mr. Hyde also will ask acting Inspector General Glenn A. Fine to document violations his office discovered during an investigation of the department's International Criminal Investigative Training Assistance Program, headed by Mr. Bratt.
In a 415-page report on Tuesday, Mr. Fine's office accused Mr. Bratt, his top assistant, Joseph R. Lake Jr., and others of "serious, substantial and egregious misconduct," saying they warranted the "imposition of discipline." No charges have yet been sought by either the Justice Department or the U.S. Attorney's Office.
Mr. Bratt, who retired last month after 21 years at Justice, has declined to comment. A consultant at Science Applications International Corp., a McLean defense contractor, he was considered one of Attorney General Janet Reno's closest advisers and a top Justice Department manager.
Mr. Lake, who left the department in 1997, also has been unavailable.
As executive officer of the department's Criminal Division, Mr. Bratt supervised the assistance program, which trains police in new and emerging democracies and assists in the development of police for international peacekeeping operations. He also headed the Office of Prosecutorial Development and Training, which trains foreign prosecutors and judges.
The Inspector General's Office said senior managers gave classified documents to uncleared consultants or other staff and routinely left them unsecured on their desks, even when they were away from the office. It also said highly classified documents were taken to the group's offices even though there was no secure storage.
Investigators said Mr. Bratt "put his own interests ahead of the interests of the government" and described him as "recklessly indifferent to the security interests of the government."
Their report said Mr. Bratt and Mr. Lake bypassed the "standard" immigration process in obtaining visas for Yelena Koreneva, with whom Mr. Bratt had a "romantic relationship," and Ludmilla Bolgak, whom Mr. Bratt met during one of four trips he made to Moscow in 1996 and 1997.
Investigators said the standard immigration process included an application for a visa by a Russian citizen through the U.S. Embassy obtained only after the citizen waited in long lines at the Moscow office and a follow-up interview. They said the two women gained visas through a secondary process known as a "referral."
"The referral process required that the United States government interests be supported by the applicant's visit to the United States or that a humanitarian basis existed for the visit," the report said. "No interview was required, and the use of the referral process generally assured that the applicant would receive a visa."
On their applications, Mr. Lake wrote that the women had worked with the Justice Department's Criminal Division "in support of administrative functions," the report said, adding that an investigation found the statement to be untrue.
"We found that Lake improperly used the referral process on Bratt's behalf, that Bratt was aware of Lake's actions, that Bratt knew the referral process required a government interest in the visa applicant's request to the United States, and that no such government interest existed for either Koreneva's or Bolgak's visit," the report said.
The report said Mr. Bratt "committed egregious misconduct" in using his government position to obtain the visas, which were issued in April 1997 but never used. It also said he violated government travel regulations by upgrading tickets on flights overseas and using frequent-flyer miles for personal gain.

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