- The Washington Times - Tuesday, May 30, 2000

Well, he said it. For all intents and purposes, Lee Radek, the head of the Justice Department's so-called public integrity section, has publicly called two senior FBI officials liars. To be sure, somebody is not telling the truth. But all the circumstantial evidence points to Mr. Radek and not to the FBI. Moreover, either Attorney General Janet Reno is lying as well; or her memory and mind are operating so poorly that they should disqualify her from holding a position of such responsibility.
In a December 1996 memo written by FBI Director Louis Freeh to FBI Deputy Director William Esposito a memo, by the way, that was turned over to Congress only recently Mr. Freeh recapped a conversation the two of them had had concerning remarks made by Mr. Radek in a meeting. Mr. Esposito had said that Mr. Radek acknowledged that " 'there was a lot of 'pressure' on him … regarding [the campaign-finance] case because the attorney general's job might hang in the balance (or words to that effect)'," according to Mr. Freeh's memo. In that memo, Mr. Freeh told Mr. Esposito that he had discussed Mr. Radek's remarks with Miss Reno and had strongly urged her to recuse both herself and Mr. Radek from the investigation of the Democrats 1996 fund-raising practices and to seek the appointment of an independent counsel.
When the Associated Press learned of the memo last week, Mr. Radek issued a statement asserting that he had "no recollection of ever saying I was under pressure because the attorney general's job hung in the balance." The next day Miss Reno declared that she had no "recollection" of a meeting with Mr. Freeh in which the FBI director told her of Mr.Radek's comments about the pressure and about her job hanging in the balance. No recollection? At that very moment, Miss Reno's job did in fact hang in the balance. Several senior White House officials were lobbying for her to be fired, while she was publicly pleading to be retained during the president's second term. And she has no recollection of a timely meeting with the FBI director about this very point? This is beyond belief.
Fortunately, not all memories are so tainted by self-interest. On Tuesday, FBI general counsel Larry Parkinson told the House Judiciary Committee that a second FBI official, Neil Gallagher, who is the bureau's assistant director for national security, was also present at the Radek-Esposito meeting. Over vigorous objections from committee Democrats, Mr. Parkinson testified that Mr.Gallagher "essentially corroborates the account that is described in the director's memo to Mr. Esposito." That set the stage for Wednesday's hearing before the Senate Judiciary subcommittee on administrative oversight and the courts, where Messrs. Radek and Gallagher testified. Asked whether it was clear to him that Mr. Radek had felt pressured because of concerns that Miss Reno could lose her job, Mr. Gallagher replied, "I'm positive." Testifying after Mr. Gallagher, Mr. Radek, who still claimed to have "no recollection" of the meeting, insisted he never made the comments Messrs. Gallagher and Esposito attributed to him. In effect, Mr. Radek was calling two of the FBI's most senior officials liars.
Mr. Radek did acknowledge that the department's campaign-finance task force was operating in a "pressure cooker," but he asserted the pressure was to "do a good job, do it vigorously and do it well." If such were the case, however, then why did he and Miss Reno initially assign an unqualified, inexperienced prosecutor to lead the task force? Oh, she was a leader, alright she led the probe into chaos. If the investigation were to be "vigorous," then how does Mr. Radek explain the task force's failure to determine that Vice President Gore had raised hard-money contributions in telephone calls made from his White House office? The records confirming that fact were in the task force's possession, but the Justice Department had to learn about it in the newspapers.
And why did the task force bar FBI agents from executing a search warrant at Democratic fund-raiser Charlie Trie's office after they uncovered evidence that documents were being destroyed?
Given the above questions, Miss Reno and Mr. Radek clearly have good motives for failing to recall meetings and conversations that lend credence to the charge that the Justice Department intended to conduct a sloppy, second-rate, small-fish-only investigation. This is especially true inasmuch as that is exactly the kind of investigation that was conducted. By contrast, what possible motive could the FBI's most senior agents have to lie about what they heard?

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