- The Washington Times - Thursday, June 21, 2001

Attorney General John Ashcroft yesterday announced a sweeping internal review of the problem-plagued FBI, saying he wanted recommendations for "reforms" within the bureau by Jan. 1.

The review will be conducted by a Justice Department management team headed by Deputy Attorney General Larry Thompson, a former federal prosecutor named to the department´s No. 2 post in February.

The review´s announcement comes during the week FBI Director Louis J. Freeh is retiring after serving eight years of a 10-year term. No successor has yet been named, although Justice Department veteran Robert Mueller and former Deputy Attorney General George Terwilliger are considered to be the front-runners.

The FBI has come under heavy fire from Congress in the wake of its failure to turn over thousands of pages of documents related to the case of Oklahoma City bomber Timothy McVeigh. It also has been criticized in the arrest of accused spy Robert P. Hanssen, a former FBI agent charged with turning over secret documents to the Russians while a member of the bureau´s counterintelligence squad.

Last month, congressional leaders called for a full-scale investigation of the bureau, echoing the sentiments of Rep. F. James Sensenbrenner Jr., Wisconsin Republican and chairman of the House Judiciary Committee, which oversees the FBI. Mr. Sensenbrenner said the American people "need to be confident" that its federal law enforcement agencies "adhere to the highest standards of integrity, professionalism and competence."

In a memo yesterday from Mr. Ashcroft to Mr. Thompson, the attorney general ordered that the department´s Strategic Management Council immediately begin a comprehensive review of the FBI.

The council was created last month by Mr. Ashcroft to serve as the formal board within the department to provide "direction and leadership on long range planning and initiatives." Reporting directly to the attorney general, the council primarily is responsible for strategic policy and planning, resource guidance and management, budget planning and decision-making, and performance planning, reporting and accountability.

The management team consists of Justice Department officials, the heads of the FBI, Drug Enforcement Administration, U.S. Bureau of Prisons and the U.S. Immigration and Naturalization Service.

"As you know, the mission of the FBI is to uphold the law through the investigation of violations of federal criminal law; to protect the United States from foreign intelligence and terrorist activities; to provide leadership and law enforcement assistance to federal, state, local, and international agencies; and to perform these responsibilities in a manner that is responsive to the needs of the public and is faithful to the Constitution of the United States," the memo said.

"One core value that guides the pursuit of this mission is uncompromising personal and institutional integrity," the memo said.

Mr. Ashcroft, in the memo, set a Jan. 1 deadline for results of the comprehensive review, asking that those involved be prepared to submit "recommendations to me for reforms within the FBI."

He said the review "should identify and recommend actions dedicated to improving and upgrading the performance of the FBI, assisting the incoming director with the many challenges to be faced, and reinforcing the FBI's effectiveness as the premier law enforcement organization in the world."

The eight-member Strategic Management Council is headed by Mr. Thompson, a former U.S. attorney from Atlanta who served as the independent counsel investigating Reagan-era corruption at the Department of Housing and Urban Development. His investigation resulted in 17 convictions.

Mr. Ashcroft also ordered that several ongoing and separate investigations involving the FBI be submitted to the council by Nov. 1. Those include a review by former FBI and CIA Director William Webster of the bureau´s internal security procedures in the wake of the Hanssen arrest and an investigation of the Justice Department´s Office of Inspector General into the Hanssen case and the FBI´s failure to turn over documents in the McVeigh probe.

He also ordered that the council commission a management study of the FBI by a private firm to review policies and practices of the bureau including information technology, personnel, crisis management and performance appraisal. He said the results of that study also should be submitted to the council by Nov. 1.

Mr. Ashcroft also told the council it should "independently solicit input from other individuals and organizations, both internal and external, including Congress, who may have constructive ideas on reforming and improving the FBI."

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