- The Washington Times - Thursday, May 17, 2001

Though he will be leaving his post as FBI director shortly, Louis Freeh will not be able to depart before facing much-deserved tough questioning about his bureaus stupefyingly inept handling of the McVeigh case. Mr. Freeh is facing a congressional inquiry into how, exactly, some 3,100 documents relating to the McVeigh case that should have been made available to the convicted Oklahoma City bombers legal defense team were in fact not made available. The result is a delay in the scheduled execution of McVeigh for at least 30 days. Attorney General John Ashcroft announced the stay of execution properly so, given the circumstances late last week, as the magnitude of the FBIs blundering became apparent. The attorney general had little choice; to continue with the execution of McVeigh would have been improper. Still, the practical result of the delay is that the bombers victims must now wait another month at least for the justice they have sought for the past six years since the April 1995 bombing of the Alfred P. Murrah federal building. Worse, the legal wrangling may put off the execution longer, perhaps indefinitely. In effect, the FBI has given the mass-murdering McVeigh the means to continue his battle against the government by dragging out the legal process and keeping himself in the public eye for who-knows-how-much longer.
Lawmakers, naturally, are furious about this and intend to hold Mr. Freehs feet to the fire before he gets a chance to skeedadle out of town and make a comfy landing for himself in the lucrative private sector. It does not happen often these days that Senate Republicans and Democrats are in agreement, but this case has been egregious enough to bring the opposing sides together. "I dont know that we have ever been more concerned about the current state of affairs in that bureau as we are right now," said Democratic Sen. Tom Daschle of South Dakota. "I think he will be asked a lot of questions … the revelations are just another illustration of the problems that beset that agency," he added. Sen. Richard Durbin of Illinois, another Democratic lawmaker, has promised to announce plans to create a separate inspector general for the FBI to monitor its activities and establish more effective oversight and accountability. Republicans are rightly frustrated as well including Senate Judiciary Committee Chairman Sen. Orrin Hatch of Utah. He told the Associated Press that "Theres no question that these mistakes should not have been made in a high profile case or any case" and that while he does not personally hold outgoing Director Louis Freeh responsible, "the buck does stop at the top of the organization."
Mr. Hatch is right the buck should stop with Mr. Freeh. Americans have a right to expect a higher standard from the nations premier law-enforcement agency, and Mr. Freeh has some serious explaining to do.


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