- The Washington Times - Saturday, November 16, 2002

Senior FBI executives received cash bonuses and promotions while under investigation for suspected misconduct during an internal bureau review of the August 1992 standoff at Ruby Ridge, Idaho, that claimed three lives.
The Justice Department's Office of the Inspector General yesterday said in a report the bonuses and promotions went to former FBI Deputy Director Larry A. Potts, later demoted and suspended for improper oversight of the deadly siege; and E. Michael Kahoe, a senior FBI executive sentenced to prison for destroying a critical Ruby Ridge document.
Other cash awards and promotions, the report said, went to Danny O. Coulson, former deputy assistant director who worked for Mr. Potts; and three senior FBI executives, Charles Mathews, Robert E. Walsh and Van A. Harp, accused of not conducting proper after-the-fact investigations to determine what happened at Ruby Ridge.
"While a presumption of innocence is usually appropriate while a subject is under investigation, rewarding a subject who is later found to have committed misconduct can result in adverse consequences," the report said. "The FBI should be mindful of the message it sends to both the investigators in a particular case and the rest of the FBI when subjects of an investigation are promoted or receive bonuses or awards while under investigation.
"This is especially true where high-level officials are under investigation, because investigators may interpret the giving of an award as an indication that senior management has already judged the merits of the investigation," it said.
The inspector general's report is the result of an investigation to determine whether the FBI's system of discipline is unfair because senior bureau executives are treated more leniently than rank-and-file agents. Investigators used the Ruby Ridge incident as an example.
The report concluded there was insufficient evidence to prove a double-standard of discipline, in part, because of the low number of cases involving senior executives, but that the FBI "suffered and still suffers from a strong, and not unreasonable, perception among employees that a double standard exists."
In the Ruby Ridge case, Vicki Weaver was killed Aug. 22, 1992, by FBI sniper Lon Horiuchi. He was acting on shoot-on-sight orders, although it has never been determined who authorized a change in the bureau's rules of engagement that allowed the shooting. Her son, Samuel, 14, and Deputy U.S. Marshal William F. Degan, died in a separate shootout a day earlier.
Mrs. Weaver's husband, Randy, had been sought on weapons violations. He and a family friend, Kevin Harris, also were wounded. They were charged in Mr. Degan's death, but acquitted by an Idaho jury.
Mr. Potts and Mr. Coulson, who directed the siege from Washington, denied ordering changes in the bureau's deadly-force policy. But Eugene F. Glenn, who headed the Salt Lake City office and was the on-site commander at Ruby Ridge, and Richard Rogers, head of the FBI's hostage-rescue team, have disputed the claims of Mr. Potts and Mr. Coulson.
Among the FBI executives named in the report, only Mr. Kahoe was found guilty of any wrongdoing. Several were recommended for suspension or demotion, but only letters of censure were ever issued.
The inspector general's report said Mr. Potts was named acting deputy director in 1994, prior to the completion of an internal FBI investigation into government conduct during the Ruby Ridge siege. The report said despite Mr. Potts' receipt in January 1995 of a letter of censure in the Ruby Ridge matter, he was named deputy director in May 1995.
According to the report, Mr. Coulson was promoted to agent-in-charge in Baltimore in April 1993 while still a focus of the FBI's internal Ruby Ridge investigation. It said he was given a cash award of $5,590 in November 1993, although the investigation remained active.
Mr. Coulson was named to lead the FBI's Dallas office in September 1994, the report said, before recommendations regarding discipline in Ruby Ridge had been completed. He later received a letter of censure for his role in the standoff.
Mr. Walsh received a cash award of 5 percent of his salary while under investigation by the Justice Department's Office of Professional Responsibility (OPR) in the Ruby Ridge matter, the report said. It said he was named agent-in-charge of the FBI's San Francisco field office in December 1996 while he was the focus of a separate criminal probe of Ruby Ridge by U.S. Attorney Michael Stiles in Philadelphia.
According to the report, FBI Director Louis J. Freeh asked the OPR and Mr. Stiles about the promotion, and the OPR did not object, Mr. Stiles declined comment. The report said a memo to Attorney General Janet Reno requesting approval for Mr. Walsh's move to San Francisco did not mention the investigation.
Mr. Harp, now head of the Washington field office, was named agent-in-charge in Cleveland after OPR began an investigation into the inadequacy of his after-the-fact Ruby Ridge probe, the report said. It said a memo to Mr. Freeh presenting Mr. Harp's qualifications did not mention the ongoing probe, although the inspector general's report said Mr. Freeh was aware of the investigation and its scope.
In addition, the report said, Mr. Harp was given a cash bonus of $8,099 in November 1997 while under investigation in the Ruby Ridge matter and a $14,208 bonus in October 1998 while that inquiry continued and a separate probe began into his role in the receipt of travel reimbursements by FBI senior executives to attend a 1997 retirement party for Mr. Potts.
Mr. Walsh and Mr. Harp had been assigned to investigate accusations of misconduct by the government in the Ruby Ridge matter. The OPR later said they did not take sufficiently aggressive steps in the probe and avoided uncovering the full truth to protect Mr. Potts and Mr. Coulson.
The report said Mr. Mathews was promoted to the FBI's Senior Executive Service (SES) in July 1995 after the OPR had begun its investigation into accusations that a separate internal Ruby Ridge inquiry he headed was inadequate. It said Mr. Mathews, who served as a top assistant to Mr. Coulson in Portland, Ore., from 1988 to 1990, was promoted to agent-in-charge in New Orleans in June 1997 while the OPR investigation continued.
Mr. Mathews was assigned to find out what, if any, disciplinary action should be taken against FBI personnel involved in the Ruby Ridge incident. His report recommended discipline for several agents at the scene, but did not contain any recommendations for discipline for Mr. Potts or Mr. Coulson.
The inspector general's report said Mr. Kahoe got a cash award of $7,126 in November 1993 during the initial Ruby Ridge investigation and was named agent-in-charge in Jacksonville, Fla., in June 1994 while still under investigation. He pleaded guilty in October 1996 to obstruction of justice and was sentenced to 18 months in prison.
Mr. Kahoe destroyed a November 1992 after-action report that referred to "problems" in the FBI's conduct during the Weaver siege. The document had been sought by federal prosecutors in Idaho, but was never made available.

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