- The Washington Times - Wednesday, October 23, 2002

The FBI has targeted for disciplinary action and possible service termination an agent who accused other agents at the World Trade Center of stealing a Tiffany globe paperweight from ground zero as a "memento," a Senate Judiciary Committee member said yesterday.
"This looks like retaliation against a whistleblower who followed her conscience and exposed wrongdoing, even though it embarrassed the FBI," said Sen. Charles E. Grassley, Iowa Republican. "If there are plans to fire her, the FBI is making a big mistake. I want the people behind this retaliation held accountable."
Earlier this month, Agent Jane Turner, a 24-year FBI veteran assigned to the Minneapolis field office, told the Justice Department's Office of Inspector General that agents working as evidence technicians at the World Trade Center after the September 11 attacks stole the Tiffany globe and gave it to an office secretary as a memento.
Miss Turner's Washington attorney, Stephen Kohn, said that his client's job performance was rated last week by her supervisors as "unacceptable," a precursor to termination. He said Miss Turner was advised that the matter had been referred to FBI headquarters.
"This is a direct attack on the integrity of the inspector general's investigation into the theft of property by FBI agents at ground zero," Mr. Kohn said. "By taking action against Turner, they have fundamentally interfered with the integrity of that investigation."
FBI spokesman Paul McCabe said in Minneapolis that the bureau "does not retaliate against its employees." He said the Minneapolis office was referring the retaliation accusations to the Inspector General's Office.
Mr. Grassley and Senate Judiciary Committee Chairman Patrick J. Leahy, Vermont Democrat, called on FBI Director Robert S. Mueller III for a "full investigation" and demanded that Miss Turner suffer no retaliation.
The matter has since been turned over to the Inspector General's Office for investigation.
Mr. Leahy said yesterday that the accusations "concerned" him, adding that their timing raised "troubling questions" on whether the agent had been targeted.
"Those serious and embarrassing allegations led Sen. Grassley and I to seek assurances in writing from the FBI director that there would be no retaliation," he said. "Situations like this are precisely why we tried in the FBI Reform Act to strengthen whistleblower protections and why I introduced the Congressional Oversight Protection Act to offer a remedy to employees who provide information to Congress and suffer retaliation as a result."
The FBI Reform Act was unanimously approved by the Judiciary Committee in April and is pending a vote by the full Senate.
The Tiffany globe is listed on the Tiffany & Co. Web site at $115, but Mr. Grassley said that appraisers have valued it at $5,000 owing to it being a ground zero artifact.
Miss Turner accused the World Trade Center agents, who also work in Minneapolis, of taking the globe from the site in a sealed evidence bag. She said in a letter to the Inspector General's Office that she "decided to blow the whistle" after bureau officials in Minneapolis declined to investigate the matter.
Mr. Grassley said that Miss Turner was probing a company in the theft of several items from ground zero when she discovered that the agents had taken the globe. He said that when she first reported the purported theft, she was told "it wasn't a big deal."
Records show that Miss Turner has been involved in other accusations against FBI agents and supervisors, including a sex-discrimination lawsuit filed in August last year in which she said that she had been passed over for a promotion.
Mr. Grassley said that she is protected from retaliation under FBI regulations issued in November 2001 by Mr. Mueller, who wrote that he would "not tolerate reprisals or intimidation" of FBI employees who made protected disclosures.
"I hope Director Mueller does the right thing and steps in to make sure the FBI does not retaliate against Agent Turner," Mr. Grassley said.

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