- The Washington Times - Tuesday, February 25, 2003

WASHINGTON, Feb. 25 (UPI) — High-ranking FBI officials derided a subordinate after he alleged favoritism and cover-ups within the bureau in an interview on the program "60 Minutes," according to a Department of Justice report.

The report — prepared by the Office of the Inspector General — named two senior FBI officials as having "exhibited poor judgment in several respects" in their dealings with agent John Roberts after the interview to CBS and his testimony before a Senate Committee. The FBI said it was reviewing the OIG findings.

In the interview with "60 Minutes" that aired Oct. 27, 2002, Roberts alleged that during his tenure with the FBI, he witnessed things "just disappear," "vaporize" or be "glossed over" in internal investigations without someone being disciplined.

He also spoke of a "double standard of discipline" that "would continue no matter who comes in, no matter who tries to change."

Roberts joined the FBI in 1984 and in 1997 became unit chief of an internal investigative unit within the FBI's Office of Professional Responsibility, which investigates and adjudicates allegations of misconduct against FBI employees. While with OPR, Roberts worked as one of the two agents assigned to investigate FBI involvement in the fatal shootings of Vicki and Sammy Weaver in Ruby Ridge, Idaho.

Roberts' statements created enough of a stir among the FBI's upper echelons that on Oct. 29, FBI Director Robert Muller suggested Roberts' allegations should be referred to the OIG.

On Nov. 8, Sens. Charles Grassley, R-Iowa, and Patrick Leahy, D-Vt., wrote to Mueller expressing concern about retaliation against Roberts, prompting the FBI to officially request an OIG investigation.

The OIG report, issued Monday, cited Deputy Director Bruce Gebhardt and Assistant Director Robert Jordan as having exercised poor judgment in their actions toward and statements about Roberts. But it said the OIG did not find evidence that they "intended to threaten or harass Roberts for his statements on 60 Minutes."

Gebhardt sent an e-mail to Jordan, the report said, saying "If we have internal problems then I would rather find solutions and fix them, rather than tell the world on 60 Minutes. In my opinion Roberts brought discredit to the FBI badge, and the 27,000 employees of the FBI. I can't remember when I've been this disappointed."

Jordan responded with an e-mail saying he "couldn't agree with you more." He said Roberts appeared to aim criticism at him and director Mueller.

Jordan later convened an office meeting with Roberts' co-workers where he told them "he who creates ambiguity shall have that ambiguity resolved against him." The OIG report said that Jordan remained silent when others at the meeting suggested that Roberts should be removed from OPR.

The report said that "finally" Jordan's selection of a person to replace Roberts in another part of his work "including the timing of it and the way it was handled, left the appearance of retaliation against Roberts for his statements on 60 Minutes."

In one conversation the report cited, an FBI employee told Jordan that in the past, the FBI had retaliated against whistleblowers by "a loss of effectiveness transfer," transferring the whistleblower to a location where they wouldn't have any effective job.

Jordan replied by saying that the employee's "observations" were "accurate." The OIG "questioned the appropriateness" of Jordan's response and said that statements regarding whether Roberts should be removed from his position were "even more troubling."

In a written statement Tuesday, the FBI said: "The Inspector General's findings are being thoroughly reviewed by FBI senior management."

Roberts filed a complaint with the OIG stating that the FBI has retaliated against him by denying him promotion 14 times. His complaint is still being reviewed.

"Roberts is among the most important FBI employees to date to expose wrongdoing in the FBI," said Kris Kolesnik of the National Whistleblower Center. "He is a unit chief with direct knowledge of high-level misconduct. For the FBI to so blatantly retaliate against him for exposing wrongdoing is inexcusable."

Stephen Kohn, an attorney for Roberts, said that it is "a danger to all civil liberties" when an agency that has the level of power that the FBI has, responds in this manner to criticism.

"Shooting the messenger is the official policy of the highest level FBI managers and Mr. Roberts is the latest victim of these assaults," Kohn said in a statement. "Retaliation is illegal, it is unconstitutional and it must be corrected."

In another whistleblower case, Sibel Edmunds, a contract translator for the FBI, was fired in the spring of 2002 after she made allegations about security lapses in the agency's translator program.

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