- The Washington Times - Thursday, February 26, 2004

FBI agents have been banned from taking any items from crime scenes or evidence sites in response to a report by the Justice Department’s Office of Inspector General that 13 agents removed items from the rubble of the World Trade Center towers.

Sen. Charles E. Grassley, Iowa Republican and chairman of the Senate Finance Committee, asked FBI Director Robert S. Mueller III yesterday to spell out plans, if any, the bureau has for reprimanding the agents, noting that although private contractors had been charged with taking items from the site, “not a single FBI agent has been prosecuted.”

“Findings of the inspector general show two things: disrespect for the people who lost their lives that day and disregard for crime-scene evidence,” said Mr. Grassley, also a senior member of the Senate Judiciary Committee, which oversees the FBI.

“The FBI needs to make the necessary internal reforms so that its agents are held to the highest standard, in addition to abiding by the letter of the law. The FBI should be a model of integrity,” he said.

Before the release of the inspector general’s report in December, the FBI had no written policy barring agents from taking items from a crime scene that had been determined not to be evidentiary in nature or having a forensics value.

In January, the FBI instituted a policy calling for greater management oversight and providing its employees with clear instructions on the removal of mementos from a recovery site. It effectively prohibits personnel from taking any debris from a site.

The FBI statement also noted that although 13 agents had been cited for removing debris, more than 400 agents had joined with thousands of local, state and federal officers to process 2 million tons of debris recovered from the World Trade Center. It added that there was no indication that anything had been taken for personal gain.

“The nearly 28,000 dedicated men and women of the FBI are committed to the highest standards of professional conduct,” the statement said. “Even the perception of anything less is not acceptable and is a disservice to the American public.”

Mr. Grassley also questioned Mr. Mueller about FBI Agent Jane Turner in the bureau’s Minneapolis field office, who was the first to report that another agent, a member of an FBI Emergency Response Team, had taken a Tiffany crystal globe from the World Trade Center site.

The senator said Mrs. Turner was subjected to “continued hostility” and eventually retired after being threatened with termination.

He said the Inspector General’s Office not only confirmed Mrs. Turner’s accusations, but also found that her disclosure “was just the tip of the iceberg about FBI agents filching from the hallowed ground of that terrible terrorist attack.” He said FBI agents participated in or condoned “grave robbing.”

“This ghoulish practice by a few agents tarnishes the integrity of the FBI in the eyes of the public and demands a strong response from you,” he said.

Inspector General Glenn A. Fine, in a Dec. 16 report, said agents took items from the World Trade Center site and from the evidence and rubble examination site at the Fresh Kills Landfill in Staten Island, N.Y., including an elevator wheel, airplane spare tires, a firetruck door, four police cruiser doors, melted guns, airplane pieces, lampposts, street sign, eight American flags, a World Trade Center observation deck plate and other items.

Three of the agents who worked at the site have been referred to the FBI’s Office of Professional Responsibility for further disciplinary action. The office investigates suspected wrongdoing by FBI employees.

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