- The Washington Times - Monday, January 22, 2007

The FBI’s initial decision not to open a probe into Rep. Mark Foley’s e-mail contact with House pages was within bureau guidelines, but the exchanges “provided enough troubling indications” to begin a preliminary inquiry, according to a report released yesterday.

The Justice Department’s Office of Inspector General said that given the position of trust and authority the former Florida congressman held with respect to House pages, a better decision for the FBI in the matter would have been for it to take “at least some follow-up steps.”

“Such action could have included a brief preliminary inquiry with an interview of the former page,” said Inspector General Glenn A. Fine. “Alternatively, if the FBI did not think that such an interview was warranted, it should have considered notifying House authorities in charge of the page program.

“At a minimum, we believe the FBI should have notified CREW (Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics in Washington), the complainant in this case, that the FBI had declined to open an investigation,” Mr. Fine said. “At the time, CREW was relying on the FBI to pursue the matter and as a result had not notified anyone else about the e-mails.”

Melanie Sloan, CREW’s executive director, had forwarded three e-mails to the FBI in July that she believed warranted investigation, although the bureau decided they did not warrant any investigative action. The FBI did not inform CREW of its decision or take any additional action.

In September, the sexually charged e-mails and other instant messages from Mr. Foley to other former congressional pages became public. Mr. Foley, a Republican, resigned from Congress on Sept. 29 and three days later, the FBI announced it was opening a “preliminary investigation” into Mr. Foley’s e-mails with House pages.

Mr. Fine said five of the e-mails were written by Mr. Foley to a former male page and contained statements that, at a minimum, could be described as unusual between an adult in a position of authority and a juvenile. He said three additional e-mails were exchanged between the former page and a House employee in which the former page expressed concern about the nature of the Foley e-mails.

An investigation by Mr. Fine’s office found that e-mails provided to the FBI by CREW had been forwarded promptly to the appropriate FBI supervisory special agent in the Washington field office. Mr. Fine said his investigators were told that while the e-mails were determined to be “odd,” there was no evidence of criminal wrongdoing and no further investigation was warranted.

The Inspector General’s Office concluded that the decision not to open an investigation did not constitute misconduct, but it said a preliminary inquiry should have been ordered.

The FBI in a statement yesterday noted that the U.S. Attorney’s Office for the District of Columbia later reviewed the same e-mails and agreed no further investigation was warranted.

The statement said the e-mails were reviewed by three separate investigative squads and FBI agents acted “quickly and appropriately in assessing the information” and providing it to the Cyber Crimes Squad, where the decision was made not to pursue a criminal investigation.

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