Should Bush settle for Freeh?

By Paul M. Weyrich
web posted January 22, 2001

I am sure you read the news stories when I did. President-elect Bush had determined that he was going to keep FBI Director Louis Freeh on the job.

Amidst many outstanding appointments, and excellent policy pronouncements coming from Austin since the elections, this announcement struck a discordant note.

FBI Director Louis Freeh

Yes, it is true that Freeh has had his disagreements with Attorney General Janet Reno over whether independent counsels should be employed in certain Clinton campaign finance related matters. We aren't exactly sure who has been on which side of which issue since all we know is what Freeh has wanted us to know since most of the leaks about the disagreements with Reno have come from Freeh's office. Combined with those leaks are also stories about what a sacrifice Freeh is making to continue in his current position and how his wife really wants him to take a job that can better support their large family.

Why, many of us asked ourselves, would Bush want to retain the services of someone who operates in this fashion. Moreover, Reed Irvine of Accuracy in Media, has extensively interviewed retired FBI agents who had major responsibilities in the department. They are highly critical of the damage that Freeh has done to intelligence gathering, to morale and to the shield which usually kept the FBI away from politics. These highly respected agents all but accuse Freeh of destroying the FBI.

Irvine asked a top official of the incoming Bush Administration why Bush would make such a decision to retain the FBI Director. He was astonished to learn from this official who was in a position to know firsthand that no final decision to retain Freeh has indeed been made.

It seems that self-serving stories such as that one and others involving any number of other officials of the Clinton regime are now popping up all over town. "It is a first class game", the Bush official said, noting that he is keeping a scrapbook of articles of all of those Clinton officials who have now undergone a sudden conversion to Bush-style conservatism and who pronounce themselves perfectly able to serve the new President without any problems.

In Freeh's case, the Bush official pointed out, he does have a term of office and if the President desires him to leave office he will have to build the case against him. Bush is faced with trying to fill the cabinet and other key positions first before he can address the Freeh problem and that of CIA Director George Tenent.

The fact that no final decision has been made is indeed reassuring to those of us who are concerned about the outcome of the Bush Administration. Whether you subscribe to the harsh view of Freeh, namely that he has set out to dismantle and do harm to the FBI, or whether you view him charitably, namely that he has been over his head and simply is incapable of running that Agency in the proper fashion, Louis Freeh should not be retained.

As soon as President George Bush gets settled, we hope he will give this matter high priority. Bush has been getting the best in his Administration. Why should he settle for a third-rate person or worse at the FBI?

Paul Weyrich is president of the Free Congress Foundation.

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