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Another Blow To The Bureau

The revelation that the FBI withheld evidence from defense attorneys in the Oklahoma City bombing case is only the latest in a decade of high-profile stumbles by the nation's top law enforcement agency, reports CBS News Correspondent Sharyl Attkisson.

Sunday, lawmakers called for congressional hearings on the evidence foul-up, and Sen. Charles Schumer, a New York Democrat, said he would ask President George W. Bush to appoint a special commission to examine the FBI from top to bottom. "We've had mistake after mistake after mistake," he said on CBS News' Face The Nation.

First, there was the standoff at Ruby Ridge in which the FBI killed a gun suspect's wife, who was holding a baby, and their 14-year old son.

Then, the bureau was involved in the fiery siege at Waco that killed 80 Branch Davidians, many children among them. A special prosecutor found the FBI wasn't to blame for the incident, but it tarnished the bureau's reputation nonetheless. And Timothy McVeigh said he planned the Oklahoma City bombing to retaliate for the Branch Davidian siege.

After those episodes, Louis Freeh was appointed to lead the agency, bring with him an extensive law enforcement resume.

Time To Upgrade?
The FBI's computer system, which didn't contain thousands of pages of evidence that should have been turned over to Timothy McVeigh's lawyers, has been drawing scrutiny from Congress because it is so antiquated.
Freeh had been an agent for 18 years and carried out investigations that led to a number of high-profile convictions in New York. He left the bureau briefly to become an assistant U.S. attorney.

But after arriving, he only made things worse, according to Ronald Kessler, who's written extensively on the FBI's problems.

"All of a sudden when Freeh came in there was one problem after another, every six months some new scandal, some new screw-up," he said.

Freeh was at the helm when the FBI fingered the wrong man, Richard Jewell, for the Atlanta Olympic bombing.

There were alleged cover-ups in the investigation of Waco.

The bureau's lab came under scrutiny. Spurred by allegations from Frederic Whitehurst, an FBI lab chemist, Justice Inspector General Michael Bromwich investigated the facility for 18 months.

He subsequently blaste the FBI facility for flawed scientific work and inaccurate, pro-prosecution testimony in major cases, including the Oklahoma City bombing.

Last year, an agent admitted giving false testimony against Wen Ho Lee, who was accused of passing nuclear secrets to China.

Lee, a former Los Alamos scientist indicted on 59 criminal counts of mishandling nuclear weapons secrets, spent nine months in solitary confinement in a New Mexico jail. All but one count was eventually dropped.

And two other FBI agents — Earl Pitts and Robert Hanssen — were arrested for spying.

Hanssen, a counterintelligence agent with access to highly sensitive information, carried on his alleged spying activities for 15 years without being detected by his bosses. Investigations are underway to figure out why.

Kessler says Freeh is an expert at public relations, but a disaster as a manager.

Top G-Men
The FBI was created in 1908, but agents reported to high-ranking Justice Department officials until President Woodrow Wilson named the bureau's first "director:"

William J. Flynn
William J. Burns
J. Edgar Hoover
L. Patrick Gray
Clarence M. Kelley
William H. Webster
William S. Sessions
Louis J. Freeh

"Every time you look at most of these problems, you see that Freeh made the poor judgements that led to the problems," he said.

The FBI wouldn't comment. But last week, Freeh unexpectedly announced he'll resign early — two years ahead of schedule.

When the resignation, effective in June, was announced, Attorney General John Ashcroft called Freeh "a model law enforcement officer." In a statement, Ashcroft went on to say, "His commitment to excellence has enriched the FBI's heritage of thorough professionalism."

Announcing his departure, Freeh listed many accomplishments achieved at the bureau since then, including hiring several thousand new special agents, forging a relationship with the CIA, doubling the FBI's overseas presence and a bigger budget for crime-fighting.

In a recent success, a beaming Freeh stepped to a podium here to announc the capture of James Kopp, a 46-year-old wanted in connection with the 1998 slaying of an abortion-providing doctor from Buffalo, N.Y.

However, sources say Freeh will take at least one more hit on the way out: a stinging report that's highly critical of the FBI's handling of Wen Ho Lee.

The report is said to be ready for release whenever Freeh signs off on it. He hasn't yet.

Schumer said the Senate Judiciary subcommittee that has oversight over the FBI will hold hearings on the mistakes.

"A good agency that is known as the premier law enforcement agency in the land, sometimes they get too big or too set in their ways," he said.

This might have been [a mistake] of arrogance," added Sen. Larry Craig, R-Idaho. "You know, this was such a high-profile case, everybody knew that McVeigh was guilty. Why do we have to dot all the i's and cross all the t's?...It's characteristic of how a large bureaucracy functions. It may not be as thorough or detailed as it ought to be."

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