"Dedicated to exposing the lies and impeachable offenses of George W. Bush"

Report chides FBI for handling of Foley case
Chicago Tribune
By Richard B. Schmitt
Tribune Newspapers: Los Angeles Times
Published January 23, 2007

WASHINGTON -- The Justice Department's inspector general admonished the FBI on Monday for its handling of the page scandal involving former Rep. Mark Foley, saying the bureau failed to follow up on suggestive e-mail between the Florida Republican and a former male page and gave inaccurate statements to the public about the case.

The report was triggered by a complaint filed by a non-profit advocacy group, Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics in Washington, which had sent the FBI copies of e-mail between Foley and a former page last summer.

  The exchanges occurred two months before the affair became public and forced the lawmaker to resign after a series of sexually explicit electronic messages surfaced.

The FBI dismissed the early e-mail exchanges, the inspector general found, because agents did not believe they showed evidence of criminal wrongdoing. The FBI later launched an investigation, which is pending.

In the e-mail, Foley beckons a former page to e-mail a picture of himself and asks what he might like for his birthday. He also comments about another page being "in really great shape" and seeming "much older than his age."

The e-mail also included complaints about Foley from a former page who told a House employee that Foley's e-mail had "freaked me out," calling the content of his messages "sick."

The inspector general found that the tip was handled by a senior supervisory agent in the cyber crimes division of the FBI's Washington field office who found the messages "odd" but not indicative of any criminal wrongdoing. That was because, the agent said, the law in the District of Columbia permits sexual relations between an adult and a 16-year-old--the minimum age for pages.

The report found that the decision not to investigate "fell within the range of discretion" afforded supervisory agents and "did not constitute misconduct." But it also found the messages "at a minimum" to be "unusual" and that the FBI should have taken some action.

"The e-mails provided enough troubling indications on their face, particularly given the position of trust and authority that Foley held with respect to House pages, that a better practice for the FBI would have been to take at least some follow-up," the inspector general found.

The report also noted that, notwithstanding the law in the District, three of the eight states from which the e-mail messages were sent or received would have made sexual conduct between Foley and a 16-year-old a crime.

The report also criticized the bureau for public comments it made about the advocacy group complaint.

Justice officials said at the time that the advocacy group had provided "heavily redacted" e-mail and refused to provide information about the source of the e-mail, indicating that was the reason the FBI did not pursue an investigation earlier.

"The OIG concluded that such statements were not accurate," the report found. "The e-mails were not heavily redacted and the evidence showed that the FBI did not seek additional information from CREW."

The FBI said it would study the report.

Copyright © 2007, Chicago Tribune

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