State Journal-Register

May 17, 2001

Durbin urges creation of inspector to provide more oversight of FBI 


WASHINGTON - In the wake of a string of embarrassing mistakes by the FBI, Sens. Dick Durbin, D-Ill., and Arlen Specter, R-Pa., Wednesday proposed creating a separate inspector general's office to monitor the nation's top law enforcement agency.

Outgoing FBI Director Louis Freeh argued against the proposal, telling the House Appropriations Committee Wednesday that the FBI should be insulated from a politically appointed investigator because its caseload ranges from national security matters to political corruption.

Durbin and Specter, at a press conference announcing their proposal, said the Department of Justice, the FBI's parent agency, already has an inspector general with access to FBI materials.

"There is no reason that the FBI should be protected from the same level of professional scrutiny the Central Intelligence Agency and virtually every other agency faces," Durbin said.

The inspector general position for the CIA was created at Specter's insistence in the aftermath of the Iran-contra scandal.

Neither Durbin nor Specter blamed the agency's problems on Freeh, who recently announced his resignation.

"The fact of life is these agencies become so big, so powerful, so important, that congressional oversight isn't sufficient," Specter said.

Durbin and Specter are members of the Senate Judiciary Committee, which plans a hearing next week on the FBI's most recent embarrassment - disclosures it failed to produce mountains of documents sought by defense lawyers for convicted Oklahoma City bomber Timothy McVeigh.

The FBI has fiercely protected its independence over the years at the expense of accountability, Durbin said.

"For the good of the FBI and for its own reputation and integrity, I think the creation of the inspector general ... is the right thing to do," he added.