Congressional 911 Investigator Led Waco Coverup
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Head of Sept. 11 Probe Allegedly Obstructed Danforth's Waco InquiryFormer FBI Counsel Held Onto Papers
By Richard Leiby and Dana Priest
Washington Post Staff Writers*
Saturday, June 22, 2002; Page A06
The official in charge of ferreting out information about the FBI for a joint congressional intelligence panel allegedly obstructed a Justice Department probe of the bureau two years ago.
As the FBI's deputy general counsel, Thomas A. Kelley was the bureau's point of contact for special counsel John C. Danforth's inquiry into the 1993 Waco debacle in which 75 Branch Davidians died in a fire after a 51-day standoff.
Kelley, who has since retired from the FBI, heads the intelligence panel's probe of the bureau's role in tracking terrorists before the Sept. 11 attacks.
According to a December 2000 internal FBI memo, Kelley "continued to thwart and obstruct" the Waco investigation to the point that Danforth was forced to send a team to search FBI headquarters for documents Kelley refused to turn over. "This non-cooperative spirit was at the specific direction of [deputy general counsel] Kelley," the memo states.
The memo, written by an agent in the bureau's Office of Professional Responsibility, is cited in a letter sent to the intelligence committee leadership by Sen. Charles E. Grassley (R-Iowa). The letter was obtained yesterday by The Washington Post.
"I am concerned that Mr. Kelley is part of this review," Grassley wrote.
The letter says that even when Kelley's supervisor recused him from dealing with the Waco investigators, Kelley "continued to insert himself into the Waco inquiry."
Kelley declined to comment yesterday.
The memo says Kelley should have been investigated for alleged "unprofessional conduct, poor judgment, conflict of interest, hostile work environment and retaliation/reprisal" related to his role in the Waco investigation. Grassley's letter says Kelley retired "before an OPR investigation could proceed."
Grassley, a fierce critic of the FBI who supports establishing an independent commission to probe intelligence problems, declined to comment.
"The chairman and ranking members are taking it under consideration," said Andrea Andrews, spokeswoman for Sen. Richard C. Shelby (Ala.), ranking Republican on the Senate intelligence committee.
Congressional officials said intelligence panel director Eleanor Hill was waiting to obtain confidential memos and other documents regarding the allegations against Kelley.
Richard M. Rogers, a Justice Department lawyer familiar with Kelley's work and demeanor, called him a "solid" person and said he would consider him a benefit to any investigation of the FBI. "When you do investigations sometimes you need someone on the inside to point you in the right direction."
"A lot of people found Tom's manner off-putting, but once you got past that, there's a different person," Rogers said.
Kelley is part of a 27-person staff hired to do the panel's work. The staff has divided into teams. Each team has been given a major intelligence agency -- the CIA, FBI, National Security Agency -- to probe. Kelley is leading the FBI team. The committee has been bogged down by internal strife, staffing problems and lack of focus. It has also met with resistance to some of its requests for documents.
In an interview last year, Danforth, a former senator from Missouri who conducted a 14-month investigation into the FBI's handling of Waco, faulted the FBI's "spirit of resistance" to outside scrutiny. "It was like pulling teeth to get all this paper from the FBI," he said.
The Sept. 11 committee put off public hearings, originally set to begin next week, until an unspecified date. Senators on the panel have been particularly concerned that the inquiry is not focused sharply enough. The first two weeks of meetings were spent reviewing the history of Osama bin Laden's terrorist actions and the U.S. responses to it.
This week, after Vice President Cheney upbraided staff members for a disclosure of information involving the highly secretive NSA, which conducts electronic and digital eavesdropping worldwide, the committee asked the Justice Department to investigate the source of the news stories. The news articles revealed that the NSA had intercepted two snippets of conversations in Arabic on Sept. 10 from a priority location but did not translate them until Sept. 13. In one, the speaker said, "The match is about to begin." The other said, "Tomorrow is zero hour."
© 2002 The Washington Post Company*
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