Part II of a series.
Why bother with investigating and evidence-gathering, when you can just call reporters and railroad some poor sap?
(In Part I, “Remembering Richard Jewell,” I wrote of the terrorist bombing, which killed one person directly and wounded 111, at the Atlanta Olympics in the wee hours of July 27, 1996. Via excerpted 911 transcripts, I showed the criminal incompetence of the Atlanta Police Department. And via other writers’ work, I recounted the vindictive campaign by Richard Jewell’s former employer, Piedmont College president Ray Cleere, to rob a hero of his finest hour, and to insinuate that he was instead a terrorist.)
Whispers and Shouts: Louis Freeh, Don Johnson, & Co.
Ray Cleere would later say that he felt that the folks at the FBI hadn’t paid sufficient heed to what he was saying, when on July 27, 1996 he called the Bureau’s hotline. That’s an odd complaint from a man who insisted he hadn’t said anything dramatic. In fact, Cleere set off a wave of hysteria at the Bureau and in the media.
And since leaking to the press was one of the main “investigative,” public relations, and political tools used by FBI Director Louis Freeh and his yes-men, the Bureau, inspired by President Cleere, began its own whispering campaign. An FBI official told Atlanta Journal-Constitution police reporter, the late Kathy Scruggs (and, ultimately, other reporters) of the “profile” of a “hero bomber,” who finds a bomb, so that he can be a hero.
On July 31, 1996, , Journal-Constitution reporters Scruggs, Martz, Fernandez and Walker wrote,
Investigators now say Jewell fits the profile of a lone bomber, and they believe he placed the 911 call himself. This profile generally includes a frustrated white man who is a loner, a former police officer, member of the military or police “wannabe” who seeks to become a hero.
The problem with the “profile” is that it didn’t exist. Rather, it was invented to fit Richard Jewell. And even then, the “profile” was inept, for Richard Jewell was not a loner.
(Six years later, scientist and biological warfare expert Steven Hatfill would be targeted in the anthrax case, and a similarly non-existent “profile” fabricated to fit him. The main difference between the Jewell and Hatfill cases is that in the latter case, a Marxist “scientist” fabricated the “profile” of Hatfill, based on a brilliant but little-watched, canceled TV show. Note that one non-FBI source from the case disagreed with me at the time, believing that the “scientist” was herself a Bureau patsy. I’ve yet to resolve that matter, though I still lean to my theory, due to the “scientist’s” penchant for contradicting herself. However, the m.o. used in seeking to railroad Hatfill was virtually identical to that used, in seeking to railroad Jewell.)
As Marie Brenner reported, with some 30,000 law enforcement personnel on hand, the Atlanta Olympics was a police convention, where lawmen heard the phony “profile” fingering Jewell directly from friends at the FBI, from colleagues who had learned of the leak from other lawmen with friends at the Bureau, or from reporters who asked them about it.
When the whispers came from an FBI official, and went into the ears of journalists at the Atlanta Journal-Constitution, AP, NBC, CNN, the New York Post and other major media organs, they were soon broadcast nationwide.
One of the ironies of the media’s handling of the Jewell case is that while some journalists initially held back from reporting the FBI rumor identifying Jewell as the bomber, due to a lack of sufficient “independent corroboration,” as they began to hear the same story about Jewell from every lawman in town, soon enough, they all believed themselves to have an abundance of “independent sources.” In fact, they still had only one source, the original FBI leaker, who had spread the lie so successfully, that it was being repeated by thousands of lawmen.
What I wouldn’t give, to know the name of that FBI official.
What I do know, courtesy of Marie Brenner, is that FBI Director Louis Freeh personally ran the investigation by telephone, out of the Hoover Building in Washington, D.C.
That is not how proper FBI investigations are run.
When law enforcement officials either screw up a big case or are too lazy or incompetent to investigate it properly, yet want to hang someone for the crime, they telegraph to the whole world that the guy they are “investigating” is guilty as hell, and manipulate the public into accepting and confirming that verdict, er, judgment. Their first weapon will be the media, but they will also get interview subjects in the “investigation” to confirm interviewers’ own prejudices, by telegraphing to the subjects what they want to hear, e.g., a sinister interpretation of the most innocuous actions on the part of the suspect.
Marie Brenner describes Louis Freeh as having no patience with the work of investigation, and announcing almost immediately, pre-Jewell, regarding some drunk who’d been making threats in a bar the night before the bombing, and whom one of Freeh’s top men, Barry Mawn, had already excluded from consideration as a suspect, “We have our man.”
According to Brenner, Freeh dismissed Mawn and his other best men who were in Atlanta for the Olympics, Tom Fuentes and Robin Montgomery, from the case, and instead gave it to “Division 5,” which was run by Bob Bryant, and which is
[T]he National Security Division, a former counterintelligence unit that has been looking for a purpose since the Cold War ended. Trained in observation, division members rarely made a criminal case–their strength was intimidation and manipulation rather than the deliberate gathering of evidence to be presented in court.
Someone in the FBI decided, without a scintilla of incriminating evidence, that Richard Jewell was guilty, and then, working backwards from the presumption of guilt, designed a phony “profile” and “investigation” to rationalize that decision.
Brenner writes of Colonel Robert Ressler’s experience watching CNN on July 30, 1996,
“They were talking about an F.B.I. profile of a hero bomber, and I thought, What F.B.I. profile? It rather surprised me.” According to Ressler, the definition of “hero homicide”—a person looking for recognition without an intent to kill—perhaps emerged as “hero bomber.” “There is no such classification as the hero bomber,” he told me recently. “This was a myth.… It occurred to me that there was no database of any bomber who lived with his mother, was a security guard and unmarried. How many hero bombers had we ever encountered? Only one that I know of, in Los Angeles, and his bomb did not go off.” Ressler knew that something was off; profiles are developed from a complex set of evidence and facts derived only in part from a crime scene. The bomb had been deadly, which was not consistent with the “hero complex.” Furthermore, he wondered, where did they get the information to put the profile together that fast? He asked himself, What came first here, the chicken or the egg? Was the so-called profile actually developed from the circumstances, or was it invented for Richard Jewell?
With John Douglas, the since-retired Robert Ressler had co-founded the discipline of criminal-personality profiling while at the FBI’s behavioral-science unit. (The reader will have to decide for himself whether Ressler’s association with the Bureau is a point for or against him.)
Time’s James Collins quotes Michigan Law School professor Samuel Gross on wag-the-dog policing:
[T]here's a point at which an open investigation of who committed a crime becomes instead the prosecution of suspect X. If that happens early on in the case, the chances of making a mistake are very great.
By “prosecution,” Gross means that law enforcement officers are violating their duty to investigate and carefully gather evidence, and have instead usurped the role of prosecutors. The National Security Division engaged in intimidation and manipulation, in order to compensate for their laziness and incompetence as investigators.
And as Collins notes, the bigger the case, the lower the standards for professional conduct typically are for law enforcement agents.
In a crime investigation, it’s alright to have a hunch that someone is the culprit; it’s not alright to assume that that suspect is guilty, and tell the world that he is guilty, in spite of a lack of any incriminating evidence.
On the telephone in D.C., Freeh micromanaged matters down to the case agents, Don Johnson and Diader Rosario.
According to Brenner, FBI special agent Diader Rosario had made a name for himself as a siege negotiator; special agent Don Johnson had made a different kind of name for himself – through aggressive incompetence, which had reportedly caused him to be exiled, via a “loss-of-effectiveness transfer,” from Albany, NY, to Atlanta. Such transfers work similar to the way in which incompetent, tenured public school teachers are shuttled from one school to another, so long as they haven’t raped or murdered anyone.
(In Albany, Johnson had decided that Mayor Thomas Whalen was guilty of some form of corruption (bribery? influence-peddling ?) regarding “tax assessments [the Mayor had] recommended … for clients of his law firm,” and went on a fishing expedition to find something on which to nail Whalen. Brenner writes, “According to Whalen, the local U.S. attorney found no evidence to support Johnson’s assertions and issued a letter to Whalen exonerating him completely, but Whalen believed it cost him an appointment as a federal judge.”)
But are FBI special agents tenured? And as the 1992 Ruby Ridge fiasco showed, not even murder is necessarily cause for the termination of an FBI special agent. Indeed, it can lead to promotions.
On July 30, special agents Rosario and Johnson visited Jewell at home, using the ruse of asking Jewell to help them make a training film at Atlanta FBI headquarters. Meanwhile, unbeknownst to Jewell, the FBI had already leaked to the media that he was the Bureau’s prime suspect in the bombing.
The U.S. Supreme Court has ruled that it is constitutional for law enforcement officers to use deception, in order to cause suspects unassisted by counsel to make incriminating statements. But it is unconstitutional to lie to a suspect’s lawyer. And since the Bureau had already told the media that Jewell was its suspect, but had not told Jewell, anything that Jewell said would probably have been inadmissible in court, anyway.
According to Jewell’s attorney, Watson Bryant, FBI personnel had lied to Bryant on July 30, in denying that Jewell was in the building. Bryant said that later that evening, when he was able to determine, through dialing *69 on his home phone, that telephone messages Jewell had recently left had emanated from Atlanta FBI headquarters, Bryant called the Bureau and ordered the telephone operator to inform the agents that they must immediately stop the informal interrogation.
One of the methods of intimidation the Bureau used in the Jewell case, and would repeat in the Hatfill case, was to openly, closely – Steven Hatfill charged that Bureau drivers “tailgated” him — follow a suspect everywhere with a caravan of as many as four vehicles, one behind the other. (In the Hatfill case, at one point in May 2003, when Hatfill walked up to an FBI surveillance vehicle in our nation’s capital, in order to photograph the driver, the latter hit the gas, and ran over Hatfill’s foot. In a measure of the Bureau’s above-the-law status, District police ticketed the hapless victim, who was fined $5!)
The media camped out 24-7 in front of Jewell’s mother’s apartment, where the now unemployed “suspect” was a virtual prisoner. (Although Jewell wasn’t formally fired, his employer, Anthony Davis, had told him not to come to work, due to the media horde that followed him everywhere. The FBI searched the apartment, confiscating Mrs. Jewell’s Tupperware and family pictures.
Marie Brenner writes,
What happened to Richard Jewell raises an important question central to Freeh’s future tenure: in the midst of a media frenzy, does the F.B.I. have any responsibility to protect the privacy of an innocent man? Over the last year, this concept was broached with Bob Bucknam, Louis Freeh’s chief of staff. During the long Pizza Connection trial in the 1980s [when Bucknam and Freeh were both federal prosecutors], it was Bucknam who handed Freeh files at the prosecutor’s table. According to highly placed sources in the bureau, Bucknam’s answer was immediate: the F.B.I. has no responsibility to correct information in the public domain.
Bucknam’s reported attitude is incompatible with a free society.
Brenner writes that Jewell’s “reverence for authority” and idealizing of “the investigative skills of the F.B.I.” prevented him from “understand[ing] that he had become ensnared in a web fraught with the weaknesses of a self-protective bureaucracy.”
(See Ruby Ridge.)
You could replace the name “Richard Jewell” with that of “Timothy Wind,” the straight-arrow LAPD cop from Wichita, Kansas, who in 1991 served himself up to LAPD investigators on a silver platter, following the Rodney King incident, in which Wind was one of the four officers who had had so much difficulty arresting a highly intoxicated, violent “motorist Rodney G. King.”
Fortunately for Officer Wind, as Lou Cannon recounted in his classic study of the Rodney King case and the 1992 Los Angeles race riot, Official Negligence, the LAPD Internal Affairs detectives interviewing him were so taken with Wind’s hayseed sincerity (a relatively new officer, he idealized the LAPD in the way that Jewell idealized the FBI) that they advised him to seek legal counsel. Conversely, the FBI agents who conducted the stealth interview of Richard Jewell had no such compassion, assumed the worst of him – though they had no evidence implicating him – and (as would also occur in the Hatfill case) took Jewell’s sincere wish to help as a sign either of stupidity or insanity.
I’m Not a Lawman, I Just Play One
Unlike the overweight Richard Jewell, Louis Freeh looked like a lawman from central casting, with a chiseled jaw, ramrod posture, and athletic build. And he had a dream resumé: Born in 1950, he graduated from Rutgers Law School in 1974; served as an FBI special agent from 1975-1981; “joined the United States Attorney's Office for the Southern District of New York as an Assistant United States Attorney” in 1981; “was appointed a Special Prosecutor by the Attorney General” in 1990; President George H.W. Bush appointed him United States District Court Judge for the Southern District of New York in 1991; President Bill Clinton nominated him to serve as FBI director in 1993, a position he held until he was forced out two years early, in 2001.
Although every FBI director will have his media detractors, he will almost always make some fans in the media. And yet, I have never read anything positive about Freeh’s eight-year (1993-2001) tenure at the FBI.
In the aftermath of the Jewell fiasco, the FBI rank-and-file was reportedly unhappy with Freeh’s leadership. But to draw favorable conclusions about the rank-and-file based on the foregoing would be a mistake. Consider the response of Atlanta agents to the Bureau’s relatively mild discipline of Don Johnson for his misconduct in the Jewell case, as reported by CNN on May 29, 1997.
FBI agents in Atlanta rallied in support of a fellow colleague Thursday after he returned to work following a five-day suspension without pay for his role in interviewing Olympic bombing suspect Richard Jewell.
Several dozen people applauded as agent Don Johnson entered Atlanta FBI headquarters. Asked if Johnson was a political scapegoat, agent Harry Grogan said, “Yes, I do.”
The FBI suspended Johnson last week and censured Atlanta special-agent-in-charge Woody Johnson and Kansas City special-agent-in-charge David Tubbs for their roles in the Jewell investigation.
That higher-ups were also guilty in no way absolves Don Johnson of his misconduct in the Jewell case.
James Collins had written in November 1996 of how, even after Jewell was cleared in the case, some FBI agents still felt he was guilty, even though the Bureau had never had any reason to suspect Jewell, in the first place. While the person who finds a bomb is routinely investigated, no competent lawman would equate Ray Cleere’s little exercise in character assassination with Richard Jewell’s guilt.
From top to bottom, the Atlanta FBI office was full of people who had no more conception of the distinction between right and wrong, and even less of the distinction between legal and illegal, than the Mafiosi they routinely investigated.
Exoneration and Vindication
Immediately after the bombing, when someone told Richard Jewell that he might get a book deal out of his heroics, he called an old lawyer friend he’d met on a job ten years earlier, Watson Bryant. Jewell and Bryant hadn’t spoken in over eight years.
Bryant, who specialized in real estate closings, was unknown to the Atlanta legal establishment. Once Bryant saw – via CNN and the July 30 Atlanta Journal-Constitution — that the FBI was seeking to railroad Jewell, he was a pit bull in his defense. In a 1997 interview with visiting Japanese journalism professor Ken Asano and Asano’s students, Jewell called Bryant, “my lucky strike.”
Mind you, since Bryant had no political or media contacts, his bark was considerably worse that his bite. But before anyone could figure that out, Bryant took the precaution of bringing in Jack Martin, whom he had heard was the best criminal defense attorney in Georgia, and who had connections to local U.S. Attorney, R. Kent Alexander.
If Richard Jewell was most fortunate to have a friend in Watson Bryant, he was equally fortunate that R. Kent Alexander was the local federal prosecutor. Not only did Alexander refuse to railroad Jewell without any incriminating evidence, he took the extraordinary measure of formally clearing him, in the following letter.
U.S. Department of Justice
United States Attorney
Northern District of Georgia
October 25, 1996
Jack Martin, Esq.
Suite 500 Grant Building
44 Broad Street NW
Atlanta, Georgia 30303-2327
This is to advise you that based on the evidence developed to date,
your client, Richard Jewell, is not considered a target of the federal criminal investigation into the bombing on July 27, 1996, at Centennial Olympic Park in Atlanta. I am hopeful that Mr. Jewell will provide further cooperation as a witness in the investigation.
Kent B. Alexander
United States Attorney
At the same time, Alexander also released the following statement:
In this case, the Jewells have regrettably also endured highly unusual and intense publicity that was neither designed nor desired by the FBI, and in fact interfered with the investigation. The public should bear in mind that Richard Jewell has at no time been charged with any crime in connection with the bombing.
Of course, that was nonsense on stilts about the publicity having been “neither designed nor desired by the FBI,” but the two statements are as good as an ordinary citizen with the “wrong” demographics is going to get from the federal Leviathan.
Jewell responded, “After 88 days of hell, it’s hard to believe that it is really over.”
The real Olympic Park bomber is named Eric Rudolph. In October 1998, the Justice Department indicted Rudolph in the bombing. Rudolph was also indicted in the bombing of a lesbian nightclub in Atlanta, and in two abortion clinic bombings in Georgia and Alabama, respectively, in which he had murdered off-duty policeman Robert “Sandy” Sanderson, 35, and cost 41-year-old head abortion nurse Emily Lyons an eye. In addition to Lyons and the 111 wounded at the Olympics, Rudolph wounded nine in the blasts. That includes four people he wounded with a secondary bomb, aimed at first-responders, that he set off one hour after the first bomb at one abortion clinic, and five who were wounded at the lesbian nightclub, where police also found an unexploded secondary bomb aimed at first-responders. (That Rudolph called in the Olympic Park bomb twenty minutes before it exploded, claiming that it would go off in 30 minutes, may have been in order to kill as many arriving policemen as possible. Rudolph failed to figure on the incompetence and cowardice of the Atlanta PD.)
Eric Rudolph was apprehended in May, 2003. In order to escape potentially facing the death penalty, in April 2005, he accepted a plea deal in which he pleaded guilty to his crimes, in exchange for being sentenced to serve four consecutive life terms life in federal prison, with no possibility of parole. Rudolph confessed to having committed the bombings out of opposition to abortion and homosexuality.
Had the Bureau succeeded in railroading Richard Jewell, it would have had no incentive to find the real bomber, and a strong disincentive: Admitting that the bomber was still out there would have been an implicit admission that it had railroaded an innocent man.
There’s nothing psychologically or morally wrong with hating a bomber, or any other murderer. But to be hostile towards someone whom you have no reason to believe committed a heinous crime, to interpret everything he says or does (or that anyone else says about him) as proof of his guilt, and to continue with the same mentality even after he has been cleared, is to be guilty both of incompetence and of pure, irrational malice. Richard Jewell was the victim of a group hate by incompetent FBI agents and administrators who were no more than opportunistic sociopaths with badges.
Coming in Part III: Tom Brokaw and the Media.