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Thursday, January 25, 2007
CNS Spins for FBI on Foley Report

A Jan. 24 article by Nathan Burchfiel on the Justice Department's Office of the Inspector General report on how the FBI handled the Mark Foley matter took a strangely pro-FBI spin, burying or ignoring mistakes made by the organization. Here's Burchfiel's lead:

The Federal Bureau of Investigation acted "within the range of discretion" in deciding not to investigate sexually charged Internet conversations between former Rep. Mark Foley and a former congressional page, the Justice Department has concluded.

Critics are unhappy, however, and called Tuesday for congressional hearings into the matter.

The article continued on that tack by describing exculpatory findings regarding the FBI. It's not until the 9th paragraph is it hinted that the report contains anything critical about the FBI's handling of the case. The Washington Post, meanwhile, led its article on the report with that criticism -- that the FBI should have taken "some follow-up steps" when it learned about the emails.

Burchfiel's article, however, offers no mention whatsoever of the report's other major finding -- that anonymous Justice and FBI officials had falsely told the media that the group that first forwarded the Foley emails to the FBI, Citizens for Ethics and Responsibility in Washington (CREW), that the messages supplied by CREW had been "heavily redacted" and that the group had refused to provide further information. In fact, according to the report, the only thing removed from the messages was the identity of the person to whom the communications had been forwarded, and that the "redactions in the e-mail did not factor into the FBI's decision to decline to investigate the matter."

Burchfiel also writes:

The Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics in Washington (CREW) claimed responsibility for leaking the emails. It said it sent the emails to the FBI in July and released them to the media only after it became clear the agency did not plan to investigate.

That's not quite true. In fact, the first public airing of Foley-related communications with pages came from ABC News, not CREW. According to a CNN timeline of the scandal, CREW did not go public with its Foley emails until the day after the initial ABC report, and CREW's first press release on the matter (from Sept. 29, 2006, the day after the ABC report), did not mention that it had been in possession of Foley-related emails. It was not until Oct. 2 that it disclosed that it had forwarded Foley emails to the FBI, which were different from the messages ABC reported on.

Posted by Terry K. at 9:33 AM EST

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