Watchdog Group Disputes FBI's Claims on E-Mails

By Dan Eggen
Washington Post Staff Writer
Friday, October 6, 2006

The watchdog group that first provided the FBI with suspicious e-mails from then-Rep. Mark Foley (R-Fla.) said yesterday that FBI and Justice Department officials are attempting to cover up their inaction in the case by making false claims about the group.

Law enforcement officials said the allegations by Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics in Washington (CREW) are without merit, and they stood by allegations that the group had refused to provide some information to the FBI.

The dispute is the latest controversy this week for CREW, a liberal-leaning group that has come under attack from House Speaker J. Dennis Hastert (R-Ill.) and other Republicans because it has received money from a foundation funded by liberal financier George Soros.

CREW held a news conference Monday to announce that in July it had provided the FBI suspicious e-mails between Foley and a former House page. The group criticized the bureau for not taking more aggressive action and asked Justice Department Inspector General Glenn A. Fine to investigate the FBI's handling of the case.

Law enforcement officials said then that the e-mails did not provide enough evidence of a possible crime to warrant a full investigation. In the e-mails, Foley praises the physical attributes of one page and asks another teenager for his picture.

In subsequent days, unidentified Justice and FBI officials told reporters that the e-mails provided by CREW were heavily redacted and that the group refused to provide unedited versions to the FBI. One law enforcement official -- speaking on the condition of anonymity to discuss an ongoing investigation -- also told The Washington Post the FBI believed that CREW may have received the e-mails as early as April and that the group refused to tell the FBI how they were obtained.

Melanie Sloan, CREW's executive director, said copies of the original e-mails she sent to an FBI agent show those assertions to be wrong. Sloan said the agent called to confirm receipt of the e-mails and to ask if one of the parties was Foley.

Sloan said the group sent unedited e-mails to the FBI because "we wanted them to commence an investigation. We're sort of outraged that they're saying anything differently." The group has asked Fine's office to look into the FBI's assertions.

Justice Department spokesman Brian Roehrkasse declined to comment on that issue but defended the FBI's handling of the original e-mails: "The e-mails, while inappropriate, did not contain a criminal predicate to allow the FBI to move forward in an investigation."

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