Friday, January 5, 2007; 12:34 AM
WASHINGTON (Reuters) - The late U.S. Chief Justice William Rehnquist was dependent on a powerful sedative during his first decade on the Supreme Court and became delusional when he stopped taking the drug in 1981, The Washington Post reported on Friday, citing newly released FBI files.
The fact that Rehnquist checked into a hospital for a week in late December 1981 to be treated for back pain and dependence on a prescription drug was previously known, the Post said.
The 1,561 pages from the FBI files on Rehnquist released this week reveal new details about the length and intensity of the addiction, the newspaper reported.
Rehnquist was appointed to the court by President Richard Nixon in 1971 and nominated as chief justice by President Ronald Reagan in 1986. He died in September 2005.
The Post reported that the FBI concluded during its 1986 investigation that Rehnquist began taking the drug Placidyl for insomnia after back surgery in 1971 and was, by 1981, taking apparently three times the usual starting dose each night.
Doctors interviewed by the FBI told agents that when Rehnquist stopped taking the drug, he suffered paranoid delusions, including imagining "a CIA plot against him," the newspaper reported.
The FBI files also show that during both of Rehnquist's confirmation battles, the Justice Department asked the FBI to find out what witnesses lined up by Senate Democrats were prepared to say, the newspaper reported.
Then-assistant attorney general John Bolton, who recently stepped down as ambassador to the United Nations, approved enlisting the FBI and wrote that he "would accept responsibility should concerns be raised about the role of the FBI," the newspaper said.
Bolton told The Washington Post that there was no political bias in the investigation, because the request for the FBI to interview witnesses actually came from Senate Democrats.