Inspector: FBI 'Within Discretion' to Not Investigate Foley

By Nathan Burchfiel | July 7, 2008 | 8:32 PM EDT

( - 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.

Foley, a Florida Republican, resigned in September amid a media storm surrounding email communications and instant message conversations he had with a male page who was under 18 at the time. Foley later entered rehab, saying he had been sexually abused as a child and was an alcoholic.

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.

The FBI initiated an investigation only after the emails were made public and Foley resigned. At CREW's request, the Justice Department's Office of the Inspector General (OIG) then launched a review of the FBI's handling of the matter.

The OIG's investigation, released this week, found "no indication that the ... decision to decline to investigate was influenced in any way by the fact that Foley was a member of Congress."

"Rather, the SSA [supervisory special agent] said she relied on the fact that the emails lacked evidence of criminal activity."

"Based on our review," the OIG found, "we believe that the SSA's decision not to investigate the matter further did not constitute misconduct, and fell within the range of discretion that she was afforded in her position as an FBI supervisor."

While the OIG found that the FBI did not engage in misconduct by not investigating the emails, it did express some misgivings about the case.

"The emails provided enough troubling indications on their face, particularly given the position of trust and authority that Foley held with respect to House pages, that a better practice for the FBI would have been to take at least some follow-up steps with regard to the emails," it said.

In a statement, the FBI said it "shares the OIG's interest in ensuring that information regarding potential criminal activity is evaluated objectively and in conformance with established policies and practices."

"Accordingly the FBI will carefully examine the OIG review for any changes to existing policies or procedures that may be warranted," the agency said.

But CREW was dissatisfied with the OIG report and on Tuesday called on House Judiciary Committee Chairman John Conyers (D-Mich.) to schedule hearings to investigate the FBI's handling of the emails.

"Based on the FBI's handling of the Foley matter, there are serious questions on how the FBI conducts its investigations into potential child predators," said CREW executive director Melanie Sloan in a statement.

She said Conyers should hold hearings as soon as possible, "to help prevent other children from being victimized."

See Earlier Stories:
Hastert: Didn't Know About Foley's Sexually Explicit Messages (Oct. 2, 2006)
Florida Republican Congressman Resigns (Sept. 29, 2006)

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