FBI embarrassed by former agent's book

Critic says White House assignment no plum


July 3, 1996
Web posted at: 11:50 p.m. EDT

From Correspondent Anthony Collings

WASHINGTON (CNN) -- When retired FBI agent Gary Aldrich released his book attacking the White House, he expected to focus attention on the Clinton administration. He may not have predicted one side effect: a renewed spotlight on controversial agents.

His actions have been criticized by other FBI agents, said Ron Kessler, an FBI critic and author of the book "The FBI."

"The biggest reaction of FBI agents to the Aldrich claims is that they're embarrassed that this guy is an agent, or was an agent," Kessler said.

Other FBI agents who served at the White House recently have lost their jobs because of inappropriate conduct.

Dennis Sculimbrene, another agent who worked at the Clinton White House, claims he was punished with an undesirable assignment because he testified for Billy Dale. Dale is the fired director of the White House travel office who was ultimately acquitted of embezzlement charges.

Another former agent, Halbert Gary Harlow, was assigned to do background investigations at the Clinton White House. Harlow, who was fired, was sentenced last year to six months in prison for stealing government property and for claiming he had completed background interviews he never conducted.

Kessler, a frequent critic of the FBI, said he isn't surprised that agents who do background checks sometimes end up as controversial figures.

"The FBI has long had a policy, going back to the Hoover days, of placing incompetent agents, agents with poor judgment, agents who are flaky, on these background investigations, because that takes the least judgment," he said.

Not a top job

FBI officials admit that routine background checks are not considered a top assignment. However, they say that doesn't mean agents who do them for the White House are incompetent.

Former White House Counsel C. Boyden Gray said the FBI agents he knew were "very solid, fine people, and I had complete trust in what they were doing." And former FBI director William Sessions said on Larry King Live Tuesday night that "it should be, really, a first-rate person who is over there."

Current and former FBI officials say most agents would not behave like Aldrich, because they consider it unprofessional to reveal things they learn on the job -- especially for what appear to be political purposes.

Aldrich could face a Justice Department effort to make him forfeit his book profits, if prosecutors decide he didn't get proper FBI clearance before publishing his book.

After the FBI's success in handling the Montana Freemen, the bureau had hoped for an improved image. Now, with Aldrich's book and the White House files affair on the front pages, there is tarnish on the FBI badge once again.

Related story:

Related site:


Send us your comments.
Selected responses are posted daily.


Copyright © 1996 Cable News Network, Inc.
External sites are not endorsed by CNN Interactive.