TIME: What Did China Want? (3/24/97)
Freeh Confirms Scope Of FBI's Probe
FBI chief speaks of a 'foreign government,' without mentioning China by name
By Terry Frieden/CNN
WASHINGTON (AllPolitics, March 20) -- FBI Director Louis Freeh confirmed today that his task force investigating possible illegal campaign contributions is also probing the extent to which an overseas government tried to buy influence through political donations.
Testifying before a Senate Appropriations panel, Freeh said the investigation, which now extends overseas, is his highest priority. He told subcommittee chairman Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.), "There is not a matter that has my attention to a greater degree right now."
Freeh did not specifically mention the People's Republic of China, but his remarks came in direct response to McConnell's question about Chinese government activities.
Freeh told the senators, "One of the subjects the grand jury and task force is currently investigating are allegations with respect to, not just illegal political activities and contributions, but also the national security aspects of that, whether any of the funding or attempted funding or planning originated not by an individual per se, but a foreign government, a state sponsor, a ministry."
Freeh continued, "That really is the heart, a part of what our grand jury is currently doing. I think the most I could probably tell you is that the allegations are in there. They're being treated very seriously."
The FBI director confirmed that some of his agents stationed as legal attaches, or "legats," at embassies overseas are involved in the investigation. Said Freeh: "I've assigned 25 agents and inspectors full-time, with many other agents around the country, and even our 'legats' [are] following leads in that investigation."
Freeh told McConnell the FBI now has agents located in Hong Kong, but does not yet have a legal attache assigned to Beijing. Funds have been approved for the office to be opened at the U.S. embassy in Beijing. Freeh said the agents to be assigned to the Chinese capital have been selected, and he hopes they can be in place by July when Hong Kong is officially turned over to China.
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