The Spectacle Blog

The Louis Freeh Era

By on 10.11.05 | 9:37AM

Louis J. Freeh's book, My FBI, came in last night (released today). A few notes while flipping through it...


It's chock full of compelling stuff: the first-person account of the Unabomber investigation, tracking down Robert Hanssen, and others. This isn't just a front row narrative though: it comes with political significance attached, as Matt Drudge already let on in his previews. After the FBI nabbed Hanssen, Bush called Freeh to thank him and pass gratitude to the FBI. "It was the first time since I became director that a president -- and Bush had been in office less than thirty days -- had ever thanked the FBI for protecting the country."


Of course, the most salacious part (to the politicos) is Chapter 9, "Bill and Me." There's the Whitewater investigation, the Chinese contributions to the DNC, Freeh answering

Clinton's criticisms from the rambling autobiography, overseeing the agents obtaining a DNA sample from the president, executive privilege, and the 2001 pardons and commutations. Regarding Judge Susan Weber Wright's contempt citation for President Clinton, Freeh writes, "I thought and I still think that the presidency hit an all-time low with that citation, perhaps only equaled by Richard Nixon, about as low as a benchmark can go."


The last chapter, "9/11," patiently explains the FBI's role in prosecuting terrorism during the 1990s. Freeh frankly discusses the agency's failures first and accepts responsibility where he ought to. As for Richard Clarke, Clinton's outspoken counterterrorism czar, Freeh skewers as "the self-appointed Paul Revere of 9/11." Closely examining Clarke's claims as a key figure in the late '90s and especially during New Year's Eve, 1999, Freeh debunks Clarke as "basically a second-tier player."


Freeh isn't writing to score points, or settle scores. He's settling the record, and so his account reads like an honest, detached man who's glad he escaped Washington while he could. And for that reason alone, My FBI is worth the read.

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