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FBI still looking for leaker in Olympic bombing

December 19, 1996

WASHINGTON (AP) _ The FBI hasn’t determined who leaked Richard Jewell’s name as a suspect in the Olympic park bombing but is still questioning employees and checking telephone records, FBI Director Louis Freeh told senators today.

He said the leak and the frenzy of publicity that followed hurt the investigation of the bombing, but not seriously.

``I certainly would say it was a major distraction to the focus of the investigation,″ Freeh told the Senate Judiciary Committee’s terrorism, technology and government information subcommittee. ``It had an adverse impact, but I would not call it significant.″

Nevertheless, he said, leaks to the media can put investigations, reputations and even lives in jeopardy, and he planned to recommend that whoever did so in the bombing case be fired and prosecuted.

FBI investigators also are still investigating who tipped off reporters before Theodore Kaczynski was arrested in the Unabomber case. Investigators have said they believe Kaczynski was behind bombings attributed to the Unabomber, a shadowy, anti-technology terrorist whose earliest targets included universities and airlines.

``In my view every unauthorized release of ... investigative information is an irresponsible breach of the integrity of the criminal justice system,″ Freeh said.

At least 500 people in 11 separate agencies _ including the FBI _ knew about the investigation of Jewell, he said, and that’s not counting the supervisors and co-workers they probably spoke with after the case.

FBI officials eventually cleared Jewell as a suspect in the bombing, which killed one person and injured over 100 during the Summer Olympic Games in Atlanta. The FBI recently offered a $500,000 reward for information, photos or videos that help identify the bomber.

``Over the course of a few days, Mr. Jewell saw his image soar from private citizen to celebrated hero, and then, on the word of anonymous law enforcement sources, sink to the depths of suspected terrorist,″ Sen. Patrick Leahy, D-Vt., said. ``What happened to Richard Jewell is deeply disturbing to me, to the American people, to the FBI director and to the thousands of diligent employees of the FBI.″

Freeh said that since 1992 the FBI has investigated 48 leaks. One employee was fired and lesser disciplinary action was taken against eight. Fifteen cases are pending and 24 cases have been closed, he said.

Leahy and Sen. Arlen Specter, R-Pa., also questioned Freeh on why the FBI waited to ask the public for any photographs or video taken at the park where the bombing occurred.

During the early part of the investigation, Freeh said, officials were busy processing information and piecing together the backpack that contained the bomb.

The call for information, predictably, led to an avalanche of leads, he said.

``In the early stage of the investigation ... you don’t want your investigators to be overwhelmed by thousands and thousand of leads,″ Freeh said.

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