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Louis Freeh

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Louis Freeh

Louis Freeh
Official portrait
5th Director of the Federal
Bureau of Investigation
In office
September 1, 1993 – June 25, 2001
President Bill Clinton
George W. Bush
Preceded by Floyd I. Clarke (Acting)
Succeeded by Thomas J. Pickard (Acting)
Judge of the U.S. District Court for the Southern District of New York
In office
May 30, 1991 – August 31, 1993
Appointed by George H.W. Bush
Preceded by Richard J. Daronco
Succeeded by Shira Scheindlin
Personal details
Born Louis Joseph Freeh
(1950-01-06) January 6, 1950
Jersey City, New Jersey
Alma mater Rutgers University

Louis Joseph Freeh (born January 6, 1950) served as the fifth Director of the Federal Bureau of Investigation from September 1993 to June 2001.

Freeh began his career as an agent of the FBI, and was later an assistant United States Attorney and a United States district court judge, the position he held at the time of his appointment as FBI director. He is now a lawyer and consultant in the private sector.


  • Early life and career 1
    • "Pizza Connection" case 1.1
  • Tenure as F.B.I. Director 2
    • Civil liberties 2.1
    • Ruby Ridge 2.2
    • Waco 2.3
    • Khobar Towers bombing 2.4
    • TWA Flight 800 2.5
    • Centennial Olympic Park bombing 2.6
    • Montana Freemen 2.7
    • Unabomber 2.8
    • Robert Hanssen 2.9
    • Wen Ho Lee 2.10
    • Chinese political and campaign fundraising controversies 2.11
    • Other cases 2.12
    • Criticism 2.13
    • Resignation 2.14
  • Post-FBI career 3
    • Book and editorials 3.1
  • Personal life 4
  • SUV crash and hospitalization 5
  • Notes 6
  • See also 7
  • External links 8

Early life and career

Freeh was born January 6, 1950, in United States District Court for the Southern District of New York, a position he held until he was appointed FBI director by President Bill Clinton in 1993. As a youth, Freeh became an Eagle Scout in 1963 and in 1995 was awarded the Distinguished Eagle Scout Award by the Boy Scouts of America.[5][6]

"Pizza Connection" case

A notable case Freeh was associated with was the "pizza parlors as fronts. After a 14-month trial, 16 of 17 co-defendants were convicted. The "Pizza Connection" case was, at the time, the most complex criminal investigation ever undertaken by the U.S. government.[4]

Tenure as F.B.I. Director

Shortly before and during Freeh's tenure, the FBI was involved in a number of high-profile incidents and internal investigations.

Civil liberties

Among other Justice Department officials (including Attorney General Reno), Freeh was named a co-defendant in Zieper v. Metzinger, a 1999 federal court case. The American Civil Liberties Union assisted the plaintiffs who sued due to the FBI's conduct in investigating "Military Takeover of New York City", a short (fictional) film made in October 1999 that discussed riots and a military takeover of Times Square on New Year's Eve, 1999.[7]

In May 2000, he reached an agreement with Rep. José Serrano, then Puerto Rican Independence Party senator Manuel Rodríguez Orellana and then Puerto Rico Senate Committee on Federal Affairs chairman Kenneth McClintock, the islands' current Senate President, to release FBI files on Puerto Rican political activists. Nearly 100,000 pages have been released and are being catalogued by the Office of Legislative Services of Puerto Rico.[8]

In testimony to the Senate Judiciary Committee, Freeh said that the widespread use of effective encryption "is one of the most difficult problems for law enforcement as the next century approaches".[9] He considered the loss of wiretapping to law enforcement as a result of encryption to be dangerous and said that the "country [would] be unable to protect itself" against terrorism and serious crimes.[10]

Ruby Ridge

An investigation of the August 1992 incident at Ruby Ridge, Idaho, in which an FBI sharpshooter (Lon Horiuchi) killed the wife of Randy Weaver, was ongoing when Freeh became Director. A paramilitary FBI unit, the Hostage Rescue Team, was present at the incident; Freeh later said that had he been director, he would not have involved the HRT. FBI sniper Lon Horiuchi was later charged with manslaughter; Freeh said that he was "deeply disappointed" at the charges, filed by a county prosecutor and later dropped.[11][12][13]

Freeh was not censured for alleged managerial failures in the investigation of the incident, although a Justice Department inquiry had made such a recommendation.[14]


An investigation of the events of April 19, 1993 when Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, and Firearms (ATF) Special Agents served a warrant on the Branch Davidian compound at Waco, Texas was ongoing during Freeh's tenure. While the event had taken place before he became Director, a highly controversial investigation ensued, including allegations of a cover-up by the FBI, and tensions developed between Freeh and Janet Reno, then-Attorney General. Reno, who had herself been blamed for mishandling of the confrontation and investigation, sent U.S. Marshals to FBI headquarters to seize Waco-related evidence.[15]

Khobar Towers bombing

Shortly before 10 a.m. on June 25, 1996, members of a terrorist group detonated a truck bomb outside building 131 (also known as Khobar Towers) of the King Abdul Aziz Air Base. Inside the building were almost exclusively members of the U.S. Air Force who were there to patrol the southern Iraqi no-fly zone enacted after the Gulf War. In the attack, 19 U.S. military personnel and a Saudi local were killed and 372 were wounded, making this the most deadly terrorist attack on Americans abroad since the 1983 Beirut barracks bombing. Louis Freeh said in his book My FBI that he felt the deepest about the Khobar Towers investigation, and it was not until Louis Freeh's last day in office, June 21, 2001, a federal grand jury in Alexandria, Virginia returned a 46-count indictment against 14 defendants charged with the Khobar Towers attack.[16] This was just before some of the counts would have expired due to a five-year statute of limitations. In the book Freeh maintains that he was obstructed by the Clinton Administration for political reasons in investigating the bombing and bringing the terrorist to justice.

TWA Flight 800

On July 17, 1996, TWA Flight 800 exploded and crashed into the Atlantic Ocean, killing all 230 persons on board. In his book My FBI, Freeh wrote "On July 17, TWA flight 800 exploded off Long Island minutes after taking off from John F. Kennedy International Airport. No one knew what brought it down: mechanical failure, a bomb, a ground-to-air missile all seemed possible in the early stages."[16] The following day, the FBI commenced a parallel investigation in spite of the National Transportation Safety Board having "priority over any investigation by another department, agency, or instrumentality of the United States Government," as stated in 49 U.S.C. § 1131. Subsequently, FBI agents blocked attempts by the NTSB to interview witnesses, according to a copy of a safety board report obtained by Aviation Week & Space Technology. One month after the explosion, chemists at the FBI crime laboratory in Washington found traces of PETN, an explosive component of bombs and surface-to-air missiles.[17] However, on November 18, 1997, the FBI closed its 20 million dollar investigation by announcing that "No evidence has been found which would indicate that a criminal act was the cause of the tragedy of TWA flight 800." Almost three years later, on August 2000, the NTSB published its final report which stated that "the probable cause of the TWA flight 800 accident was an explosion of the center wing fuel tank (CWT), resulting from ignition of the flammable fuel/air mixture in the tank."[18]

Centennial Olympic Park bombing

The U.S. Senate Subcommittee on Terrorism, Technology and Government Information heard testimony from Freeh regarding the leaking of Richard Jewell's name to the media in connection with the bombing at the 1996 Olympic Games. Freeh testified that he did not know how the name of Jewell, who had been falsely accused in the bombings, had been leaked to the media.[19]

Montana Freemen

Freeh and the FBI were praised for the handling of the 81-day standoff between law enforcement agents and the Montana Freemen, a fringe political group. Director Abraham Foxman of the Anti-Defamation League, which had issued reports critical of the Freemen and encouraged their prosecution, commended the "peaceful conclusion" to the standoff.[20]


Theodore Kaczynski, the "Unabomber," was apprehended in 1996 after his manifesto, Industrial Society and its Future, was published in the New York Times and Washington Post. Freeh and Attorney General Reno recommended publication, acceding to Kaczynski's offer to "renounce terrorism" if it was. A tip from the bomber's brother David, who recognized the writing style, assisted the FBI in his capture.[21][22]

Robert Hanssen

Robert Hanssen, a 25-year veteran of the FBI, was arrested in 2001 and charged with spying for the Soviet Union and Russia, beginning in 1985. Freeh called the security breach "exceptionally grave" and appointed a panel, led by former FBI and Central Intelligence Agency head William Webster, to review the damage done by Hanssen's espionage.[23]

Wen Ho Lee

In 1999, Los Alamos National Laboratory scientist Wen Ho Lee was fired from his job; in 1999 he was arrested and held without trial for 278 days while his handling of sensitive nuclear information was investigated. Freeh accused him of downloading a "portable, personal trove" of U.S. nuclear secrets. Lee pled guilty to one of the fifty-nine counts brought against him, after which he was freed from jail.[24]

A Justice Department report of the investigation of Lee said that Director Freeh was not fully informed about the investigation until over a year after it began, and that the F.B.I. as a whole "bungled" the case.[25]

Chinese political and campaign fundraising controversies

In February 1997, the media announced that Freeh personally blocked the sharing of intelligence information regarding China's alleged plot to influence U.S. elections with the White House.[26][27] The following month, Freeh testified before Congress that his investigation into campaign finance irregularities of the 1996 U.S. presidential and Congressional campaigns was not focusing on individual criminal acts, but on a possible conspiracy involving China.[28] Later that year, Freeh wrote a memorandum to Attorney General Janet Reno calling for an Independent Counsel to investigate the fund-raising scandal. In his memo he wrote: "It is difficult to imagine a more compelling situation for appointing an Independent Counsel".[29] Reno rejected his request.

Other cases

Other cases handled by the FBI during Freeh's tenure included the death of White House counsel Vince Foster (in 1993), allegations of incompetence at the FBI crime laboratory, investigation of the Oklahoma City bombing (1995) and the capture and prosecution of Timothy McVeigh.


In 2000, the editorial staff of Business Week called for the resignation of Director Freeh, citing the Carnivore communications-monitoring system, the alleged Waco cover-up, and insubordination to Attorney General Reno as reasons.[30]


In June 2001, he resigned amid criticism that the FBI needed stronger leadership, particularly after allegations of spying by Robert Hanssen. Upon his resignation, he was praised by Attorney General John Ashcroft, who called him "a model law enforcement officer".[31] He was replaced by Thomas J. Pickard who served for 71 days, who was in turn replaced by Robert Mueller.

Post-FBI career

Freeh approached acting New Jersey Governor Donald DiFrancesco, and offered to serve, without salary, as the state's anti-terrorism "czar". Di Francesco approached both major-party candidates for governor to secure their approval; Bret Schundler, the Republican candidate, agreed "in principle". However, Democrat Jim McGreevey, who won the gubernatorial election, turned down Freeh in favor of Golan Cipel. It was later discovered that McGreevey and Cipel had been involved in a sexual relationship. McGreevey was heavily criticized for giving the post to Cipel rather than Freeh or another experienced individual.[32]

In September 2001, Freeh was appointed to the board of directors of credit card issuer MBNA; he also served as the bank's general counsel, as well as corporate secretary and ethics officer. Likewise, Bristol-Myers Squibb elected him to its board of directors.[33]

Freeh is also a member of the board of consultants of the Gavel Consulting Group, formed by current and former federal judges and high-ranking government officials to provide advice and counseling to the private sector.[34][35]

Beginning in 2004 Freeh began moonlighting as an adjunct law professor for Widener University School of Law. Drawing on his years of experience, he has taught White Collar Crime.

In 2007, Freeh formed Freeh Group International Solutions,[36] a consulting and investigative firm headquartered in Wilmington, Delaware with regional offices in Washington DC and New York. Affiliated firms include Freeh Group Europe and the law firm Freeh, Sporkin & Sullivan, LLP. The latter firm includes Eugene R. Sullivan, a retired Federal Judge in Washington D.C. and Eugene R. Sullivan II amongst partners and Stanley Sporkin as senior counsel. Sporkin is a retired Federal judge who earlier served as head of the Securities and Exchange Commission's Division of Enforcement and as general counsel to the Central Intelligence Agency.[37]

In 2009, Louis Freeh was hired by Saudi Arabian Prince Bandar bin Sultan as his legal representative on issues surrounding the Al-Yamamah arms deal, appearing April 7, 2009 on the PBS series Frontline's episode "Black Money".[38]

In late May 2011, Freeh was retained as an independent investigator by the Ethics Committee of FIFA in the bribery scandal centering on Mohammed bin Hammam and Jack Warner.[39] However, the Court of Arbitration of Sports subsequently rejected Freeh's report as consisting of little more than speculation.[40]

In November 2011, Pennsylvania State University announced that Freeh would lead an internal investigation into the Penn State child sex abuse scandal involving Jerry Sandusky and several high-ranking university officials.[41] He announced that the team assisting him in his investigation would include former FBI agents and federal prosecutors.[42] As the Sandusky trial proceeded toward conviction in June 2012, the university said Freeh would report in the summer and the report would "be released to the trustees and the public simultaneously without being reviewed by the school’s general counsel’s office".[43] The report was released on July 12, 2012.[44] The 267-page report from Freeh's law firm was characterized as deeply critical of the administration of former university president Graham Spanier, athletic director Tim Curley, late coach Joe Paterno and former university vice president Gary Schultz. A commentary at Sports Illustrated's website characterized the report's accusations against Paterno as "damning and sweeping" and the findings about Spanier, including a 2001 e-mail in the wake of the 2001 shower incident purportedly witnessed by graduate assistant Mike McQueary, as "most damning".[45] While a number of sources [46] have questioned if not outright disputed the accuracy of Freeh's findings, the report has been generally accepted and led to some responsive action on the basis of the evidence provided (such as NCAA sanctions against PSU's football team [47]).

On February 10, 2013 a report authored by former United States Attorney General and former Governor of Pennsylvania Dick Thornburgh, whom the Paterno family retained to conduct its own investigation, concluded that the Freeh report was "seriously flawed, both with respect to the process of [its] investigation and its findings related to Mr. Paterno".[48]

Also in November, 2011, Freeh was named trustee for the MF Global bankruptcy case,[49] the largest Wall Street bankruptcy since Lehman Brothers' in September 2008.[50] He was appointed by U.S. Trustee Tracy Hope Davis working under the authority of U.S. Bankruptcy Court Judge Martin Glenn.[49]

On February 5, 2013 Freeh was named Chair of the law firm Pepper Hamilton LLP.[51]

In the early afternoon of August 25, 2014 Freeh was found unconscious on Route 12 in Barnard in eastern Vermont, by the Vermont State Police in a crashed 2010 GMC Yukon apparently having struck a mailbox, a row of shrubs and a tree before coming to a stop. He was flown by helicopter to Dartmouth-Hitchcock Medical Center having suffered a broken leg and in serious condition.[52]

Book and editorials

An editorial by Louis Freeh critical of the 9/11 Commission appeared in the November 17, 2005 edition of the Wall Street Journal.[53]

In 2005, Freeh (with Howard Means) published a book about his career in the FBI entitled My FBI: Bringing Down the Mafia, Investigating Bill Clinton, and Fighting the War on Terror.[54] It is highly critical of both President Clinton and former counter-terrorism advisor Richard A. Clarke. On October 19, 2005, Freeh made an appearance on The Daily Show to promote the book.[55][56] A New York Times review called it "A strangely shallow offering by a man who is anything but...".[57]

Personal life

Freeh and his wife, Marilyn, have six sons. Freeh is a devout Washington, DC.

Freeh acquired Italian citizenship on October 23, 2009.[62]

SUV crash and hospitalization

Shortly after noon on August 25, 2014 Freeh was headed south on Vermont 12 in his 2010 GMC Yukon when he drove off the east side of the road. The vehicle struck a mailbox at 2762 Vermont 12 and a row of shrubs, before stopping against a tree, police said. The Wilmington, Del. resident was flown from Barnard to Dartmouth-Hitchcock Medical Center in Lebanon, N.H., under armed guard. An unidentified FBI agent appeared almost immediately after the crash.[63]


  1. ^ Bernice William Freeh - Google Search
  2. ^ via Associated Press. "Former FBI director from North Bergen named to head college's Sandusky investigation". The Star-Ledger, November 21, 2011. Accessed November 12, 2012.
  3. ^ The Ultimate New Jersey High School Year Book. 
  4. ^ a b "Federal Bureau of Investigation-Directors, Then and Now - LOUIS J. FREEH". Federal Bureau of Investigation. Archived from the original on 2010-09-23. Retrieved 2012-10-20. 
  5. ^ "Distinguished Eagle Scouts". Retrieved 2010-11-04. 
  6. ^ Newton, Michael (2003). The FBI Encyclopedia. Jefferson, NC: McFarland & Co. p. 127.  
  7. ^ "ACLU's Complaint in Zieper v. Metzinger". American Civil Liberties Union. December 22, 1999. Retrieved 2006-06-11. 
  8. ^ "FBI Puerto Rico Political Persecution Files center at PR Office of Legislative Services". 
  9. ^ Chris Hekimian (February 8, 2000). "What is Really at Stake?". Cyberspace Policy Institute. Retrieved 2006-06-11. 
  10. ^ A. Michael Froomkin (1995). "The Metaphor is the Key: Cryptography, The Clipper Chip, and the Constitution". University of Miami School of Law. Retrieved 2006-06-11. 
  11. ^ "Both sides decry new Ruby Ridge charges". CNN. August 21, 1997. Archived from the original on 2008-01-15. Retrieved 2006-06-11. 
  12. ^ "A Review of Allegations of a Double Standard of Discipline at the FBI (Chapter 5)". CNN. November 15, 2002. Retrieved 2006-06-11. 
  13. ^ "'"Freeh Says FBI Actions at Ruby Ridge Were 'Flawed. The Washington Post and "The Tech". October 20, 1995. Retrieved 2006-06-11. 
  14. ^ Johnston, David (August 6, 2001). "Freeh Was Spared Censure For Handling of Ruby Ridge". The New York Times. Retrieved 2006-06-11. 
  15. ^ "Tension Between Reno and Freeh Reaches Breaking Point on Waco". The New York Times. September 3, 1999. Retrieved 2006-06-11. 
  16. ^ a b Freeh, Louis (2005). "1". My FBI. St. Martin's Press.  
  18. ^ National Transportation Safety Board (2000). "Aircraft Accident Report: In-flight Breakup Over the Atlantic Ocean Trans World Airlines Flight 800" (PDF). Ntsb/aar-00/03: p.xvi. Retrieved April 5, 2011. 
  19. ^ "FBI chief can't explain media leaks in Olympic bombing". CNN. December 19, 1996. Retrieved 2006-06-11. 
  20. ^ "ADL APPLAUDS FBI FOR PEACEFUL END TO FREEMEN STANDOFF". Anti-Defamation League. June 14, 1996. Retrieved 2006-06-11. 
  21. ^ "Post, Times publish Unabomber's manifesto". CNN. September 19, 1995. Retrieved 2006-06-11. 
  22. ^ "Unabomber Manuscript is Published". The Washington Post. September 19, 1995. Retrieved 2006-06-11. 
  23. ^ Frank Pellegrini (February 20, 2001). "Their Man in Washington". Time Magazine. Retrieved 2006-06-11. 
  24. ^ "Justice Dept. Says Lee's No Hero". CBS News. September 26, 2000. Retrieved 2006-06-11. 
  25. ^ Eggen, Dan (August 27, 2001). "Report Details More FBI Blunders in Wen Ho Lee Probe". The Washington Post. Retrieved 2006-06-11. 
  26. ^ David Johnston (March 25, 1997). "F.B.I. Denied Data the White House Sought on China". New York Times. Retrieved 2006-06-12. 
  27. ^ "Clinton Gives Freeh Measured Support". New York Times. March 27, 1997. Retrieved 2006-06-12. 
  28. ^ Roberto Suro (March 21, 1997). "FBI Head Confirms China Probe Underway". Washington Post. Retrieved 2006-06-12. 
  29. ^ "Freeh Says Reno Clearly Misread Prosecutor Law", Neil A. Lewis, New York Times June 12, 2006
  30. ^ "The Case against Louis Freeh". Business Week. September 18, 2000. Retrieved 2006-06-11. 
  31. ^ "Another Blow To The Bureau". CBS News. May 13, 2001. Retrieved 2006-06-11. 
  32. ^ "Freeh snubbed in favor of Cipel". The Trentonian. August 17, 2004. Retrieved 2006-06-11. 
  33. ^ "Bristol-Myers Squibb Names Louis J. Freeh to Board of Directors". PR Newswire. September 13, 2003. Retrieved 2006-06-11. 
  34. ^ "A Case of Questionable Judgment". The Washington Post. April 7, 2003. Retrieved 2006-06-11. 
  35. ^ "Freeh". Gavel Consulting Group. Retrieved 2006-06-11. 
  36. ^ "Freeh Group International". 
  37. ^ "Our People", FSS webpage. Retrieved 2012-07-13.
  38. ^ "Frontline: Black Money, Extended Interview with Louis Freeh". April 7, 2009. 
  39. ^ Telegraph: Bin Hammam/Warner Investigation expands Paul Kelso, The Daily Telegraph, 2 June 2011
  40. ^ Court Questions FIFA Integrity over Hammam Proceedings James M. Dorsey ,, 26 July 2012
  41. ^ Former FBI director Freeh to conduct independent investigation Penn State Live, 21 November 2011
  42. ^ Penn St. hires Louis Freeh to investigate ESPN, 21 November 2011
  43. ^ Achenbach, Joel, "In Sandusky trial, testimony shows how suspicions led to silence", Washington Post, June 17, 2012. Retrieved 2012-07-05.
  44. ^ "The Freeh Report on the Pennsylvania State University". Progress. 
  45. ^ McCann, Michael, "Report finds Paterno, PSU leaders concealed Sandusky abuse", Sports Illustrated, July 13, 2012. Retrieved 2012-07-13.
  46. ^ Marc Rubin. "Tom In Paine". 
  47. ^ Thamel, Pete (July 23, 2012). "Penn State Penalties Include $60 Million Fine and Bowl Ban". The New York Times. 
  48. ^ "Joe Paterno family report calls Freeh report on Sandusky scandal a total failure - ESPN". 
  49. ^ a b "Ex-FBI Chief Named Trustee In MF Global Bankruptcy", AP via NPR, November 25, 2011. Retrieved 2011-11-26.
  50. ^ "MF Global Collapses Amidst Discovery of Missing Money". November 1, 2011. 
  51. ^ Highpoint Solutions, LLC Copyright 2008. "Louis Freeh Named Chair of Pepper Hamilton". 
  52. ^
  53. ^ "An Incomplete Investigation".  
  54. ^ With Howard B. Means. My FBI: Bringing Down the Mafia, Investigating Bill Clinton, and Fighting the War on Terror. New York: St. Martin's Press, 2005. ISBN 978-0312321895
  55. ^ "Louis Freeh".  
  56. ^ "FootnoteTV® : The Daily Show with Jon Stewart : October 2005 : October 19, 2005 (Guest: Louis Freeh)". Footnote TV. Archived from the original on 2006-05-11. Retrieved 2012-09-24. 
  57. ^  
  58. ^ "Opus Dei: Fact and Fiction".  
  59. ^ Paul Baumann (October–November 2005). "Let There Be Light: A look inside the hidden world of Opus Dei". Washington Monthly. Retrieved 2006-06-11. 
  60. ^ Vise, David A. The Bureau and the Mole: The Unmasking of Robert Philip Hanssen, the Most Dangerous Double Agent in FBI History. New York: Atlantic Monthly Press, 2002. ISBN 9780871138347
  61. ^ "Excerpt frcom The Bureau and the Mole". The Bureau and the Mole. Archived from the original on 2006-08-18. Retrieved 2006-09-19. 
  62. ^ "Louis Freeh acquires Italian citizenship".  
  63. ^

See also

External links

Government offices
Preceded by
Floyd I. Clarke
Director of the Federal Bureau of Investigation
Succeeded by
Thomas J. Pickard
Legal offices
Preceded by
Richard J. Daronco
Judge of the U.S. District Court for the Southern District of New York
May 30, 1991 – August 31, 1993
Succeeded by
Shira Scheindlin
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