ON THE EVENING OF MARCH 5 Michael Bromwich, the Justice Department’s inspector general, tuned into C-SPAN in his Washington, D.C., living room to catch a replay of the testimony that Federal Bureau of Investigation director Louis Freeh had given earlier that day before a House of Representatives subcommittee. It was tepid stuff. But then came a moment when Freeh was tossed a hot potato relating to Bromwich’s much-publicized investigation into claims of bad science, pro-prosecution slanting, and even fabrication of evidence at the FBI’s vaunted crime laboratory. Why, asked subcommittee chairman Harold Rogers (R-Kentucky), had the bureau suspended Dr. Frederic Whitehurst? He’s the FBI scientist turned whistle-blower whose sweeping charges against colleagues in the crime lab had spurred the inspector general’s investigation, and had proved accurate in all too many cases.
"The action that was taken against Mr. Whitehurst,’ Freeh responded, "was taken solely and directly on the basis of the recommendation [and report] of the inspector general."
The FBI director’s implication: It wasn’t our idea.
This was wrong. And the smart, intense, 43-year-old Bromwich was deeply disturbed by what he saw as an effort by the FBI to put a self-serving slant on the situation, deflecting the blame (or what many in Congress saw as a retaliation against the whistle-blower. The next day Bromwich fired off a letter to Freeh, his fellow Clinton appointee and former colleague at the elite U.S. attorney’s office in Manhattan, where both had been highly regarded prosecutors in the mid-1980s. It was-at least by Washington standards-strikingly blunt.