Sunday, April 24, 2005

FBI to Fire Dissident Agent
FBI to Fire Dissident Agent
Veteran Criticized Hamas Probes

By John Mintz
Washington Post Staff Writer
Saturday, April 23, 2005; Page A10

The FBI has moved to fire a veteran agent who alleged that the bureau had mishandled domestic investigations of the Islamic Resistance Movement, also known as Hamas, the Palestinian group designated a terrorist organization by the U.S. government.

On Thursday, Robert Wright was ordered by superiors at an FBI counterterrorism command office in Washington to hand over his badge and weapon, was suspended and was told he would be fired within 30 days, said an official with Judicial Watch, a government watchdog group whose attorneys represent Wright. Wright was told he was being dismissed for, among other things, publicly discussing sensitive FBI matters in 2003, the official said.

An FBI spokesman declined to comment, citing the confidentiality of bureau personnel matters.

John Vincent, a former FBI agent who is the Midwest representative of Judicial Watch, said Wright was informed he was being suspended in part for public statements he made at a news conference in Washington in 2003, when he criticized the FBI's "pathetic" counterterrorism work.

Wright, who had investigated Hamas activities in this country as an agent in Chicago, had stated publicly as early as 2002 that he believed the FBI should prosecute Hamas activists in the United States, rather than simply keeping tabs on them in "intelligence" probes. In the last year, the Justice Department has filed criminal charges against some of those alleged Hamas associates.

Wright has been under disciplinary investigation for almost three years. He has two lawsuits pending against the FBI. One alleges that the FBI improperly released confidential information from his personnel file, and the other accuses the bureau of violating his rights of free expression by blocking him from discussing certain subjects in a book.

Yesterday, Sens. Charles E. Grassley (R-Iowa) and Patrick J. Leahy (D-Vt.) sent FBI Director Robert S. Mueller III a letter repeating their support for Wright and expressing concern that the FBI was retaliating against him for his public statements.