Risk in Timing the Public Aspects of an Investigation

Posted: Oct 25, 2006 12:01 AM
Risk in Timing the Public Aspects of an Investigation

The headlines blared across the front pages of the Philadelphia papers: "FBI Raids Offices of U.S. Representative Curt Weldon's Daughter and Associate." It was three weeks before Election Day. Representative Wayne Curtis (Curt) Weldon already was in the race of his career. Since he defeated Representative Bob Edgar in 1986 Weldon has not had such a difficult challenge.

I want to make it clear that I have no idea if Representative Weldon has done anything wrong. If he has he needs to be punished. However, I am suspicious. I have watched operations in this town for nearly 40 years and have seen a pattern. A Representative stakes out a position against the Establishment and claims he has information to support his position. In Weldon's case it was a project known as Able Danger. The Pentagon was outraged at the Representative's charges. Mind you, Weldon in no way wants this country to lose the conflict in Iraq. Just the opposite. So a top Democrat was recruited to run against Weldon. The money poured into Weldon's district, suburban Philadelphia, which has become more Democratic over the years. President William J. Clinton carried the district in 1996, as did Presidential candidate John F. Kerry in 2004. Well-known Democrats had campaigned in the district yet Weldon appeared to be ahead. Polls showed him with a lead of 52, closer than in previous years but adequate to win.

Then comes a Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) raid. Weldon presently is not charged with any wrongdoing but there is an implication that he helped his daughter secure contracts with Russian business firms in exchange for favorable treatment in the United States. The offices of longtime Weldon associate Charlie Sexton also were raided. Sexton, known as the party boss of part of Weldon's district, recruited Weldon to run against Edgar after several failed attempts to defeat Edgar. Was what Weldon may have done of such timeliness that the FBI could not have waited three weeks to begin the public aspects of its investigation?

I know Weldon to be a courageous Member of Congress. Were he to be re-elected he almost assuredly would be either Chairman or Ranking Member of the House Armed Services Committee. He came within one vote of defeating Representative Duncan Hunter (R-CA) when the position opened years ago. Hunter has been an able Chairman but he is term-limited. I think certain forces do not want to see Weldon as Chairman or Ranking Minority Member of the Committee.

I recall during the Panama Canal fight that the Senate ratified the Treaty but implementing legislation, which only takes a simple majority vote, had to pass the House of Representatives. A Democrat said that legislation would pass over his dead body. The FBI raided his offices in time for the vote and, by coincidence or otherwise, he was silenced.

I do not believe in most conspiracy theories. However, perhaps we have a conspiracy here. Certain people in the Pentagon who were fearful that Weldon might pursue the Able Danger investigation may have worked with the FBI to achieve the perfect political storm for Weldon. I repeat, if Weldon really did something wrong, he should be held accountable.

There was a time when the FBI was held in high esteem. Sure, J. Edgar Hoover had his files which caused President John F. Kennedy to unexpectedly retain him as Director of the FBI. For the most part, however, the FBI could be trusted. It did not involve itself in politics unless Hoover felt the security of the country was at stake. That was not very often.

Mind you, the average FBI agent is honest, hard working and decent. The agent wants to do the right thing. Perhaps management has become political. A President needs to be able to trust the FBI. Now that Congress has removed the artificial barriers which prevented the FBI from sharing information with the CIA, intelligence ought to operate better. But politics must give way to an honest review of things.

Curt Weldon has been courageous in setting up contacts between Members of Congress and Members of the Duma in Moscow. There may be people who do not want that kind of achievement, preferring Russia as an enemy. Weldon has worked to see that Russian legislators visit this country and have a chance to learn about us. That work has been meritorious, so far as I can discern.

A Member of Congress or an opposing candidate should conduct a campaign on issues. If Representative Weldon has legal problems they should be addressed, but as long as the investigation is not hindered they should be addressed entirely outside an election context.