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Justice Department investigates FBI head

The Justice Department is investigating FBI Director William Sessions for alleged ethics violations amid feuding over a politically sensitive case involving Iraq, sources reported Monday.

The allegations range from an accusation that his assistant, Sarah Munford, used her FBI credentials to avoid a traffic ticket for her son to a charge that Sessions' wife, Alice, obtained a special building pass that normally requires top secret security clearance and is reserved for assistant FBI directors.

Sessions has served more than half of his 10-year term, but the charges, if found to be true, could cause him serious problems with the Department of Justice and some on Capitol Hill, government sources said.

The allegations were detailed in a letter that Ron Kessler, author of an upcoming book on the FBI, wrote to the FBI's public affairs office June 24 when he was seeking to interview Sessions on the charges, Kessler said Monday.

A government source said the basis for the investigation is Kessler's book, which is scheduled to be published next year, and a letter sent to Barr anonymously.

Sessions confirmed in a telephone interview Monday night that an inquiry had begun, but declined further comment.

ABC News, the first to report the probe, said investigators were checking the travel records of Sessions and his wife to see whether government cars, aircraft and personnel "have been used for private purposes."

ABC said Justice Department investigators were scheduled to question Sessions on Thursday and Friday.

A Justice Department spokeswoman, Melissa Burns, declined comment, as did White House spokesman Sean Walsh.

ABC said sources friendly to Sessions were accusing the Justice Department, the FBI's parent agency, of using the ethics probe to force Sessions out for resisting "Bush administration efforts to politicize the FBI."

Sessions and the Justice Department appear to have been at odds lately over how to investigate possible wrongdoing by administration officials involving bank loans to Iraq.

In the interview Monday night, Sessions said he had vowed to carry out a "thorough and independent" investigation. The Justice Department said the FBI would merely help in the investigation.

The investigation of Sessions is only the latest twist in a complex scandal that highlights embarrassing questions for President Bush three weeks before the Nov. 3 presidential election.

The loans were made by the Atlanta branch of Banca Nacionale del Lavoro, which is almost wholly owned by the Italian government. Last week, the CIA admitted that it had not disclosed all it knew about affairs involving the bank, known as BNL, and ordered its own inspector-general to look into the incomplete report.

Some Democrats in Congress have accused the administration of a coverup of the failure of Bush's pre-war policy of befriending Iraqi President Saddam Hussein.

_ Information from Reuters and the Los Angeles Times was used in this report.