FBI Director Louis Freeh has acknowledged he gave "incomplete" testimony to Congress earlier this month.
In letters released Monday, Freeh conceded he had been in error when he told a House subcommittee that the FBI was "solely and directly" following the recommendations of the Justice Department's inspector general when it disciplined a bureau chemist for making allegations of sloppy procedures and deliberate deception at the FBI's crime lab.
Instead, he said in letters to the inspector general and the chairman of a House subcommittee, the truth was that whistleblower Frederic Whitehurst was disciplined for refusing to cooperate with an internal FBI investigation into leaks about the inspector general's long-anticipated upcoming report on the lab.
The exchange of blunt letters between Inspector General Michael Bromwich and Freeh over the last two weeks was released Monday by Sen. Charles Grassley, R-Iowa, who charged in a Senate floor speech that the bureau is misleading the public about the crime-lab affair.
A draft report by Bromwich has confirmed some but not all of the charges made by Whitehurst, officials say. Prosecutors in 50 cases have been given portions of Bromwich's findings because they might clear criminal defendants.
"The bureau is now doing a mad scramble to control the problems. At the heart of its damage control operation is an effort to mislead," said Grassley, who chairs a Judiciary subcommittee that oversees the FBI.
Late Monday, the FBI said, "Director Freeh totally rejects any contention that he deliberately misled either the Congress or the public. . . . He promptly corrected the record. Freeh regrets his inadvertent omission."