Louis Freeh

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Louis Freeh was the fifteenth director of the FBI. He oversaw the agency for nearly 10 years during one of the most difficult periods of its history.
Louis Freeh was the fifteenth director of the FBI. He oversaw the agency for nearly 10 years during one of the most difficult periods of its history.

Louis Joseph Freeh (born January 6, 1950) was the 15th Director of the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI). He began his career as an agent of the FBI, and was later an assistant United States Attorney and a United States District Court judge. He is now a lawyer in the private sector.

Early life and career

Born in Jersey City, New Jersey, he was educated by the Christian Brothers and graduated Phi Beta Kappa from Rutgers College in 1971. He received a J.D. degree from Rutgers Law School in 1974 and an LL.M. degree in criminal law from New York University Law School in 1984. Freeh was an FBI Special Agent from 1975 to 1981 in the New York City field office and at FBI Headquarters in Washington, D.C. In 1981, he joined the United States Attorney's Office for the Southern District of New York as an assistant U.S. attorney. Subsequently, he held positions there as Chief of the Organized Crime Unit, Deputy United States Attorney, and Associate United States Attorney. He was also a first lieutenant in the United States Army Reserve.

In 1991, former President George H. W. Bush appointed Freeh as United States District Court Judge for the Southern District of New York, a position he held until he was appointed FBI director in 1993.

Freeh and his wife, Marilyn, have 6 sons. He is a devout Roman Catholic, although is not a member of the Opus Dei prelature (as rumors have stated.) According to The Bureau and the Mole, a book by David A. Vise, Freeh's son was enrolled at the private The Heights School in Potomac, Maryland, which Vise describes as "an Opus Dei academy." Several of his sons are now enrolled in Archmere Academy, a Catholic school in Claymont, Delaware.

"Pizza Connection" case

A notable case Freeh was associated with was the " Pizza Connection" investigation, in which he was lead prosecutor. The case involved a drug trafficking operation in the U.S. by Sicilian organized crime members who used pizza parlors as fronts. After a 14-month trial, 16 of 17 co-defendants were convicted. The "Pizza Connection" case was, at the time, the most complex criminal investigation ever undertaken by the U.S. government.

Major events during Freeh's tenure as FBI Director

Shortly before and during Freeh's tenure, the FBI was involved in a number of high-profile incidents and internal investigations.

Civil liberties

Among other Justice Department officials (including Attorney General Reno), Freeh was named a co-defendant in Zieper v. Metzinger, a 1999 federal court case. The American Civil Liberties Union assisted the plaintiffs who sued due to the FBI's conduct in investigating Military Takeover of New York City, a short (fictional) film made in October 1999 that discussed riots and a military takeover of Times Square on New Years' Eve, 1999.

In testimony to the Senate Judiciary Committee, Freeh said that the widespread use of effective encryption "is one of the most difficult problems for law enforcement as the next century approaches." He considered the loss of wiretapping to law enforcement as a result of encryption to be dangerous and said that the "country [would] be unable to protect itself" against terrorism and serious crimes.

Ruby Ridge

An investigation of the August 1992 incident at Ruby Ridge, Idaho, which took place under the administration of George H. W. Bush, in which an FBI sharpshooter killed the wife of a wanted suspect, was ongoing when Freeh became Director. A paramilitary FBI unit, the Hostage Rescue Team (HRT), was present at the incident; Freeh later said that had he been director, he would not have involved the HRT. FBI sniper Lon Horiuchi was later charged with manslaughter; Freeh said that he was “deeply disappointed” at the charges, filed by a county prosecutor and later dropped.

Freeh was not censured due for alleged managerial failures in the investigation of the incident, although a Justice Department inquiry had made such a recommendation.


An investigation of the events of April 19, 1993 when FBI agents opened fire on the Branch Davidian compound at Waco, Texas was ongoing during Freeh's tenure. While the event had taken place before he became Director, a highly controversial investigation ensued, including allegations of a cover-up by the FBI, and tensions developed between Freeh and Janet Reno, then- Attorney General. Reno, who had herself been blamed for mishandling of the confrontation and investigation, sent United States Marshals to FBI headquarters to seize Waco-related evidence.

Centennial Olympic Park bombing

The U.S. Senate Subcommittee on Terrorism, Technology and Government Information heard testimony from Freeh regarding the leaking of Richard Jewell's name to the media in connection with the bombing at the 1996 Olympic Games. Freeh testified that he did not know how the name of Jewell, who had been falsely accused in the bombings, had been leaked to the media.

Montana Freemen

Freeh and the FBI were praised for the handling of the 81-day standoff between law enforcement agents and the Montana Freemen, a fringe political group. Director Abraham Foxman of the Anti-Defamation League, which had issued reports critical of the Freemen and encouraged their prosecution, commended the "peaceful conclusion" to the standoff.


The "Unabomber" Theodore Kaczynski was apprehended in 1996 after his manifesto, Industrial Society and its Future, was published in the New York Times and Washington Post. Freeh and Attorney General Reno recommended publication, acceding to Kaczynski's offer to "renounce terrorism" if it were. A tip from the bomber's brother David, who recognized the writing style, assisted the FBI in his capture.

Robert Hanssen

Robert Hanssen, a 27-year veteran of the FBI, was arrested in 2001 and charged with spying for the Soviet Union and Russia, beginning in 1985. Freeh called the security breach "exceptionally grave" and appointed a panel, led by former FBI and CIA head William Webster, to review the damage done by Hanssen's espionage.

Wen Ho Lee

In 1999, Los Alamos National Laboratory scientist Wen Ho Lee was fired from his job; in 1999 he was arrested and held without trial for 278 days while his handling of sensitive nuclear information was investigated. Freeh accused him of downloading a "portable, personal trove" of United States nuclear secrets. Lee pled guilty to one of the fifty-nine counts brought against him, after which he was freed from jail.

A Justice Department report of the investigation of Lee said that Director Freeh was not fully informed about the investigation until over a year after it began, and that the FBI as a whole "bungled" the case.

Chinese political and campaign fundraising controversies

In February 1997, the media announced that Freeh personally blocked the sharing of intelligence information regarding China's alleged plot to influence U.S. elections with the White House. The following month, Freeh testified before Congress that his investigation into campaign finance irregularities of the 1996 U.S. election campaigns for president and Congress was not focusing on individual criminal acts, but on a possible conspiracy involving China. Later that year, Freeh wrote a memorandum to Attorney General Reno calling for an Independent Counsel to investigate the fund-raising scandal. In his memo he wrote: "It is difficult to imagine a more compelling situation for appointing an Independent Counsel." Reno rejected his request.

Other cases

Other cases handled by the FBI during Freeh's' tenure included the death of White House counsel Vince Foster (in 1993), allegations of incompetence at the FBI crime laboratory, investigation of the Oklahoma City bombing (1995) and the capture and prosecution of Timothy McVeigh, and investigation of the crash of TWA Flight 800.


Among others, Business Week in 2000 called for the resignation of Director Freeh, citing the Carnivore communications monitoring system, the Waco cover-up, and insubordination to Attorney General Reno as reasons.


In June, 2001, he resigned amid criticism that the FBI needed stronger leadership, particularly after allegations of spying by Robert Hanssen. Upon his resignation, he was praised by Attorney General John Ashcroft, who called him "a model law enforcement officer."


Freeh approached acting New Jersey Governor Donald DiFrancesco, and offered to serve, without salary, as the state's anti-terrorism "czar." Di Francesco approached both major-party candidates for governor to secure their approval; Bret Schundler, the Republican candidate, agreed "in principle." However, Democrat Jim McGreevey, who won the gubernatorial election, turned down Freeh in favour of Golan Cipel, who had no relevant experience. It was later revealed that McGreevey and Cipel had carried on a homosexual relationship. McGreevey was heavily criticized for giving the post to Cipel rather than Freeh or another experienced individual.

In September 2001, Freeh was appointed to the board of directors of credit card issuer MBNA; he is also the bank's general counsel, as well as corporate secretary and ethics officer. Likewise, Bristol-Myers Squibb elected him to its board of directors.

Freeh is also a member of the board of consultants of the Gavel Consulting Group, formed by current and former federal judges and high-ranking government officials to provide advice and counseling to the private sector.

Book and editorials

An editorial by Louis Freeh, which was critical of the 9/11 Commission, appeared in the November 17, 2005 edition of the Wall Street Journal.

In 2005, Freeh (with Howard Means) published a book about his career in the FBI, entitled My FBI: Bringing Down the Mafia, Investigating Bill Clinton, and Fighting the War on Terror. It is highly critical of both President Clinton and former counter-terrorism advisor Richard A. Clarke. Freeh made an appearance on The Daily Show to promote the book.

A New York Times review called it "...a letdown, a breezy, middlebrow memoir that appears aimed at Oprah watchers rather than Foreign Affairs readers."

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