WASHINGTON -- The FBI has unearthed still more documents in the Oklahoma City bombing investigation, despite ordering its agents 16 times in recent years to turn over "everything and anything" connected to the case, Director Louis J. Freeh disclosed Wednesday.
An embarrassed Freeh, in his first public comments on a controversy that has forced the postponement of Timothy J. McVeigh's execution, told members of Congress that the "serious error" reflected a management problem for which he bears ultimate responsibility.
He ordered a series of internal steps at the FBI aimed at avoiding a repeat, including a search for "a world-class records expert" to bring on board at the agency. But some members of Congress, clearly unsatisfied, called for stronger measures to rein in a powerful law enforcement agency that some deemed "out of control."
"We have today something close to a failed agency," said Rep. David R. Obey, D-Wis., a member of the House subcommittee that heard testimony from Freeh. "And I think that the litany of troubles with the agency is truly astounding and regrettable."
Some lawmakers are already calling for the creation of an inspector general's post at the FBI and other new safeguards. Freeh's disclosure on Wednesday that more documents have been found only deepened the anger and frustration among some congressional critics.
Freeh had ordered a final "scrub" for documents over the weekend, threatening to hold special agents and executives "personally responsible" for any undisclosed records.
The latest search produced "a number of additional documents," Freeh said, and FBI officials are now reviewing them to determine whether they, too, were wrongly withheld from McVeigh's lawyers.
Freeh refused to say how many new documents were found or which offices produced them. But he said the latest batch -- like the 3,135 pages of documents turned over last week and an additional 100 pages from Baltimore disclosed this week -- is also believed to involve records unrelated to McVeigh's guilt or innocence.
In his testimony, Freeh said 46 of the FBI's 56 field offices failed to turn over some material, but that "the underlying investigation and (McVeigh's) guilt remain unchallenged."
The Justice Department has opened an investigation to determine how that happened, but Freeh offered some initial conclusions, offering new details about the chronology of the case.
Beginning in August 1995, as the case was proceeding to court, the FBI began sending out directives for its agents to cull their files and send all material related to the massive investigation to the command post for processing, Freeh said.
The directives totaled 16 in all -- far more than the FBI had acknowledged sending in the last few days as the controversy surrounding McVeigh's execution erupted.
Some FBI offices wrongly concluded that their documents were so extraneous that they weren't covered by the requests, Freeh said. Some offices forwarded summaries but not the supporting documents, as required. Other material, coming at a time when the FBI was switching to a new computer system, may have been sent in a form that could not be uploaded properly.
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