Monday, November 21, 2011


Can Penn State really handle the truth? If not, they’ve just made a terrible mistake. They’ve engaged former FBI Director Louis J. Freeh to conduct an in depth investigation into the actions and the failures to act which resulted in the magnitude of the current Sandusky melt-down at Penn State.

Here’s a suggestion from somebody who’s worked for Director Freeh, to anybody who has failed to report a crime, concealed or abetted Sandusky’s horrible acts, fallen short of complete candor, fallen short of the responsibilities of an honorable man or woman, or just turned a blind eye at an opportune moment: Run. Run like the wind. No, forget that; he’ll find you. Come clean now. Fall on your sword. Beg for mercy. Save what little you have left.

I remember vividly in 1994 when Director Freeh sent a letter to every agent in the FBI, a letter which became famous as the “Bright Line” letter. In it, the director made reference to the fact that there seemed to be some “gray areas” in the FBI where unethical (but legal) behavior by agents was tolerated or even concealed. In his letter, Director Freeh advised the corps of agents that in order to ensure that there were no “gray areas,” he was by that document drawing a “bright line” over which we could not cross without termination and, if appropriate, prosecution.

Specifically, many of the offenses for which agents would be summarily terminated were not necessarily against the law, but were ethically below the standards the public would expect from the FBI. As an example, a lie in any administrative investigation, (say you stopped at the store in your FBI car on the way home from the office and denied it), would result in immediate termination.

"All of us in the F.B.I. must be held accountable for our actions,” he said, “and I have spent a great deal of time developing new policies standards, and guidelines for Bureau personnel….these policies apply to all F.B.I. employees equally -- including the Bureau's top officials."
"Everyone should understand that there is no room in the F.B.I. for inattention to duty, lethargy, laziness or other derelictions," he wrote. "There are no snug harbors for those in the F.B.I. whose job it is to fight crime and protect the people. F.B.I. executives who fail to carry out their high levels of responsibility will by their conduct forfeit their positions."

In case you think that this memo was just so much talk, consider that Louis Freeh reported himself to the Deputy Attorney General for losing his FBI-issued cell phone, and when the loss  was swept under the rug as a courtesy by DOJ, Freeh made an official recommendation that he be given a letter of censure (which he received), the standard punishment for street agents for this infraction. The message, “No one is above the law.”

In short, this is a man of colossal personal integrity who expects it from others. From my few times interacting with him, I also believe him to be a man of immense empathy for victims of crime. Woe to the person who shrinks from responsibility or callously hurts others.

This is the man who has been chosen by Penn State to get to the bottom of what has caused a moral China Syndrome in State College, Pennsylvania. Penn State administrators should also know that Louis (“Louie”) raised four boys of whom he was very protective. He is also on the Board of Directors of the National Center for Missing & Exploited Children, and a former federal judge.

Initially Penn State had decided that the scandal would be investigated by a committee of PSU trustees headed by Kenneth Frazier, the CEO of Merck pharmaceuticals. The decision for a university to self-investigate and tell the truth about a 13 year period when they failed to self-investigate and tell the truth did not sit well with the public. I personally believe that Mr. Frazier would likely have conducted a fair and impartial investigation, based on what I have learned of him. However, establishment of an in-house investigative committee was just the latest in a series of bonehead moves by PSU. Regardless of Mr. Frazier’s integrity, the message sent by an in-house investigation undermined the rhetoric of vigilance voiced by the university. Such an investigation would never possess an air of legitimacy. The choice of Freeh, however, is a convincing step. Somebody at Penn State really wants to get to the bottom of this. Bad.

Freeh’s team will consist of former FBI agents, former U.S. attorneys and prosecutors and investigators with experience in pedophilia and sexual predators. The team will interview all individuals involved in the scandal as well as go through university records and documents going back to 1975.
"I'm tasked with investigating the matter fully, fairly, and completely, without fear or favoritism, including the board of trustees," Freeh said. "The special committee ensured us total independence."
Freeh will also look into the Penn State University police, their role, practices, and investigative procedures. Obviously, where there is smoke, there is fire, and frankly, there’s a mushroom cloud over PSUPD right now. I ran the uniform and the investigative division of a major university’s public safety department for over two years. I know the pressures that can be put to bear on a department. If the police department fails the university, it fails it in ways that create immense damage.
When the Freeh investigative team has completed their work, the public can be sure that every single detail will have been pulled out into the light of public scrutiny. Beginning, as he said he would in 1975, could signal the extent of the detail of this investigation.
You know when you’re looking for your watch, you tend to find a few other things you’ve been looking for? Penn State should also know that it is likely that if anything was not completely right at Penn State from 1975 until the present (36 years), it will be found by this committee.
When a cancer surgeon removes a malignancy, he must make sure he has good “margins,” meaning that even questionable tissue is removed so that there is no chance that any malignancy remains. If he or she is not diligent, the cancer returns just as vigorously as the first time, this time spreading to other organs, and the patient will usually not survive. Louis Freeh’s investigative report will ensure that the cancer is identified right out to safe margins. Whether or not Penn State decides to do a complete surgery will decide the university’s future.
Only one question remains to be answered, “Can Penn State handle the truth?”