Not to Worry

A snatch of lyric from a Western song comes close to summing up the inquiry into the qualifications of West Texas Judge William S. Sessions to be the director of the Federal Bureau of Investigation. The lyrics, as written, are "seldom is heard a discouraging word." In the case of the 57-year-old federal judge, seldom gave way to never.

In one day's testimony the Senate Judiciary Committee heard all that it needed to know about Sessions, who was portrayed variously as a Texas Ranger in pinstripes and an ideal candidate for the U.S. Supreme Court.

On Tuesday it took the committee a matter of minutes to recommend unanimously that the Senate confirm President Reagan's nomination of Sessions to a 10-year term as FBI chief. With such glowing support, it is only a question of how soon the Senate can vote before he succeeds Judge William Webster, who became the director of central intelligence after the death of William J. Casey.

The hearings dealt more with Sessions' integrity and whether he could fend off pressure to use the FBI for political purposes than with his ability to help solve crime, but that is a mark of the time. His forthright answers on how he would deal with requests that he deemed improper clearly persuaded the committee as to his integrity. His years of experience as a federal prosecutor and as a member of the Justice Department criminal division also left no doubt as to his credentials for the missions on which he would spend most of the working hours of a 10-year term as the FBI's chief.

If needed, the circumstances surrounding his appointment as a federal judge in San Antonio, Tex., also speak to his courage. In 1974 he succeeded Judge John H. Wood Jr., who was murdered for imposing harsh sentences in drug cases. Within two years Sessions was presiding over the trial, and conviction, of Wood's killers.

Sessions gave every sign during the Senate hearings that his reputation for being both tough and fair is warranted. His answers on such matters as the exclusionary rule of evidence also left no doubt about his dedication to the rule of law as a framework for both toughness and fairness.

There was a time not long ago when it seemed too much to hope that anyone could fit into harness at the top of the FBI as well as Webster did during his nine years in office. As it turned out, there was no cause for concern.

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