Reno Apologizes for FBI Leak; Jewell Still to Sue, Lawyer Says
Atty. Gen. Janet Reno took the unusual step Thursday of apologizing to Richard Jewell for the disclosure that he was the prime suspect in last year’s bombing at the Atlanta Olympic Games.
“I regret very much the leak that made him an object of so much public attention,” Reno told her weekly news briefing, adding: “I don’t think any apology is sufficient when somebody has gone through what . . . Mr. Jewell has gone through.
For the record:
12:00 AM, Aug. 02, 1997 For the Record
Los Angeles Times Saturday August 2, 1997 Home Edition Part A Page 5 National Desk 2 inches; 69 words Type of Material: Correction
Atlanta bombing--The headline on a story published in Friday’s editions of The Times mistakenly identified the FBI as the source of public disclosures that security guard Richard Jewell was a suspect in last year’s bombing at the Atlanta Olympic Games. In fact, the source of the leak has never been determined, and Justice Department authorities have noted that more than 500 federal, state and local law enforcement officials knew that Jewell was a suspect before he was identified publicly.
“If I could see Mr. Jewell, I would apologize to him,” she said of the security guard who discovered the bomb before it exploded but then became the subject of highly negative news reports after he was identified as a suspect in the case. Eighty-eight days after his name first surfaced, the FBI publicly dropped him as a suspect.
The bombing in Centennial Olympic Park killed one person and injured 111 others.
Jewell’s attorney, G. Watson Bryant, said he did not expect Reno’s apology but that it would not affect his plans to sue FBI agents and personnel in the U.S. attorney’s office in Atlanta.
Reno made it clear that her apology applied to the leak issue, and not to a ruse used by FBI agents to persuade Jewell to waive his rights to an attorney as they questioned him shortly after the bombing. The agents said the questioning was for a training video. The agents’ actions were criticized by an internal Justice Department probe, which stopped short of concluding that Jewell’s constitutional rights had been violated.
Reno said the report by the Office of Professional Responsibility “should speak for itself.”
Reno’s apology is the first the government has offered, although Robert Bryant, the assistant FBI director who heads the bureau’s criminal investigative division, told a congressional hearing Wednesday that “I deeply regret that his name was leaked to the media. It not only damaged Richard Jewell in his reputation, but it has caused the FBI extreme damage to its investigation.”
Bryant said the pending lawsuit against government officials would claim they violated Jewell’s constitutional rights in their handling of the case. Reno, at her press briefing, said she had not “reviewed” the question of any financial settlement for Jewell.