Friday, the FBI released a file of over 3,600 pages that document its various dealings with Ted Stevens--the senator from Alaska who died last summer in a plane crash--in his more than 50 year career in the US government that ended in allegations of corruption in 2008. In addition the insinuations of kick-backs and unlawful perks that Stevens took advantage of, the 86 year-old senator was famous for many things, including his dogged defense of pork barrel legislation for his state, his outsized influence in the Senate, his support for the Bridge to Nowhere, and his now infamous description of description of the internet as a "series of tubes." The federal charges against him were thrown out in 2009 due to allegations of prosecutorial misconduct from the Federal team. Here is the reference file.
The documents revealed today span from Stevens's time as a US attorney in Alaska in the 50s to the four decades of his Senate career between 1968 and 2008. The majority of the information included is related to the various allegations of financial impropriety Stevens faced towards the end of his career. The full implication of the large trove of documents on the Stevens legacy will not be entirely clear for a while, but aside from being a window into the FBI's ongoing investigation of the senator, the documents also yield a handful of strange and diverse revelations about both the senator and the FBI. Let's take a look.
Cocaine? Talking Points Memo dug up a colorful section that detailed drug dealer's testimony to the FBI in 1988 that alleged Stevens had bought an "eight-ball" of cocaine from him several times at inflated prices.
Close, cordial contact with the FBI For someone under continual investigation by the FBI himself, Stevens was also in surprisingly close contact with the FBI on issues completely unrelated to the various investigations into him. The file contains a significant amount of cordially-written correspondance between him and the Bureau. In a letter from September 1991, for example, Stevens relays the requests of one of his constituents that the FBI spend more time focusing on bank robbery in Alaska. Earlier that year, he had sent them a request and a newsclipping about the relocation of an "anti-Semitic cult" to Ketchikan, AK. (pg. 123) Reuters notes that after Stevens met with a Chinese diplomat in 1982, the FBI requested he give them advance notice of future meetings to help out with the FBI's "counterintelligence responsibilities." (pg. 334). The FBI was involved in many efforts to protect the senator as well, with many documents noting various assasination-related threats Stevens faced, like the visitor to the senator's office in Ketchikan who had told him he was a "marked" man. (pg. 297) In an even stranger twist of fate the file showcases a thank you note that FBI director Louis J. Freeh sent Stevens for the senator's support of H.R. 4922, a communications and wire-tapping bill that passsed through Congress. (pg. 144).
Many questions remain around Stevens murky legacy that the release of files do little to elucidate. "The file doesn't include any investigative files, such as those known as 302s -- the reports FBI agents take when they interview people as part of an investigation," the Anchorage Daily News reports. "If they reveal much, it's to confirm that federal investigators had indeed cast a wide net in their probe, and that the FBI’s interest [in the corruption case] dates to February 2006."
It remains to be seen whether the deeper documents in the file will do anything to establish "incredible evidence" of Steven's guilt, as Melanie Sloan of Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics in Washington (CREW) argued it would earlier today on Talking Points. "No matter what Jeff Toobin wants to write in the New Yorker, Stevens was guilty as sin of everything. The prosecution screwed up outrageously, but that doesn't mean Stevens wasn't guilty of everything," she is quoted as saying, referring to a profile in a January New Yorker about the September suicide of Stevens' prosecutor Nicholas Marsh and the Justice Department's mishandling of the case.
This article is from the archive of our partner The Wire.