FBI Weakened Grenade Report to US Congress

Draft shared with diplomats, but lawmakers told otherwise

In preparing a public report, US investigators withheld their strongest reporting on a deadly 1997 grenade attack here, removing key passages contained in classified drafts, according to declassified records.

Contrary to the FBI’s claim that it alone produced the report in 1998, records also indicate it was jointly prepared with the US De­partments of State and Justice and was proposed for review by the White House. One FBI teletype also indicates that the US Em­bassy “suggested corrections” after a version had already been circulated to the Justice Department.

The US Federal Bureau of In­vestigation was legally re­quired to report to lawmakers on their findings in an investigation of the March 1997 grenade at-tack on an opposition rally, which killed 16 people and wounded more than 100, including an American man.

However, the FBI failed to satisfy angry members of the Re­publican Party, who were eager to see damning information emerge about the Cam­bodian government, and en­gaged in an apparent tug-of-war with the FBI, denouncing it for alleged incompetence when it declined to point fingers in an investigation that was, in fact, never completed.

In an era famous for the vitriol surrounding the impeachment of former US President Bill Clin­ton, US lawmakers in 1997 and 1998 introduced a string of congressional resolutions de­nounc­ing Prime Minister Hun Sen for his ouster of Prince Noro­dom Rana­rid­dh in 1997’s armed clashes be­tween the two prime ministers.

A team of Washington lawyers from the firms Arnold & Porter and Porter, Wright, Morris & Ar­thur charged more than $100,000 a month to advance a favorable view of the CPP’s role in the events, ac­cording to The New York Times.

But with bipartisan support in September 1998, the lower chamber of the US legislature even adopted a resolution calling for Mr Hun Sen to be brought before the International Criminal Court on a proposed dossier of charges including the grenade attack.

Mr Hun Sen and Cambodian security forces have strenuously denied accusations that they bore any responsibility. Sam Rainsy, leader of the rally that was at­tacked, was convicted in Dec­ember 2005 of defaming Mr Hun Sen by blaming him for the event but was pardoned after he ex­pressed regrets in 2006 and a lawsuit against Mr Hun Sen was drop­ped in the US.

Internally, FBI officials freely discussed the fact that, while the at­tack’s sponsors had not yet been conclusively identified, what limited investigative results they had developed did point in the direction of forces loyal to the CPP, including Mr Hun Sen’s bodyguards.

Classified draft versions of the FBI report to Congress were prepared by an analytical unit in Wash­ington and, in classified form, versions of the report—which have not been disclosed to The Daily—were delivered to the Senate in April and August 1999.

But portions of the FBI’s most dispositive reporting in the case do not appear in the unclassified and published version delivered in November 1998.

It was unclear from disclosed records if the classified April and August 1998 versions, which lawmakers did see, differed from the classified drafts developed in January of that year. However, a report by congressional staffers in 1999 said the weaker, public version of November 1998 was “mere­ly a much abridged and slightly updated version” of what they had received earlier.

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