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FBI official in Foster case promoted

WASHINGTON — The FBI official who oversaw the controversial investigations into the death of White House Deputy Counsel Vincent W. Foster Jr. and the Oklahoma City bombing case has been promoted to deputy director.

This is not the first promotion for Robert M. Bryant, 54, since his handling of the Foster case. He was named assistant director in charge of the National Security Division in October 1993.

The FBI’s role in the Foster case has been criticized by investigative reporter Christopher Ruddy in his new book, “The Strange Death of Vincent Foster,” as well as by former agency Director William Sessions, who said the probe was “compromised” from the beginning. Sessions was fired by President Clinton the day before Foster’s body was found in Fort Marcy Park in July 1993.

“Bryant is the man who put the FBI’s seal of approval on the U.S. Park Police handling of the investigation of Foster’s death,” said Ruddy.

Ruddy’s book points out that Bryant was the FBI representative at an Aug. 10, 1993, joint press conference with the Park Police and the Justice Department in which it was announced that Foster had killed himself in Fort Marcy Park.

“The selection of Bob Bryant is a true merit appointment,” explained Janet Reno. “His untiring work on behalf of the American people had led to landmark accomplishments against terrorism, espionage and other grave crimes.”

FBI Director Louis Freeh had this to say: “Bob Bryant has given exceptionally distinguished service to the FBI for 29 years and has directed complex investigations that have resulted in great benefits for public safety and the national security.”

In making the announcement, Freeh discussed many of the high-profile investigations Bryant has supervised, but he failed to mention the controversial and troubling Foster case.

“For example,” Freeh said, “he supervised the FBI operation that resulted in the peaceful surrender and arrest of the Freemen in Montana after a long standoff in 1996. Bob Bryant also directed the investigation of Aldrich Ames, a CIA employee arrested in 1994 on espionage charges and now serving a life term in prison. In addition, he supervised the investigations of FBI Agent Earl Edwin Pitts and CIA employee Harold Nicholson, who pleaded guilty this year in separate espionage cases and are serving long prison terms.”

Freeh also noted Bryant’s direction of the Oklahoma City bombing in 1995 and the bombing of the Al-Khobar Towers in Saudi Arabia in 1996.

“Bob Bryant’s accomplishments as a field agent and headquarters official more than qualify him for the second highest position in the FBI,” said Freeh.

Bryant became an FBI special agent in 1968 and was assigned to the Seattle field office and later to Dallas. In 1975, he was transferred to FBI headquarters in Washington, where he served as a supervisor in the Criminal Investigative and Records Management divisions.

In 1977, Bryant was assigned to the Planning and Inspection Division. In 1978, he began another tour of field duty when he became a supervisor in the Las Vegas field office.

Bryant was named assistant special agent in charge of the Kansas City field office in 1980. In 1984, he was named a permanent inspector and later designated acting chief inspector. He was appointed special agent in charge of the Salt Lake City field division in 1985 and returned to FBI headquarters in 1989 when he was appointed deputy assistant director of the criminal investigative division. In July 1991, Bryant was named special agent in charge of the Washington, D.C., Metropolitan Field Office.

After serving as assistant director in charge of the National Security Division for more than three years, he was appointed assistant director in charge of the Criminal Investigative Division in March 1997.

Bryant was born in Springfield, Missouri, received a Bachelor of Science degree in business administration in 1965 and law degree from the University of Arkansas in 1968.