Actually, Angela Clemente resists the designation “PI” – private investigator. The self-effacing 42-year-old refers to herself as a “paralegal” with a strong background in clinical lab work.

Of course, given her modesty, Clemente will absolutely freak at the word “best,” especially now that she finds herself being hounded by forces within the FBI and Department of Justice.

Still, it is hard to deny the accomplishments of Clemente and her recently deceased colleague, Stephen Dresch. The pair has shed more light on the major mysteries of the Clinton era than the FBI and the New York Times combined.

In March 2005, for instance, it was Clemente and Dresch who informed the FBI about the explosives cache hidden in Terry Nichols’ former home in Herington, Kan.

In a thank-you note to Clemente for her work on this case, Rep. Dana Rohrabacher casually affirmed, “It was you and Dr. Dresch, acting on a tip from Gregory Scarpa Jr., who learned that the FBI missed a stash of explosives.” He added, “You have a real knack for investigation.”

Yet despite the kudos and the good work, Clemente finds her own life coming undone as the result of her unplanned investigation into the alleged misdeeds of former FBI Agent Lin Devecchio.

When Clemente began her work on what she calls “the systemic corruption” in the Clinton-era U.S. Attorney’s Office in the Eastern District of New York, she did not even know who Devecchio was.

In the course of the investigation, however, she and Dresch stumbled onto an internal FBI investigation regarding Devecchio that had been effectively squashed.

When they handed their findings over to the relevant congressional committee, the committee thought the Devecchio matter should be tried as a criminal case and referred the material to the Brooklyn District Attorney, who agreed.

As a result of the pair’s work, Devecchio now stands accused of taking bribes as payment for inside information that led to four gangland style murders in Brooklyn.

The man making the bribes just happened to be mobster Gregory Scarpa Sr., a long time FBI collaborator and informer.

The Brooklyn DA’s office, which has brought the case, calls it “one of the worst cases of law enforcement corruption in the history of this country.”

Devecchio, however, still has a lot of friends in the DOJ and FBI. Iowa Sen. Charles Grassley publicly complained about these unseemly alliances in March.

As Grassley noted, current and former agents are raising money for Devecchio’s legal defense. The Justice Department is picking up at least part of his legal bills. And the FBI has proved uncooperative in producing documents for local prosecutors.

No one, however, is helping Clemente. Just the opposite. Devecchio’s defense has zeroed in on her. A single mom with a seriously ill child, Clemente has been called as a material witness for the defense and ordered to produce a veritable library of documents.

The case has brought her own productive work to a standstill, and the potential legal costs are crippling. “I’ve lost everything because of this case,” says Clemente. “I’ve tried to get away and keep getting pulled in.”

(If there is a New York-area attorney in this audience looking for a good cause, this is surely it. I will be pleased to pass the referral on.)

One of the former agents actively helping Devecchio is well-known to readers of this column. Jim Kallstrom, who headed up the TWA Flight 800 investigation for the FBI, now serves on Devecchio’s advisory board.

This is not the first time Kallstrom has come to the defense of his embattled colleague. “There is insufficient evidence to take prosecutive action against SSA DelVecchio (sic),” Kallstrom wrote in an April 1996 memo to FBI director Louis Freeh.

Kallstrom added that the failure to resolve the matter “continues to have a serious negative impact on the government’s prosecution of various LCN [La Cosa Nostra] figures in the EDNY and casts a cloud over the NYO [New York office].”

In July 1996, things at the NYO got a whole lot cloudier when TWA Flight 800 blew up off the coast of Long Island. After five weeks of bulldogging the investigation into the plane’s demise, Kallstrom inexplicably rolled over and let the Clinton Justice Department derail the investigation.

The question remains as to whether the Clinton DOJ used the burial of the Devecchio case as a carrot to induce Kallstrom’s cooperation.

The only mainstream reporter to even address this question is Peter Lance, who covers this dark symbiosis in his worthy books “Triple Cross” and “Cover Up.”

One woman who knows the answer to this question is Valerie Caproni, the chief of the Eastern District’s criminal division during the period of “systemic corruption.”

In fact, Caproni was the “main focus” of the investigation that ultimately led Clemente to the Devecchio matter, and well she ought to have been.

Among other mischief, the spectacularly compromised U.S. attorney illegally ordered the FBI to seize the TWA Flight 800 investigation from the NTSB.

Lest that illegality be exposed, Caproni also oversaw the prosecution of James and Elizabeth Sanders for Sanders’ reporting on her misbehavior.

If this wasn’t compromise enough for one person, Caproni orchestrated the botched sting of World Trade Center bomber Ramzi Yousef in that same summer of 1996.

As the sting played out, the ubiquitous, second-generation FBI informant Gregory Scarpa Jr. was placed in the cell next to Yousef.

Once he began to trust Scarpa, Yousef used Junior’s connections to pass information to the outside world, little knowing that Scarpa was routing much of it through his own FBI handlers.

Unfortunately, the sting spectacularly imploded. (See “Top FBI lawyer helped destroy TWA Flight 800”). Through no fault of Scarpa’s, the failed sting may have resulted in the downing of TWA Flight 800.

Perhaps to bury the evidence, Caproni saw to it that Scarpa Jr. was sent away for a hard 40 to the Florence, Colo., Super Max on a non-lethal RICO charge despite his cooperation.

Now, incredibly, Caproni has re-emerged as the chief counsel for the FBI and a key gatekeeper in the Devecchio case.

Standing at the gates, improbably enough, is one Gregory Scarpa Jr. Scarpa just happens to be the prosecution’s chief witness against Devecchio.

Given her history, Caproni has all the reason in the world to keep Scarpa buried in Colorado and Clemente buried in paperwork and debt.

Barring some miraculous intervention by the major media, Caproni may well be capable of doing both.

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