FBI Pursued Hill Blackmail in 1982
In addition to allegations of sexual misconduct and drug abuse, FBI officials pursued rumors of political blackmail during a 1982 investigation of the House Page Program, according to recently declassified documents.
In 242 pages of memorandums, transcripts and notes obtained by Roll Call through a Freedom of Information and Privacy Acts request, the FBI provides previously unavailable insight into the three-month investigation that spurred drastic changes in the page program.
According to documents included in the FBI file, titled “Sexual Exploitation of Congressional Pages by Public Officials,” agents pursued tips provided by two House pages — one of whom would later admit to making false statements — in June 1984 that lawmakers and staff had violated various federal and local laws ranging from bribery to indecent acts with children.
In addition, several interviews conducted by FBI officials include statements suggesting agents were examining alleged blackmail of Congressional lawmakers named in the scandal by foreign governments.
In the majority of documents, the FBI redacted detailed information from the interviews, including the names of participants. (The FBI withheld 17 documents in their entirety, and an official noted that several sections of the file are missing and could not be provided.)
A June 18, 1982, memorandum written by D. Lowell Jensen, the then-assistant attorney general of the Justice Department’s criminal division, includes portions of an interview in which the unnamed male subject addressed the allegations of blackmail.
“[Redacted] had heard that foreign governments are aware of the situation in the House of Representatives involving the sexual abuse of pages,” the document states. “Further, that these foreign governments are saying ‘give us this’ (referring to information) or their names would be on the front page [redacted] had no specific information concerning foreign governments or their part in this matter.”
The report, which does not contain a full transcript of the interview, does not state whether the subject raised the issue of blackmail or if it was initiated by FBI agents.
“[Redacted] had no specific or direct knowledge concerning blackmail by any of the parties discussed in this interview,” the memorandum states. “Similarly, he had no specific or direct knowledge of any attempts at bribery of any of the parties discussed in this interview.”
In a separate interview conducted by FBI agents in Philadelphia and received at the agency’s Washington headquarters on July 6, 1982, an unnamed female denied any knowledge of blackmail allegations.
“She stated she had never heard foreign governments are aware of the alleged sexual abuse of pages and are using this in a blackmail situation to direct the activities of congressmen,” a summary of the interview states.
In an telephone interview Monday, Senate Associate Historian Donald Ritchie noted that during the Cold War era, tying security concerns to sexual relations was not an unusual occurrence.
“I can imagine why it would surface even if there wasn’t evidence,” Ritchie said, adding that agencies such as the KGB, the former Soviet intelligence agency, were well-known for attempted blackmailing.
The FBI documents also provide insight into how the investigative agency organized its investigation, waiting several weeks to interview Congressional staff while it collected information from former pages across the nation.
One section of the report outlines the consideration FBI officials gave to interviewing lawmakers, even those named by pages.
“At issue here is a basic concern for fairness to the Congressman and whether he should be informed of the allegation because he is an elected official and subject to a high degree of scrutiny and the liklihood [sic] of subsequent disclosure (not within the control of the FBI),” the document states.
“Would the interview, if subsequently made public, unfairly imply or infer more credibility to the investigation than is justified by the facts. … It is reasonable to assume that if the general public became aware of even the attempted interview of a Congressman by the FBI, unfair inferences would be made,” the document continues.
The FBI ended its investigation into sexual misconduct in the fall of 1982 after finding no evidence to support allegations, before similarly ending its search into allegations of drug abuse. The investigation did, however, prompt the House to make changes previously proposed by several lawmakers, including the creation of the chamber’s own Page School — until 1983, the Capitol Page School served both chambers — and the first-ever page dormitory.
In addition, the House censured then-Reps. Daniel Crane (R-Ill.) and Gerry Studds (D-Mass.) on July 20, 1983, for sexual misconduct. The chamber voted to censure the lawmakers although the Committee on Standards of Official Conduct had recommended lesser punishment in the form of reprimand.