Why FBI Director May Be Yearning to Be Freeh

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No one who's familiar with Washington, D.C., insider politics will be all that surprised to learn that FBI director Louis Freeh is quietly casting around for a job in the private sector. Those same folks will be even less surprised to hear that the Clinton White House is practically packing Freeh's bags for him. When asked directly about an impending departure, the reticent FBI chief responds with characteristic silence, but he has been open about his need to bulk up his income, and now the Washington Post is reporting that he's thinking about it more seriously. The Freehs have six children, and as any public servant knows, government payrolls can't compete with the rumored seven-figure offers the FBI head has fielded for years. Freeh has a few more years until he bumps up against the 10-year limit for FBI directors, but he's not required to stick around.

Don't wait for the Clinton White House to demur if Freeh tends his resignation; more likely they'd sent him an embossed set of new luggage and a one-way plane ticket out of town. "This administration wants Freeh out — the sooner the better," says TIME Washington correspondent Elaine Shannon. The subtext of the head G-man's looming exit is pretty clear to most FBI-watchers, says Shannon. "It's no secret that there's no love lost between the White House and Freeh," she says. Years of abrasive interactions have left both sides bruised and angry; the White House maintains that Freeh turned against them years ago, and Freeh feels the administration has abandoned and lied to his bureau. Freeh will be glad to leave, but feels his timing is critical, says Shannon: He doesn't want to give Clinton the opportunity to replace him.