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Time for Change at FBI

ONCE again the United States will be looking for a new top G-Man to head the Federal Bureau of Investigation, the fabled bureau that was founded in 1924 and led by one man - J. Edgar Hoover - for 48 years.

The latest FBI director, William Sessions, a federal judge from Texas, followed Missouri federal Judge William Webster who, after heading the bureau for 10 years (the maximum tenure under a law enacted after Hoover retired) became director of the Central Intelligence Agency. Judge Sessions, a squeaky-clean Republican who was totally embraced as FBI chief by both Democrats and Republicans, will have to be replaced soon - not because of party affiliation, but on the basis of a list of improprieties charged

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by former President Bush's attorney general, fellow Republican William Barr.

The charges border on the trivial, but not so much as to save Judge Sessions embarrassment and the loss of his post. Among them: use of government transportation for essentially personal travel (which other US officials have had trouble with) and the use of agents' time in deciding what kind of fence should be built, at government expense, around the Sessions' home in Washington, among other such seemingly minor lapses.

Judge Sessions knows he must go, but he is balking at turning in his resignation before his successor is named by President Clinton and confirmed by the Senate.

All of this might sound to many Americans like a script for a Gilbert and Sullivan operetta.

Sessions clearly does not want to leave under a cloud. He may, however, have to settle for a small one, perhaps one of those that evaporate quickly in the Texas sun. Mr. Clinton apparently is leaving the logistics to Attorney General Janet Reno, who showed herself equal to a much tougher crisis in the Branch Davidian fiasco.

The White House is said already to have a new candidate for the FBI job: Judge Louis Freeh of the federal district court in Brooklyn, N.Y.

Sessions should consider the process far enough along to resign now and clear the way for his successor.

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