FBI releases file on the late Ted Stevens

The FBI released its 3,600-page file on the late Sen. Ted Stevens (R-Alaska) Friday, detailing death threats as well as corruption allegations against the lawmaker.

The long-time Alaskan senator was convicted in 2008 on charges of lying on his financial disclosure forms about gifts, including a renovation of his home in Girdwood, Alaska, that was paid for by a political donor. His conviction was later dismissed after a federal judge found that prosecutors withheld evidence at trial.

Stevens died on August 9, 2010, in a plane crash in the Alaskan wilderness, nearly two years after losing his Senate seat to Democrat Mark Begich. Stevens served in the Senate for more than 40 years. 

Roughly 2,700 pages of Steven’s heavily redacted FBI file is made up of press reports about the corruption probe, which the Bureau’s Anchorage, Alaska, field office termed the “POLAR PEN” investigation. The file contained few new revelations about that scandal, however.

But Stevens’s life was filled with intrigue and allegations of corruption — most of it apparently unverified — long before he came under the FBI’s microscope during the contractor scandal, the file shows.

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One FBI memo contains an allegation that the owner of the Fairbanks Daily News Miner specified in his will that Steven should receive his $400,000 yacht upon his death. The gift was due to the senator’s support for “various federal spending projects,” the memo said. 

Stevens was known during his Senate career for his prolific earmarking and was credited with bringing vast sums of federal money back to his state.  

Another FBI memo detailed an interview with an unnamed source that said Stevens was using a Lincoln Town car purchased with his 1990 Senate campaign funds, possibly in violation of federal law.

Stevens was even said to have bought two “eight balls” — which is a one-eighth ounce of cocaine — for $350 off a suspected drug dealer in Alaska, according to notes taken by FBI agents of their interview with the dealer in 1988. The dealer claimed Stevens bought cocaine a total of three times.

Stevens was never charged with a crime stemming from any of those allegations, however.

The senator’s FBI file also shows that he had a long relationship with the Bureau.

In 1954, for example, the FBI recorded that then-U.S. Attorney Ted Stevens had complained about the Bureau’s lack of help with a case of an escaped prisoner. Consequently, FBI Headquarters informed their Anchorage office “to be discreet and circumspect in dealings with Mr. Stevens,” according to one Bureau memo.

Stevens’s file shows the FBI never forgot the incident, as his complaint is mentioned in several letters and memos nearly 20 years later.

The FBI also kept tabs on the senator’s drinking. 

One 1971 memo says Stevens came to an FBI National Academy graduation ceremony without an invitation. The ceremony was under high security due to President Richard Nixon’s attendance. 

“Bureau Files further indicate he is a ‘drinker,’” the memo says.

Other FBI documents detail one alcohol-fueled episode that Stevens had with a federal judge in Fairbanks, Alaska, as a U.S. attorney in 1954.

Leaving a nightclub after 3:30 a.m., Stevens was “violently ill,” according to a FBI agent’s notes of an interview with Stevens. Stevens said he had a deputy U.S. Marshall drive him home since “he was sick from the liquor he drank, although he was not intoxicated.”

Stevens also called on the FBI’s help as a senator, according to his agency file.

In 1973, he asked the Bureau to do an “electronic sweep” of his personal office for “possible ‘bugs’” since he planned “to hold very sensitive meetings their [sic] in the near future,” according to one communiqué. Handwriting on the document indicates that the request was approved.

Stevens also asked for the Bureau’s help in 1977 due to worries about foreign spies gaming secret information off Senate staff.

He requested a briefing on the issue, wondering if it was also possible to see “any photographs of known foreign intelligence officers,” according to a FBI memo. His request for the briefing was approved by the agency.

Worries over foreign intelligence prompted a 1982 letter to Stevens from FBI Director William Webster after the director learned that the senator had dinner with a Chinese embassy official.

“As you know, your letter is very helpful to us in fulfilling our counterintelligence responsibilities. Edward J. O’Malley, Assistant Director of our Intelligence Division, has suggested to me that if you have an opportunity to do so, similar notification of future meetings you may have with officials of the People’s Republic of China would be of interest,” Webster wrote.

Stevens also worked to co-opt the Justice Department in promoting Alaska.

For example, in 1971, the senator wrote a letter to Attorney General John Mitchell encouraging him to let government officials know that there was a flight route through Anchorage for traveling to Asia.

“I found it rather amazing that many of these people do not know that there is a route through Anchorage to Tokyo and then on to other points in the area,” Stevens wrote.

Stevens received several death threats while in office, sent to him in letters, voice mails and e-mails.

One 1998 e-mail sent to Stevens’ Washington office referenced President Kennedy’s assassination and lambasted “big government.”

“Ted I just want to thankyou [sic] for this great way to vent frustrations with April 15 just around the corner. And Ted make sure you check out the grassy knolls in any town you might visit. It would be tragic to lose a senator who only votes for big government 25% of the time!” said the e-mail.

The FBI would later interview the e-mail’s author but closed the investigation without charging him with a crime, according to a case status form.