THE INDICTMENT last week of John J. Kearney, former supervisor of the Federal Bureau of Investigation's New York field office, on charges of criminal misconduct was a necessary and welcome first step in exposing and redressing the FBI's illegal activities over the last several years. Between late 1970 and June, 1972, Kearney allegedly ordered members of the Bureau's internal security division to commit burglaries, illegally open mail and tap telephones of several New York based left wing organizations.
The indictment--and others that apparently are due to follow--are the product of a U.S. Department of Justice investigation spurred by the revelations emerging from the Watergate hearings. The Justice Department investigators have uncovered evidence that illegal operations were conducted with the tacit approval if not at the direction of high level FBI officials, including former Bureau directors J. Edgar Hoover and L. Patrick Gray III. While Gray and others have disavowed participation in the illegal activities, their testimony is at odds with that of other FBI officials.
Despite considerable internal pressure to kill the indictments, Attorney General Griffin Bell endorsed the investigators' recommendations and permitted Kearney's indictment. But this indictment represents only a small, if commendable, first step in the necessary process of bringing the FBI officials responsible for illegal activities to a full and complete accounting of their actions. The investigation must continue unimpeded.