ADL Backs Fbi Nominee, but Queries Air Force Nominee on Country Club

Judge Louis Freeh, President Clinton’s nominee to head the FBI, has won the backing of the Anti-Defamation League.

But the Jewish defense agency has expressed concern about the ties of another Clinton nominee to a country club that appears to restrict its membership.

Sally Greenberg, Eastern states civil rights counsel for ADL, wrote last week to Sheila Widnall, Clinton’s nominee for secretary of the U.S. Air Force, about her husband’s membership in the Eastern Yacht Club in the Boston area.

The ADL letter said the organization was not aware of any black members, and very few Jewish members, belonging to the club. Its reputation, the letter said, is that of “a place where Jews and other minorities are not welcome as members.”

The letter added that while it is Widnall’s husband who belongs to the club, she also sails there nearly every weekend.

Widnall’s nomination to the Air Force post was approved by the Senate Armed Services committee last week, and the full Senate is to take up her nomination in the near future.

If confirmed, Widnall, currently associate provost at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, would be the first woman secretary of the Air Force.

ADL appears to have no such qualms about Freeh, who breezed through his confirmation hearings before the Judiciary Committee last week and is expected to be confirmed by the Senate.

In a statement, ADL National Director Abraham Foxman praised Freeh, who is currently a New York federal judge and formerly worked as an FBI agent.

“He’s had civil rights experience and knows international law enforcement — two vitally important aspects of prosecuting criminal activity in the U.S., including terrorist bombings,” Foxman said.

“We look forward to our continued positive and productive relationship with the FBI under the leadership of Judge Freeh,” Foxman said.

The issue of FBI monitoring of hate crimes, a major concern of ADL and other Jewish groups, did not come up in Freeh’s hearings.

But a spokesman for Sen. Paul Simon (D-III.) said the senator had discussed the issue of FBI collection of hate crimes statistics with Freeh before the hearings.

“We want a commitment from the FBI that they will continue to collect statistics” after the current legislation mandating such collection expires next year, the spokesman said.

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