WASHINGTON – An internal review at the Justice Department sharply criticizes the FBI for failing to investigate Mark Foley when a congressional watchdog group handed over inappropriate e-mails written by the ex-representative to former congressional pages.
Foley resigned from Congress in September after the e-mails and sexually explicit instant messages he had traded with the teenage boys became public.
In a 31-page report obtained by FOX News on Monday, the Justice Department Office of the Inspector General says when the FBI received the e-mails from Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics in Washington in July 2006, agents should have recognized that the language pointed to some sort of reckless or dangerous behavior.
"We believe that the e-mails provided enough troubling indications on their face, particularly given the position of trust and authority that Foley held with respect to House pages, that a better practice for the FBI would have been to take at least some follow-up steps with regard to the e-mails," reads the report.
The report includes e-mails from the Florida Republican to at least one of the pages and what appears to be e-mailed conversations between one of the pages who received communications from Foley and a friend. E-mail addresses were blanked out in the report.
The report's appendix includes one of the more modest e-mails that triggered a former page's strong reaction, which he then shared with a friend.
"How are you weathering the hurricane? ... Are you safe? ... Send me an email pic of you as well," Foley wrote to the male page.
"Sick sick sick sick sick sick sick sick sick sick sick sick sick," the page wrote to his friend.
The report continues: "The FBI should have considered notifying the House authorities in charge of the page program about the concerns expressed by the former page. At the least, we believe the FBI should have notified CREW, the complainant in this case, that the FBI had declined to open an investigation."
CREW is a Democrat-leaning group, although Democrats have not escaped the watchdog's cross-hairs.
In response to the report, the FBI thanked the inspector general's office for acknowledging that the cyber crimes division's decision not to investigate Foley was unrelated to his role as a congressman and that its own assessment was conducted after the more explicit IMs came to light, none of which were part of the agency's initial evaluation.
"The FBI shares the OIG's interest in ensuring that information regarding potential criminal activity is evaluated objectively and in conformance with established policies and practices. Accordingly, the FBI will carefully examine the OIG review for any changes to existing policies or procedures that may be warranted," says the agency's statement.
The authors of the Justice Department report said Foley's e-mails exhibited the type of behavior that the FBI warns against in its own "Parent's Guide to Internet Safety," and that "Foley engaged in conversations that, at a minimum, could be described as unusual between an adult in a position of authority and a juvenile."
The report says FBI officials decided not to pursue any interviews when they were given the e-mails because a cyber crimes division supervisor said CREW did not provide e-mail addresses. The report notes, however, that CREW Executive Director Melanie Sloan said she was never asked to provide the e-mail addresses.
"FBI should have considered taking some steps to ensure that any minors in the congressional page program were not at risk of predatory behavior by Foley," the report reads.
The report also faulted the cyber crimes supervisor for not entering into a case-tracking system the details of what she had been given.
"This type of data entry is particularly important regarding potential allegations of sexual activity with minors because patterns of inappropriate contact with minors may be indicative of illegal conduct," the report said.
In summary, the report concludes, "The e-mails should have raised enough concerns to warrant some action.
"At the least, the FBI should have ensured that supervisors of the House page program were aware of these e-mails or informed the complainant that it was not going to investigate the e-mails and the complainant could therefore make such a notification."
The scandal surrounding Foley began to unfold only weeks before the November election and helped cast a shadow over the Republicans' already dimming prospects in the election.
Last Friday, the Democratic-led House voted in new reforms to its page program in an effort to put the scandal to rest. Among the reforms, the number of Republicans and Democrats overseeing the program are equal, and a former page and one parent are added to the board that oversees the program.
FOX News' Ian McCaleb contributed to this report.