Washington — In an unprecedented criminal trial, two former FBI officials face charges today (Sept. 15) that they approved illegal break-ins, wiretaps, and mail openings in the early 1970s.The long-delayed trial of W. Mark Felt, the FBI's former associate director, and Edward S. Miller, its former intelligence chief, will focus a criminal jury's attention for perhaps the last time on abuses of the Nixon era.
Former acting FBI director L. Patrick Gray faces the prospect of a separate trial later on the charges, but federal sources have expressed doubt the government has a strong enough case to prosecute him.
The prosecution is expected to call up to 40 witnesses and the defense up to 60, possibly including former Attorney General Richard Kleindienst, during a six-week trial. The case has been delayed eight times, and the judge has signed three court "protective orders" governing disclosure of intelligence material.
The indictment followed a 2 1/2-year probe by the Justice Department's civil rights division into the roles of some 70 FBI employees in the nine break-ins at the homes of friends and relatives of fugitive radicals.