Webster: experience in law, government

William Webster took control of the FBI nine years ago as the bureau was struggling to improve an image tarnished in the Watergate scandal. He was a federal appellate judge when he was tapped by President Carter in 1978 to lead the bureau. His term was to have expired next year.

Mr. Webster won a substantial reputation on Capitol Hill for revamping the FBI with tough rules against misconduct.

The FBI's image had suffered following revelations of illegal surveillance of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. and of political dissenters during the Vietnam era, and actions to hamper investigations of the Watergate scandal.

In 1982, the Justice Department began gaining convictions stemming from the FBI's Abscam investigation, in which agents posed as representatives of a fictitious Arab sheikh offering bribes to members of Congress. Seven members of Congress and 11 other people were convicted.

The FBI's methods in the Abscam investigation were criticized, but Webster maintained that the undercover operations were justified.

``We are doing the work the American people expect of us and we are doing it the way the Constitution demands of us,'' Webster said at the time.

As FBI director, Webster has warned of that the United States faced threats by terrorists, but during his tenure acts of domestic terrorism declined. In a speech in 1985, he said there were more than 100 terrorist acts in the United States in 1978, but the number fell steadily, reaching 13 in 1984.

Webster, a native of St. Louis, received his bachelor's degree from Amherst College and a law degree from Washington University in St. Louis.

He practiced law in St. Louis and served briefly as US attorney in eastern Missouri. President Nixon appointed him to the US District Court bench in 1971 and to the US Eighth Circuit Court of Appeals in 1973.

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