Attorney General Janet Reno said today "we owe" Atlanta security guard Richard Jewell an apology, but she quickly made clear she was referring only to the leak of his name as a suspect in the bombing at last summer's Olympics.
Jewell spent 88 days in the glare of publicity after he was named as a suspect in last summer's Olympic bombing before receiving a letter last fall from the Justice Department clearing him. On Wednesday, he asked Congress to investigate his treatment.
"I think we owe him an apology," Ms. Reno told her weekly news conference.
But when asked if that was the formal apology that the government never gave Jewell in last fall's letter, Ms. Reno replied, "Anytime a situation occurs where there is a leak and it subjects a person to such public focus, I'm sorry it happened.
"I think that's an apology," she said, but added later that she has not written to Jewell nor considered writing to him.
"If I could see Mr. Jewell, I would apologize to him."
Ms. Reno said she had no idea where the leak came from.
Justice and FBI officials told Congress they had given up trying to find the leak but had determined that more than 500 law enforcement officials in federal, state and local police agencies knew Jewell was a suspect at the time his name leaked.
A report by the Justice Department's Office of Professional Responsibility this week criticized FBI agents who tricked Jewell into waiving his right to a lawyer and said their actions hampered the investigation that still has produced no arrests.