Recent headlines cause me to wonder seriously, where is the FBI?
In the late 1980s, during my service as the top federal prosecutor in Atlanta, Georgia, I worked closely with the FBI, which had a large regional office in the city manned by top-tier special agents. Led often by the local FBI office, and in conjunction with investigators from other federal agencies, including IRS, DEA, Immigration, HUD, HHS and Labor, our office successfully prosecuted numerous corrupt public officials, drug kingpins, money launderers and all manner of white-collar criminals.
In those days, the FBI was viewed widely as the country’s premier law enforcement agency. Despite the Bureau’s penchant for self-publicizing its operations, I recall no instance in which the fundamental ethical or nonpartisan nature of the Bureau’s work was called into question.
I have no doubt today that the overwhelming majority of career FBI Special Agents today continue that long and honored tradition. However, a review of recent policy decisions by top-level bureaucrats and political appointees within the Bureau and its parent agency, the U.S. Department of Justice, calls into serious question whether the FBI has veered wildly off track.
A major turning point certainly would be the shenanigans by top-level FBI officials to use the Bureau’s powers to thwart the 2016 election and subsequent administration of Donald Trump. This effort went from senior special agents like Peter Strzok all the way to the former Acting Director of the Bureau, Andrew McCabe. While these two collaborators eventually were fired during the Trump administration, under Trump’s successor McCabe’s full pension has been restored and his firing cleared from his record.
As for Strzok, his pending lawsuit against the Justice Department may be quietly headed toward a settlement (probably monetary).
In other words, politics continues to infect cases involving top FBI officials who clearly used their positions of power to engage in anti-Trump activities.
The problems at the Bureau, however, run far deeper than the sordid details of those two disgraced public officials.
In a major policy shift, the FBI announced last month that it would no longer be reporting quarterly crime statistics. These statistics have been compiled for decades and provide law enforcement and civilian agencies at all levels of government with useful and actionable crime data. The FBI’s claim that it is unable to compile the crime data solely because some major cities are failing to transmit underlying statistics to the NIBRS (National Incident-Based Reporting System), rings hollow.
It is only for the past year, for example, that the Bureau has decided to rely on this single source (NIBRS) for its statistical analysis. Claiming that the world’s premier law enforcement agency is hopelessly hamstrung in its ability to compile crime statistics because some lower-tier law enforcement agencies suddenly are not cooperating begs the question about why the FBI has decided to no longer provide such data to the American people.
It is hardly the case that the FBI lacks the personnel or the budget to perform such a task, with 30,000 to 35,000 employees and an annual budget of some $10.5 billion. The decision to stop reporting quarterly crime statistics represents a policy decision by the Biden administration to not disclose the facts showing just how badly crime has continued to increase since January 2021.
Meanwhile, the Bureau continues to tout its ability to use overwhelming force against disfavored but clearly non-violent targets, such as the massive pre-dawn raid of Roger Stone’s home in early 2019 and the November 2021 raid of the apartment belonging to Project Veritas’ head James O’Keefe. The latter raid was premised on the need to recover a “diary” alleged to have belonged to Ashley Biden, coincidentally the niece of the current president of the United States.
And, while the Justice Department is busy studying ways to implement “guardrails” for officially approved “safe” facilities at which individuals shoot up with illicit drugs, the FBI is busy losing key pieces of evidence, such as the Hunter Biden laptop which was turned over to it in December 2019.
Today’s FBI clearly is not the FBI of decades past. Much like our foreign intelligence agencies, it has become badly infected with partisan politics, and is showing itself unwilling to stand tall and resist such pressures.