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Both right and left mischaracterize the FBI for political gain

AP Photo/Jose Luis Magana
The Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) headquarters building is seen in Washington on Aug. 13, 2022.

See if this sounds about right: House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) and her husband’s stock picks routinely outperform those of smart investors such as Warren Buffett, which many suspect is because of inside information she possesses. Therefore, all of Congress makes insider trades, is corrupt through and through, and should be disbanded.  

Or, San Diego Padres shortstop Fernando Tatis Jr. ingests banned substances. So, of course, the revered institution of Major League Baseball is juiced like a junkie and needs to be broken up and farmed out to several smaller leagues.

One more: U.S. Army Maj. Nidal Hasan shoots and kills 13 people at Ft. Hood. The only logical presumption is that the Army is hopelessly staffed by murderous psychotics and should be defunded.

The absurdity of such conclusions is plain and laughable. Except, it appears, when applied to the FBI. It’s been shown that individual FBI employees have done miserable and harmful things.  But the headline typically is something like “The FBI manufactured a Russia collusion investigation,” “The FBI defrauded the FISA court,” or “The FBI stole the election from Hillary Clinton.” No, fired FBI executives Peter Strzok, Andrew McCabe and James Comey were directly tied to those things.

And now Sen. Chuck Grassley (R-Iowa) has labeled the FBI “corrupted at its core” because of indications that two employees in the FBI’s Washington field office may have hampered an investigation into Hunter Biden. Continuing the hyperbole, various commentators and politicians, after the Aug. 8 Mar-a-Lago search, have characterized the FBI as “America’s Gestapo” deserving abolition or defunding. 

By the way, some thoroughly corrupted agents from America’s Gestapo just this past week led an investigation that freed over 200 people, including 84 children, from human traffickers who were selling them for sex.  

To be precise, the decision to open an investigation into a former president for possessing presidential records and other documents that may have had classification markings was made by specific FBI employees at the urging of specific individuals within the National Archives and possibly the Department of Justice (DOJ).  

The curious decision to escalate the investigation to an all-day search of a former president’s home by 30 armed agents was also made by specific individuals in the FBI and DOJ. All of these individuals are unknown except for Attorney General Merrick Garland, who publicly acknowledged approving at least the search warrant

If it is ultimately revealed that these individuals in the FBI and DOJ initiated the document retention investigation as an effort to politically damage Donald Trump, then they should be held to account for corruption.

Alternately, if it is ultimately revealed that these individuals launched an invasive search of Trump’s residence based simply on what looks like a document dispute without taking into consideration the massive political fallout and erosion of trust that it would trigger, then perhaps they are holding positions of responsibility beyond their native capabilities.

If, however, it is ultimately revealed that Trump was selling state secrets or taking bribes or some such serious equivalent, then no one will dispute the law enforcement actions that have been taken.

But the indicators so far don’t point in the latter direction. The DOJ has said the attorney general took “weeks” to deliberate whether a search should be authorized. A search for truly serious crimes or threats to the nation doesn’t have the luxury of weeks of deliberation — in fact, the opposite is true. Also, the search was conducted three days after being ordered by a magistrate, undercutting any argument of imminent danger to the country, evidence destruction concerns, or other perceived exigencies.

What we do know to be true is that both political parties are using the FBI “brand” to stir passion among their base supporters. That is why many politicians and cable news barkers front load comments and headlines with “The FBI did … (fill in the blank).”  

The acronym “FBI” evidently prompts online clicks that generate ad dollars or gets fundraising mailers opened by frightened senior citizens who then send in $25. If the outrage hucksters really cared about corruption in the FBI, those who have engaged in corrupt behaviors would not be walking around today collecting big bucks from book deals and lucrative “news contributorcontracts.    

The manipulation of the FBI brand is bipartisan, not just on the right. On the left, the FBI is now suddenly being portrayed as a hapless target of angry Trump supporters simply because agents did their job. Fundraising campaigns are being readied, urgently expressing concern that the Mar-a-Lago search is raising temperatures on the right and fomenting violence against law enforcement.

Here’s the reality of life in the FBI: On a daily basis agents are under threat. I experienced direct threats against me and my family, as have many, if not most, other agents. Agents who receive no threats during their careers can count themselves fortunate.  

Agents are given weapons and good training and are prudently reminded, as they were last week, to be aware of their environment. FBI agents are not victims; trying to paint them as such in order to advance political goals is absurd. The left’s hollow concern is not about agent safety — it’s about quieting opposition rhetoric. 

All of that said, the leadership of the FBI has a problem. Following the Mar-a-Lago search, half the country may be convinced, if they weren’t before, that the entire FBI is in the bag for the Democratic Party because of a string of FBI investigative actions against figures on the right and the absence of comparable actions against some on the left. Fair or not, that is a reality that FBI leadership must confront and fix. It is a direct threat to our democracy and an existential threat to the credibility and trustworthiness of the FBI.

Sen. Grassley is correct in this regard: Anyone in the FBI who witnesses decisions or orders driven by political considerations over objective justice must come forward and speak up immediately. It’s the right thing to do. 

This holds true, especially, for those at the FBI’s executive levels, to whom I say: If you are aware of political bias but concern about your career holds you back from exposing it, keep in mind that you will have no career left if you retire from the FBI as part of that generation in charge of the bureau that Americans believe closed ranks, rejected transparency, failed to confront specific wrongdoers, and persisted in the growing perception of partisanship. You can then expect that the FBI brand you list on your resume will net you nothing.   

Kevin R. Brock is a former assistant director of intelligence for the FBI and principal deputy director of the National Counterterrorism Center (NCTC). He independently consults with private companies and public-safety agencies on strategic mission technologies. 

Tags Chuck Grassley Corruption FBI FBI alleged bias FBI raid Merrick Garland Nancy Pelosi Warren Buffett

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