By John Ligato – – Thursday, January 25, 2018
ANALYSIS/OPINION:
The FBI is experiencing its greatest crisis in our history. J. Edgar Hoover may have kept “intel” files on enemies but never attempted a government coup. Recent leadership at headquarters allowed politics to seep into our DNA, and field agents were smeared with the same brush.
What happened and, what can we do to regain our reputation? The Bureau is about to take some major hits to its legacy and Director Christopher Wray is the only individual who can limit the damage. It’s called leadership.
Several ongoing investigations into alleged FBI wrongdoing may result in years of a continuing news cycle of negativity and a further erosion of the Bureau’s reputation. Mr. Wray has expressed a hesitancy to act in the meantime. Why?
If Mr. Wray does not take action, there may come a time that the FBI can never fully regain public trust. I had been spoiled by the excellent leadership in the Marine Corps. Marine NCO’s and officers led from the front, but recent FBI leadership actions have involved self-serving back room deals and secret societies.
Leadership is not transferring Peter Strzok to Human Resources and having Lisa Page disappear within the bowels of the FBI headquarters. Leadership is not stonewalling congressional requests for information. Leadership is not accepting a bogus technical glitch excuse involving the disappearance of months of texts that have just reappeared. Leadership is not waiting for other government agencies to do your job.
How did we reach this point? We surrendered our independence. The FBI had always maintained an arms-length distance from the politically infested Justice Department. But 20 years of oversight produced an impotent Bureau that required Justice permission to open cases against politicians, clergy, public figures and others. It wasn’t exactly a hostile takeover but rather a seamless merger that began when Robert Mueller was appointed FBI director and culminated with the toxic marriage of FBI staff, Mr. Strzok, Ms. Page, Mr. McCabe, Mr. Comey and Mr. Baker, with Justice attorney’s Bruce Orr, Rod Rosenstein and others.
The FBI and Justice have separate functions, and once you blur responsibilities, bad things happen. FBI cases should be referred to Justice only at the conclusion of the investigation. Currently, agents must seek Justice approval at various phases during an active case. Since Justice is a political entity, they occasionally prohibit FBI agents from opening cases on individuals who share their political views. This accusation would have been unthinkable 30 years ago, but the actions of Loretta Lynch, Eric Holder, Bruce Orr and Rod Rosenstein are exhibits A through D.
Recent occupants of the FBI executive suite include James Baker, James Comey and Robert Mueller, all of whom were Justice Department attorneys. There is a misguided notion by every administration that judges and U.S. attorneys are the best fit for the FBI seventh floor. But, agents are investigators and federal attorneys are prosecutors. When you place partisan attorneys in charge of law enforcement officers the result is labeling an investigation a “matter.”
Just for the record. Loretta Lynch never intended for Justice career prosecutors to judge evidence in the email evidence; she had James Comey do her dirty work.
Mr. Wray should order an immediate OPR investigation. FBI agents can only evoke Fifth Amendment rights in targets of criminal investigations. But if they are granted immunity and refuse to answer routine questions, they can be terminated for insubordination. Mr. McCabe, Mr. Strzok, Ms. Page and others have not yet qualified for retirement benefits, so all would be motivated to talk. But if you do nothing, they will join Lois Lerner with a healthy pension and lawyer up.
The Hillary email case is a classic example of why the FBI is no longer an independent entity. Mr. Comey made a declination announcement, which he had no authority to make, in order to appease the attorney general and the party in power. Once he publicly proclaimed Hillary innocent, he poisoned any potential jury pool if Justice did decide to prosecute. He took a dive, no different than some palooka who throws a fight. But the writing was on the wall when the FBI disregarded standard investigative techniques.
Investigations are normally conducted by our field offices. Mr. Comey’s decision to oversee the investigation at headquarters and assign Peter Strzok as a default case agent was highly questionable. Mr. Strzok conducted a bogus investigation because:
• An experienced case agent would have never offered immunity to Cheryl Mills, Huma Abedin and Brian Patagliana.
• An experienced case agent would have demanded a grand jury, and interviewed Hillary for a minimum of two full days based on the amount of contradictions in previous testimony and recovered emails.
• An experienced agent would never allow a subject in an investigation (Cheryl Mills) to witness the interview of another subject (Hillary Clinton). This is akin to providing answers to an exam.
It appears that Mr. Strzok is either a totally incompetent FBI agent or in the bag for Hillary. My guess of the latter is based on the facts and circumstances presented above.
The media is reporting that Mr. Wray threatened to resign rather than reassign Mr. McCabe. If that’s the case, then it is my belief that his resignation would be the first step in restoring the FBI’s Fidelity, Bravery and Integrity.
Mr. McCabe’s continued presence in his position not only presents the appearance of a conflict of interest but is also another sign that Mr. Wray will not take action and demonstrate leadership. If the FBI permanently loses the trust of the American public, then what next?
• John Ligato is a retired FBI agent and former Marine who was the recipient of three Purple Hearts for action in Vietnam. His latest book is “The Near Enemy” (Post Hill Press, 2017).