When I was sworn in as a chaplain in the Federal Bureau of Prisons (part of the Department of Justice, or DOJ), I took the same oath of office as that sworn by every agent of the Federal Bureau of Investigation (better known as the FBI, and also part of the DOJ):
I [name] do solemnly swear (or affirm) that I will support and defend the Constitution of the United States against all enemies, foreign and domestic; that I will bear true faith and allegiance to the same; that I take this obligation freely, without any mental reservation or purpose of evasion; and that I will well and faithfully discharge the duties of the office on which I am about to enter. So help me God.
There’s nothing particularly hard to understand about it. It means what it says. One wonders, therefore, why some (perhaps many) agents and administrators in the FBI appear to have trouble understanding it – let alone applying it. That’s a very fair question, in the light of the Bureau’s highly questionable tactics (not to mention apparent “judge-shopping” by the Justice Department) to obtain a FISA court order for surveillance of the Trump campaign.
The oath of office is applied through the laws of the United States, passed in terms of the Constitution. In particular, 18 U.S. Code § 1001 is relevant. Click the image below to read it at the source page.
It’s bad enough to see that section of the US Code so flagrantly violated in the application for a FISA warrant, as disclosed in the Nunes memorandum released last week. However, the worst thing about it is that it’s merely the latest incident in a long-standing pattern of behavior. To take just one example, consider the shooting of Lavoy Finicum in 2016, and the FBI’s highly questionable conduct there:
Oregon State Police SWAT troopers at the scene, ordinarily required to wear body cameras, didn’t that day at the request of the FBI. The FBI did obtain video from FBI surveillance planes flying above the scene.
State police detectives also normally record interviews of officers who might be involved in a shooting, but they didn’t that night when questioning the FBI Hostage Rescue Team members, again at the FBI’s request. A follow-up interview with the hostage team members also came with unusual conditions, prosecutors note.
. . .
A major incident team of local authorities processed the shooting scene and Finicum’s truck. They found no spent rifle casings in the roadway, though witnesses reported seeing them there … Deschutes County investigators shared their concerns about missing evidence and unaccounted-for shots with FBI officials in the days after the shooting.
. . .
On Feb. 6, 2016, two state police detectives reinterviewed Astarita, but by then the hostage rescue team agents knew there were unaccounted-for gunshots and missing shell casings. The agents set conditions for the interview: They could only be interviewed as a group, the interview couldn’t be recorded and their lawyer could be present on a speakerphone.
The state police detectives found those conditions “particularly an unrecorded group interview – odd and problematic, but reluctantly agreed to them, believing that the alternative would be no interview at all,” prosecutors wrote.
There’s more at the link.
I’ll say right away that such conduct gives the impression of deliberately setting up a scenario where FBI agents could “duck and dive” their way out of any responsibility for their actions. Anyone denying that is either dissembling, or living in cloud cuckoo land. At the very least, I think one can accuse the agents – and their superiors – of being “economical with the truth“.
Want another example? Consider the behavior of two FBI special agents during the presidential election campaign of 2016, where they appear to have deliberately conspired – with their superiors’ knowledge and approval – to evade statutory and regulatory requirements concerning their communications. Famed investigative reporter Sharyl Attkisson reports:
FBI officials Lisa Page and Peter Strzok seem to discuss this very issue in private texts.
Page: Have a meeting with turgal about getting iphone in a day or so
Strzok: Oh hot damn. . . We get around our security/monitoring issues?
Page: No, he’s proposing that we just stop following them. Apparently the requirement to capture texts came from [Office of Management and Budget], but we’re the only org (I’m told) who is following that rule. His point is, if no one else is doing it why should we. . . I’m told – thought I have seen – that there is an IG report that says everyone is failing. But one has changed anything, so why not just join in the failure.
It’s a shockingly cavalier attitude from an attorney and high level FBI official.
There are more text messages between Strzok and Page from a critical time period, as we now know, that the FBI claimed had been lost in a technical glitch. After that became public, the Inspector General said he was able to recover them. (Interesting that the FBI couldn’t.)
. . .
This is just one artery of a huge problem that also includes federal agencies routinely violating Freedom of Information Act law. They’ve twisted the law on its head, using it to obstruct and delay the release of obviously public information. They filter legitimate public records through political reviews before releasing them in a process that isn’t, in my view, allowed under Freedom of Information law.
Again, more at the link.
In the light of all these and other incidents, it’s no wonder that the FBI is regarded with distrust by many Americans (including myself). I entirely agree with Prof. Alan Dershowitz‘s call for a commission of inquiry into it and other Federal law enforcement agencies.
Legal expert Alan Dershowitz warned that the government surveillance abuses alleged in the controversial Republican FISA memo could be a “systemic problem.”
. . .
He said he’s calling for a nonpartisan commission to investigate, to serve the public interest in the integrity of our law enforcement agencies.
“Every American – liberal, conservative, Democrat, Republican – has a stake in making sure that the FBI remains accountable and follows the law and follows the Constitution,” Dershowitz said.
I think there’s more than enough smoke to prove the presence of fire at the FBI. It needs to be extinguished, yesterday if not sooner. When I took the oath of office, I meant every word. I’ve kept it ever since. One wonders . . . if the FBI appears so determined to disregard it, why do they still make their agents take it? Isn’t that downright hypocritical?