Peter Lemiska
The FBI will survive despite its leadership
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By Peter Lemiska
February 6, 2018

While the recent release of the controversial FISA memo has shed more light on the genesis of the FBI investigation into the Trump campaign, it has unleashed a firestorm.

The battle lines have been drawn. On one side are the Republicans. They point to clear political bias by senior FBI investigators and indisputable irregularities in their investigation into Hillary Clinton's mishandling of classified emails, an investigation that somehow managed to absolve her and her staff from any criminal liability. And since those same officials played key roles in the investigation of her political opponent, an investigation apparently based on Democrat-provided research, Republicans allege clear abuse of FBI authority.

On the other side are the Democrats, standing with fired Director James Comey and his clique of supporters. They argue that the investigation by Special Counsel Robert Mueller is well- founded, and that Republican allegations are not only politically-motivated, but detrimental to the reputation of the FBI.

Each side can be better understood by considering possible motives.

Of course, Republicans would benefit if they determine that Mueller's investigation was predicated on Democratic lies. At the same time, there is substantial evidence of bias, deception, and obstruction by senior FBI agents involved in both Clinton's and Trump's investigations. That, alone, should concern all Americans. As Democrats repeatedly argued during their push for an independent counsel, "This is not about politics."

And what about the Democrats? Why are they now suddenly so defensive of law enforcement? They say they want to protect our intelligence sources and methods, as well as the reputation of the FBI. But there are more credible and apparent reasons for them to oppose closer scrutiny of the DOJ and FBI. First, they know that the bias and irregularities coming to light raise doubts about the legitimacy of Mueller's investigation into the Trump campaign. Secondly, they fear that a probe of DOJ and FBI abuses could lead to high-level officials in the Obama Administration.

Then there's the FBI. Why the resistance to congressional oversight? The motive there is simple and clear. It's self-preservation. It's about protecting the reputation of the organization and circling the wagons around those few senior officials directly responsible for this nightmare.

One senior agent with close ties to Comey recently published an impassioned opinion piece in the New York Times. He wrote that he was resigning his position so he could join the chorus of people who believe that "relentless attacks on the bureau undermine the nation's security." He argued that his colleagues are "dogged people who do not care about the direction of political winds." Presumably, the exception of Peter Strzok, Andrew McCabe, and Lisa Page is understood. He went on to acknowledge that agents are human, and sometimes make mistakes.

If, in fact, this senior agent is resigning from such a lucrative and enviable position purely on principle, he's demonstrating far more character that have Comey, McCabe, Strzok, and Page. But there are some notable errors in his article. He confused carelessness with malfeasance, just as Comey did at the conclusion of Clinton's investigation. It's not a "mistake" to exonerate a suspect in a criminal case before the investigation is completed. Nor is it a mistake to lie about it during congressional testimony.

But no agent need resign to defend the honor of the FBI. As an institution, the Bureau is not under attack. Critics of James Comey and his cabal have been abundantly clear, FBI field agents and supervisors are consummate professionals. Those agents did not embark on their career with politics in mind, and they don't allow political ideology to influence their work.

This is not the first time that FBI bosses have lost sight of the noble motives that drew them to their profession. J. Edgar Hoover was director of the FBI from its inception until 1972. The contributions he made to the organization and to the country are indisputable. Just as indisputable are the unethical, sometimes illegal tactics he employed to achieve his goals. It was, in large part, because of Hoover's abuses of power that Congress limited later directors to ten-year terms. But in his wake, the FBI continued as the most respected investigative agency in the world.

Hoover and Comey have shown that no government agency can be allowed to operate autonomously. Congressional oversight is crucial, and if it determines that Republicans were right all along, concrete steps must be taken today to hold accountable those responsible, and to ensure it never happens again.

Those measures would not destroy trust in the FBI, they would only strengthen it.

© Peter Lemiska

 

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Peter Lemiska

Peter Lemiska is a freelance writer and former Senior Special Agent of the U.S. Secret Service... (more)

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