The FBI motto – Fidelity, Bravery, Integrity – represents the core values and the motivating force behind all FBI Special Agents. Over FBI history, 88 Special Agents have died in the line of duty while upholding that motto. However, over the past 5 or 6 years, the “Integrity” part of the motto has taken some severe blows. To understand those blows we have to go back into the history of the FBI and develop the political independence that the FBI has assiduously sought over the past 87 years.
In 1924, J. Edgar Hoover was hired as a Special Agent in the Division of Investigation (DOI) of the Department of Justice (DOJ). At that time, the DOI had become a dumping ground for political payoffs and influence peddling operatives of the DOJ. Hoover saw these hires as incompetent political hacks who knew nothing about criminal investigations. In 1935, President Roosevelt appointed Hoover as Director of the newly named Federal Bureau of Investigation. Hoover set out to rid the FBI of political hacks and started hiring competent, talented lawyers and accountants as FBI Agents. The country was in the depth of the Depression at that time and a government job was highly desirable and competitively pursued. Hoover set a high standard for his Agents and his success in capturing the notorious, interstate criminals – John Dillinger, Pretty Boy Floyd, Ma Barker, etc. – of that era earned the FBI a well-deserved reputation of incorruptible, brave, and talented criminal investigators. Hoover’s success allowed him to become an independent, powerful government figure who avoided political influence in his operations. If an Agent candidate sought political help in getting hired. he didn’t get hired and if an on-board Agent tried to use political influence in getting a promotion or transfer, Hoover would fire him. The stalwart, apolitical reputation of the FBI was further developed and honed over the 37- year career of Hoover as FBI Director. Although there were abuses of this independence by Hoover, the results of that independence built the best, most capable investigative organization in the world.
Fast forward to 2016, when FBI Director James Comey was faced with the investigation of former Senator and Secretary of State, Hillary Clinton. Ms. Clinton transferred and kept highly classified government intelligence formation on non-governmental computers, servers, and mobile phones in direct violation of several espionage and classified records keeping laws. . Acts that would have gotten other government employees and military personnel, long-term prison sentences. The sordid details of this investigation are too voluminous to list here. However,, normal investigative techniques that are used in high profile investigations were not used in the Clinton investigation. There were no search warrants obtained for the computers, servers, and phones that contained the information. No Federal Grand Jury was impaneled to hear the evidence or to issue subpoenas. Devices that contained classified material were destroyed which is a violation of Federal law. James Comey allowed these acts to go unpunished and in a press conference, he exonerated Ms. Clinton which was an act that was miles out of his lane as FBI Director. DOJ makes decisions on whether a person is prosecuted, not the FBI Director. His “exoneration” of Ms. Clinton put the FBI in the position of being accused of making a politically motivated decision. If Comey had had the best interests of the FBI at heart, he would have resigned as Director and gone to the press about what the DOJ was doing to protect Hillary Clinton. Suffice it to say, that from the perspective of a 22-year FBI veteran who conducted long-term Mafia, international drug cartel, and public corruption investigations, the Clinton investigation was a travesty of justice.
Furthermore, the numerous investigations of Donald Trump before and during his Presidency added to the tarnishing of the “Integrity” part of our motto. From the use of a phony intelligence report – “Steel Dossier” – paid for and constructed by Democratic operatives that the FBI knew was fraudulent, to manufactured probable cause used in Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act (FISA) warrants on Trump campaign operatives, the FBI’s reputation took more blows. These unprofessional and unethical acts appear to be motivated by Comey’s personal animus towards Trump and some of his upper echelon executives in the FBI. James Comey is the worst thing to happen to the FBI in FBI history.
Now the raid on Donald Trump’s home at Mar-a Lago is being judged in light of the FBI’s past transgressions. I cannot speak to the validity of the need to search Trump’s residence because I do not have the details on the investigation and the probable cause used to obtain the search warrant. However, from my experience, a subpoena and Federal Grand Jury testimony could have gotten them the information unless there was probable cause to believe that classified information was present at the residence and it was about to be destroyed or moved from the residence.
From the evidence inventory list that was made public, it appears that highly classified materials were found. The inventory list has “SCI” documents listed. “SCI” stands for “Special Compartmented Intelligence” and it is one of the three classifications that are above “Top Secret”. SCI information can only be seen by persons with a Top Secret clearance and they have a “need to know” the information. If there were “TS-SCI” intelligence information stored in a wine cellar at Mar-a-Lago, the responsible person should go to federal prison.
All of the officials that were involved in the investigations of Trump by Comey and his staff have been fired. My retired FBI associates hope that current FBI Director, Christopher Wray, can right the ship and bring the FBI’s reputation back to being respected and admired by the American public. In light of the mess Comey left behind, Wray has a tough row to hoe and a long way to go..