Recommended by Ricochet Members Created with Sketch. Who is Responsible for the FBI Mess?

 

I retired from the FBI almost 20 years ago after about 30 years as an agent. I have no inside information about what is going on in the FBI but, like most of us, have been following the recent troubling news and struggling to figure out what the hell is going on with the FBI that I thought I knew so well.

Since it is fundamental to the FBI culture that agents never allow politics to influence their investigations, the facts that have emerged recently are troubling. Deputy Director Andrew McCabe has been removed after a storm of criticism over two highly charged political cases. Two senior FBI employees, Lisa Page, an FBI attorney, and Peter Strzok, an agent and key member of the investigative teams that were involved in these two important investigations of our political leaders, Secretary Clinton and President Trump, exchanged text messages that reveal strong political bias. At least one of those investigations, the one involving Mrs. Clinton, was deeply flawed.

Who is responsible for this mess that has tarnished the reputation of the agency I care so much about? How has this happened?

The exchange of texts between Page and Strzok, lovers engaged in an illicit affair, reveals personal political views that they held and shared. While it is troubling that these two so politically motivated people were involved in these important cases, we don’t know yet if their views influenced their actions. What we know about them is disturbing, but the real question is did they do anything to adversely affect these investigations? Did they put their hand on the scale to influence the outcome of an investigation to aid or hinder a candidate? It looks bad, but we don’t know the answer yet. We must wait for more information before we reach final conclusions about them.

We do, however, have enough facts about the investigation of Mrs. Clinton’s emails to make some solid judgments about Director Comey’s performance as the leader of the FBI in these important cases, or “matters,” as he might say. It was dismal.

Director Comey should have recognized the importance of these investigations and ensured only the most capable people were assigned to them. Rather than allow the case to be handled by field agents, Director Comey had a group at FBIHQ conduct the investigation. As the leader, he is responsible for the work of the agents that were selected to perform it.

The work of the FBI in the emails investigation was a joke. It lacked much that the DOJ is responsible to authorize or approve. There was no grand jury, no subpoenas, no search warrants, vigorous interviews do not appear to have been performed and many accepted FBI procedures were violated, apparently to accommodate Mrs. Clinton. Cheryl Mills, a subordinate who should have been considered a subject, was allowed to observe the interview of Mrs. Clinton as her lawyer. Mrs. Clinton’s explanation that she didn’t know what the “C” following a paragraph meant in a classified document appears to have been accepted without challenge. Deals that were unnecessary were made to obtain access to Clinton’s senior subordinates’ laptop computers. It appears the decision not to prosecute was made before she, the principal subject of the case, was interviewed.

It was Director Comey’s responsibility to ensure that a vigorous, fair and complete investigation took place and, if the DOJ resisted by refusing to authorize such techniques as a grand jury, subpoenas or search warrants, it was his responsibility to persuade the DOJ to correct it or resign.

Finally, when the Attorney General made the mistake of meeting with President Clinton and deferred the prosecutive decision in Hillary’s case to the FBI, Director Comey departed from many years of established FBI/DOJ precedent and accepted the responsibility to make the decision. In my 30 years as an FBI agent, I never saw a single instance where the FBI made the prosecutive decision or publicly detailed facts about the misbehavior of the subject of an investigation where prosecution was declined. We argued with prosecutors occasionally but, in the end, these decisions were always made by the prosecutors and, if there was no prosecution, there was no detailed public articulation of what the investigation found.

Director Comey should have insisted that DOJ make, and take responsibility for, the decision to prosecute or not to prosecute Hillary Clinton. If he thought it important that the facts of the investigation be released to inform the public, he could have said everything contained in his public statement when he was questioned about the case by Congress, as he surely would have been.

I have always believed that FBI agents would never allow politics to intrude on an investigation. So how could this happen? It could not have happened unless the FBI Director was corrupted and set the course that determined how his subordinates would proceed. Once the course was set by the Director, where could his subordinates go with complaints?

This case would not have failed unless the Director failed. The truth is Jim Comey cared more about his job than the integrity of the FBI and did not provide the courageous leadership when the FBI needed it. Apparently, like Pat Grey, he failed the agency when it really counted because he wanted the job too much.

I have no doubt that the FBI culture of integrity remains strong in the ranks. What is needed now is a leader strong enough to do the right thing. I hope Chris Wray is that guy.

There are 28 comments.

  1. Stad Thatcher

    Joe Wolfinger: Since it is fundamental to the FBI culture that agents never allow politics to influence their investigations, the facts that have emerged recently are troubling.

    Troubling, indeed. As a Federal employee (now retired), I was reminded of the details in the Hatch Act before every election. Now I don’t know if the activities of these individuals fall into any of the Act’s categories of prohibited political behavior, but it seems to me an IG investigation (or Special Counsel inquiry?) is in order . . .

    • #1
    • January 30, 2018, at 9:31 AM PST
    • 6 likes
  2. Stad Thatcher

    Joe Wolfinger: Who is Responsible for the FBI Mess?

    Oh, to answer the question your title poses: the Democrat Party is responsible because of their politicization of every branch of government.

    • #2
    • January 30, 2018, at 9:34 AM PST
    • 11 likes
  3. PHCheese Member

    The closest experience I have is being in the military. Even though I was a low level draftee the Military Code of Justice was taught and re taught to me. I knew that I perhaps would at some point be called upon to refuse an illegal order and to recognize one if given one. You would expect that the same kind of Code would permeate the FBI and DOJ. It all starts at the top meaning civilian leadership in my opinion.

    • #3
    • January 30, 2018, at 10:01 AM PST
    • 9 likes
  4. Profile Photo Member

    Any and every organization gets “political” at the top; the question is how political does it get and who are the politics serving.

    You can be the best soldier, the best special agent, the best poultry inspector in the world, the best software developer, or whatever but if you want to rise to the top of the Army, the FBI, the USDA, or your company, you better know how the game is played. That means you need to know about and be good at politics, and you need to be especially good at supporting, reflecting, and implementing the POLITICS OF YOUR BOSS.

    I had a discussion with a friend about the various gang troubles in the city of Chicago and why the Chief of Police couldn’t just straighten things out when the problem was fairly obvious. My take was that this position was not a law enforcement position but a political position. You’re number one job is to back up your boss (“Yes sir.”, “You’re right ma’am.”, whatever) and implement THIER policies the way THEY want them done. Your job also involves being the fall guy (or gal) when the ideas or policies turn out to be stupid and don’t work; THAT’S what you signed up for. Your secondary job is preserving YOUR job so “going rogue” (even if it means doing the “right” thing) is a one-way ticket to Palookaville.

    I do feel we are in a position where the “politics” are not just intra-organization but are seriously harming the organizations themselves as they “serve” their “bosses” (or former boss and preferred future boss in this case).

    Face it, the top level of the FBI has never been a place for squishes, but maybe it’s time for a high-level house cleaning and bring up some less political folks.

    Eventually they’ll get corrupted too but that’s not an excuse to stay with a highly political, self-serving upper management layer. Hoping Andrew McCabe leaving is just the start. bunch of people bet way too big on a specific political outcome and as a result have forever tainted themselves in my eyes.

    • #4
    • January 30, 2018, at 10:38 AM PST
    • 10 likes
  5. Ekosj Inactive

    Joe Wolfinger: Did they put their hand on the scale to influence the outcome of an investigation to aid or hinder a candidate?

    I think we can conclude they did do that. If I recall correctly, wasn’t the Comey memo re Clinton’s email – prepared before her ‘interview’ – edited by Strzok to remove incriminating language like “negligent” etc? No?

    And as to who is responsible – gotta’ be Obama, Holder/Lynch.

    • #5
    • January 30, 2018, at 10:46 AM PST
    • 6 likes
  6. Stad Thatcher

    SirZog (View Comment):
    That means you need to know about and be good at politics, and you need to be especially good at supporting, reflecting, and implementing the POLITICS OF YOUR BOSS.

    False. Your duty as a Federal employee is to implement the policies of your boss, not the politics. These policies can be in the form of laws passed by Congress, or policies directed by the President within his authority.

    Policies are written down and promulgated to the employees from top to bottom. Politics are the things your boss believes and stands for. When Federal employees implement politics absent official policy, they are violating their oaths of office.

    • #6
    • January 30, 2018, at 10:53 AM PST
    • 11 likes
  7. Joe Wolfinger Inactive
    Joe Wolfinger

    Ekosj (View Comment):
    And as to who is responsible – gotta’ be Obama, Holder/Lynch.

    Having been an agent for almost 30 years I can say the case couldn’t have been screwed up if the director had stood up for the investigators. Once the tone was set with the director on board, the investigators had no place to go with their compliant. As you suggest, Lynch wouldn’t have been sympathetic. They couldn’t reach the president.

    My point is you must have a director who has the integrity and judgement to insist on doing these things properly. Comey was well respected and, if he had had the courage to stand up and do the right thing or threaten to quit, my guess is the investigation would have been done correctly.

    • #7
    • January 30, 2018, at 11:07 AM PST
    • 9 likes
  8. Profile Photo Member

    Stad (View Comment):

    SirZog (View Comment):
    That means you need to know about and be good at politics, and you need to be especially good at supporting, reflecting, and implementing the POLITICS OF YOUR BOSS.

    False. Your duty as a Federal employee is to implement the policies of your boss, not the politics. These policies can be in the form of laws passed by Congress, or policies directed by the President within his authority.

    Or policies created from politics out of whole cloth by the various agencies when Congress doesn’t do it’s job and punts to the executive branch. The EPA is an example of that IMO; policies reflected and were highly driven by political agendas in the previous administration.

    You’re not wrong; that’s how I would hope it works and should work. I just don’t have the confidence that it does anymore.

    I don’t think I made the point you responded to very well and intentionally conflated policies and politics (I agree they are and should be different) but I fear that’s what’s actually happened in many long running agencies at the very top. I think (hope) that mid to low level folks are doing the right thing but the top is becoming rotten.

    • #8
    • January 30, 2018, at 11:22 AM PST
    • 6 likes
  9. Profile Photo Member

    Joe Wolfinger (View Comment):

    Ekosj (View Comment):
    And as to who is responsible – gotta’ be Obama, Holder/Lynch.

    Having been an agent for almost 30 years I can say the case couldn’t have been screwed up if the director had stood up for the investigators. Once the tone was set with the director on board, the investigators had no place to go with their compliant. As you suggest, Lynch wouldn’t have been sympathetic. They couldn’t reach the president.

    My point is you must have a director who has the integrity and judgement to insist on doing these things properly. Comey was well respected and, if he had had the courage to stand up and do the right thing or threaten to quit, my guess is the investigation would have been done correctly.

    Then it seems the respect in Comey as misplaced.

    These are sad things to write…

    • #9
    • January 30, 2018, at 11:23 AM PST
    • 4 likes
  10. Stad Thatcher

    SirZog (View Comment):
    Or policies created from politics out of whole cloth by the various agencies when Congress doesn’t do it’s job and punts to the executive branch.

    These are regulations, and I agree. Congress should be more exact, and not let Executive Branch agencies interpret what they meant.

    SirZog (View Comment):
    You’re not wrong; that’s how I would hope it works and should work. I just don’t have the confidence that it does anymore.

    I share your lack of confidence.

    SirZog (View Comment):
    I don’t think I made the point you responded to very well and intentionally conflated policies and politics (I agree they are and should be different) but I fear that’s what’s actually happened in many long running agencies at the very top. I think (hope) that mid to low level folks are doing the right thing but the top is becoming rotten.

    I cannot disagree with you. Political appointees at the top can deliberately mix politics and policies (mostly Dems, from my experience). And there are lower down Feds who are political animals (either party), who eagerly implement things without regards to policy or politics. However, us true Feds (the ones of either party who uphold our oaths) are the people who do our duty and follow the legal path, and hope we don’t get crapped on when we cannot do what isn’t legally authorized.

    • #10
    • January 30, 2018, at 11:59 AM PST
    • 2 likes
  11. RushBabe49 Thatcher

    The Obama administration weaponized many government agencies, including the IRS, the FBI, the EPA, and State, to go after his political opponents. Obama was the first, and hopefully the last, Community Organizer president. He brought shame and ignominy onto previously less-political agencies, and in my opinion when he took office Trump should have fired every single Obama appointee at all the major agencies. Too bad if their ranks were decimated and the work of government came to a screeching halt. I just thought of this. Now, Trump should have a thorough cleanout of administrative agencies, one at a time. Each agency gets a two-week unpaid furlough, as their ranks are considered and flushed of “deep staters”. Then their workload gets evaluated and every function that just adds to the national debt is either discontinued or sent to the states. Drain the Swamp.

    • #11
    • January 30, 2018, at 11:59 AM PST
    • 11 likes
  12. Stad Thatcher

    RushBabe49 (View Comment):
    The Obama administration weaponized many government agencies

    And by that, I assume you mean “He gave them the green light to push the liberal agenda without restraint.”

    • #12
    • January 30, 2018, at 1:12 PM PST
    • 4 likes
  13. Bruce Caward Thatcher
    Bruce Caward Joined in the first year of Ricochet Ricochet Charter Member

    Stad (View Comment):

    RushBabe49 (View Comment):
    The Obama administration weaponized many government agencies

    And by that, I assume you mean “He gave them the green light to push the liberal agenda without restraint.”

    I’m not sure Obama cared that much about what we all would consider “the Liberal Agenda”. In his case “weaponize” meant give them the tools, funding, and room to maneuver to ensure that he and his regime would be insulated from interference while he tried to both realize and get payback for his dreams from his father. The humbling and decline of America, the Great Satan.

    But maybe I’m just in a bad mood tonight.

    • #13
    • January 30, 2018, at 2:46 PM PST
    • 6 likes
  14. Profile Photo Member

    Stad (View Comment):

    I cannot disagree with you. Political appointees at the top can deliberately mix politics and policies (mostly Dems, from my experience). And there are lower down Feds who are political animals (either party), who eagerly implement things without regards to policy or politics. However, us true Feds (the ones of either party who uphold our oaths) are the people who do our duty and follow the legal path, and hope we don’t get crapped on when we cannot do what isn’t legally authorized.

    I didn’t mean to slag everyone (yourself included) but the stuff we’re seeing at the tops of these organizations is just pretty depressing. Sorry about that – no personal offense intended.

    • #14
    • January 30, 2018, at 3:00 PM PST
    • 1 like
  15. Ontheleftcoast Member

    Stad (View Comment):
    Oh, to answer the question your title poses: the Democrat Party is responsible because of their politicization of every branch of government.

    Not entirely. The upper levels of the FBI have long been politicized. In fact, activities somewhat similar that are being bruited about regarding Trump and his campaign happened to George McGovern. In his case, it was his troubling closeness to Communists (he was active in the Henry Wallace campaign, which was riddled with Soviet agents and had Wallace been elected, his administration would have been as well) and fears that the KGB or GRU would have agents of influence in McGovern’s own administration were he elected.

    How much the FBI was instrumental in keeping McGovern out of the White House, we’ll never know. So yes, there can even be real national security issues motivating questionable official behavior. This may be part of the rationale behind the attacks on Trump.

    J. Edgar Hoover was widely and correctly believed to have deleterious information on many high officials; this is part of what prompted LBJ’s pungent and pithy remark about Hoover.

    Then there is the notorious threatening letter sent to Martin Luther King Jr.

    Last but not least, there was FBI Deputy Director Mark Felt. He had had ambitions of being Director after Hoover died, but after President Nixon passed over him to appoint others as Acting Director. As Deep Throat, he got his revenge on Nixon.

    • #15
    • January 30, 2018, at 5:43 PM PST
    • 1 like
  16. Bryan G. Stephens Thatcher
    Bryan G. Stephens Joined in the first year of Ricochet Ricochet Charter Member

    I am no longer willing to believe any agents are working in the best interest of America without proof per agent. Same for IRS. They are corrupt to the core with Democrats.

    • #16
    • January 30, 2018, at 5:58 PM PST
    • 8 likes
  17. DocJay Inactive

    Bryan G. Stephens (View Comment):
    I am no longer willing to believe any agents are working in the best interest of America without proof per agent. Same for IRS. They are corrupt to the core with Democrats.

    Yeah that’s the sad thing here.

    If your name is Bundy the feds lie cheat and manipulate against you. If it’s obama or Clinton they do it for you.

    The culture of integrity high up is gone and Jim Comey is responsible. There’s a number of folks who need to burn here

    • #17
    • January 30, 2018, at 8:55 PM PST
    • 7 likes
  18. DocJay Inactive

    Nice article. How to restore the culture ?

    People have to be held accountable. Other than no book deal is there really any punishment for Comey ?

    Strzok Page McCabe ?

    You have the measured reasoning of a G man sir but let’s assume there’s lots of guilt with these underlings. If so , what to do?

    • #18
    • January 30, 2018, at 9:00 PM PST
    • 4 likes
  19. Larry Koler Inactive

    It’s part of the left’s Long March through the institutions of America. Federal employees are easy prey for people who have direct and daily access to the newsrooms of the country. People who go into government jobs are generally not the most qualified types, not the smartest, not the most trustworthy. Best and brightest? Not even close.

    I knew a young man who made the decision to be a schoolteacher on the simple point of having time off in the summers. He eventually became a principal because he was quite smart but I believe that teaching children just wasn’t in his blood.

    We shouldn’t expect too much from this generally self-selected class of person.

    • #19
    • January 31, 2018, at 3:30 AM PST
    • 4 likes
  20. Quietpi Member

    Perfect, @joewolfinger. Thank you.

    • #20
    • January 31, 2018, at 9:34 AM PST
    • Like
  21. Roderic Coolidge

    The insurance policy discussed in Andy’s office. Was that the Steele dossier? It certainly did seem to get some use. You can’t get any more nakedly political than using the prestige of the FBI to harass a particular candidate with false intelligence. Leaking it to the press, using it to justify a FISA warrant to spy on a particular candidate’s campaign, the fruit of which spying would then be used in various ways.

    • #21
    • January 31, 2018, at 11:05 AM PST
    • Like
  22. Rōnin Inactive

    This struck a nerve, so please indulge me for a moment. After I retired from active duty service, my position was converted to civil service and I was hired back into it. This allowed me to stay “in the game” as I felt I still had something to offer to my country. Besides that, it was a lot of fun working for Uncle Sam while he payed the bills. My wife on the other hand said it was like the CIA making Jethro Bodine a double knot spy ( https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=1MWq6L19eNo  ). Anyway, when I was active duty, I did not like civil servants and when I became one, I still didn’t like them. In my experience the majority of Federal civil servants that I came in contact with were careerist first, generally lazy and more concern about covering their collective asses then the mission itself. I may have hurt some feelings here, but that was my experience. Fortunately for myself, my posting were overseas with my area of responsibility primarily in South West Asia. Most senior civil servants don’t like getting their hands dirty or next to the action (see Benghazi), so I was generally left alone. Then in 2013 I move up to management, and had to hang up my double knot spy iron hat. I lasted until 2016. During 2015 and 2016 my supervisors could not wait to get Hillary into office and were open about it. My work environment became increasingly hostile as my views conflicted more and more with my supervisor’s “vision” of our directorate mission. They couldn’t just fire me, and I never gave them a reason to begin termination procedures, but it was made clear to me that I was not liked and was only kept around because they needed me. So, if I could paraphrase Napoleon, when I found I no longer agreed with my superiors – the responsible and honorable thing to do is to leave (or I think he said something like that) – anyway, resistance was futile. Bottom line here is I think there are Federal civil servants in middle to high level management positions, who do not have the American’s people’s best interests at heart. Some, I believe, do not even like the United States as founded and seek only to change it to some sort of workers paradise because they know better. Don’t doubt it.

    • #22
    • January 31, 2018, at 11:19 AM PST
    • 2 likes
  23. Profile Photo Member

    Joe Wolfinger: This case would not have failed unless the Director failed. The truth is Jim Comey cared more about his job than the integrity of the FBI and did not provide the courageous leadership when the FBI needed it. Apparently, like Pat Grey, he failed the agency when it really counted because he wanted the job too much.

    Sounds about right.

    I have no doubt that the FBI culture of integrity remains strong in the ranks. What is needed now is a leader strong enough to do the right thing.

    Here’s why I have doubts: It does not seem possible to me that “the ranks” could have integrity as strong as you suggest because there had to be agents “in the know” who kept their mouths shut about observed shenanigans of “leadership.” That suggests to me that such persons valued their pensions over their principles; not an indication of strong integrity.

    • #23
    • January 31, 2018, at 12:39 PM PST
    • 2 likes
  24. Joe Wolfinger Inactive
    Joe Wolfinger

    Derek Simmons (View Comment):
    Here’s why I have doubts: It does not seem possible to me that “the ranks” could have integrity as strong as you suggest because there had to be agents “in the know” who kept their mouths shut about observed shenanigans of “leadership.” That suggests to me that such persons valued their pensions over their principles; not an indication of strong integrity.

    If at the time of the Hillary investigation, the director set the course and an agent disagreed, to whom would you suggest he should have taken his complaint? AG Lynch? President Obama? And what exactly would the agent say? That he disagreed with the course of the investigation? Decisions about whether to use a grand jury, issue a subpoena or conduct a search can always be rationalized. The director is the key figure in this.

    James Comey failed as leader of the FBI. He let us down and we should be mad about that.

    • #24
    • January 31, 2018, at 12:55 PM PST
    • 3 likes
  25. Profile Photo Member

    Joe Wolfinger (View Comment):
    to whom would you suggest he should have taken his complaint?

    I have no suggestions. Perhaps the IG. Perhaps someone in “the media.” I honestly don’t know. But my lack of such specific knowledge or suggestions does not change my impression that those “in the know” likely knew someone and that their silence in the face of such mis or malfeasance was not “golden”

    • #25
    • January 31, 2018, at 2:08 PM PST
    • 1 like
  26. Bob Thompson Member

    Doesn’t sound like the FBI I know about either.

    Joe, I sent you a private message.

    • #26
    • February 1, 2018, at 6:15 PM PST
    • Like
  27. Mim526 Member

    Joe Wolfinger: I have no doubt that the FBI culture of integrity remains strong in the ranks. What is needed now is a leader strong enough to do the right thing. I hope Chris Wray is that guy.

    Appreciate your service to our country and this post, @joewolfinger. Question for you as we’re on #ReleaseTheMemo watch. It’s been widely enough reported to be supposed fairly accurate that the FBI has voiced to the White House concern/disapproval of releasing the GOP memo to the public. They’ve been heard, and it appears the WH is not going to object to its release. The POTUS has more authority than any other one individual in this country to declassify anything he/she chooses (and responsibility to ensure our nation’s security).

    Based on your experience/knowledge, is it Wray, Rosenstein, etc. releasing (or authorizing) statements and soundbites to reporters, strenuously objecting with “grave concerns”? If so, they are placing themselves as an independent authority separate from their boss…all of whom answer to We the People. I note FBI has backed off earlier ‘concerns’ about endangering sources and methods once Wray got a personal look at the memo, and that they are carefully not stating that anything in the memo is untrue (not even Schiff has dared go over that cliff thus far as it could be verified).

    • #27
    • February 2, 2018, at 5:34 AM PST
    • 2 likes
  28. Instugator Thatcher
    Instugator Joined in the first year of Ricochet Ricochet Charter Member

    Tell you what. Substitute the letters DOD for DOJ and tell me how important it would be to you then.

    See the problem isn’t the power of the US that is focused externally (DOD) it is the power focused internally (DOJ).

    Are you willing to accept the DOJ or FBI acting as a Praetorian Guard and choosing who should be the President?

    • #28
    • February 2, 2018, at 6:12 AM PST
    • 3 likes