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16 Dec, 2019 22:05

Trump’s mean words harm our agency, says former FBI Director – just don’t ask about our past!

Trump’s mean words harm our agency, says former FBI Director – just don’t ask about our past!

President Donald Trump’s verbal attacks on the FBI are a “dire threat” to the rule of law in America, according to former FBI Director William Webster. But the agency has a scandal-rich history and needs more, not less, scrutiny.

Trump has referred to certain FBI officials as “scum” and former agency Director James Comey as a “slimeball.” He’s accused Comey of launching the 2016 ‘Russiagate’ investigation against his campaign for nakedly partisan reasons, and his Attorney General, William Barr, has accused the agency of acting in “bad faith” in its handling of the 2016 probe.

This renewed attention on the FBI comes after the publication of a report by the Justice Department’s Inspector General last Monday. The report found 17 irregularities, inaccuracies and omissions in the FBI’s FISA warrant application, used to obtain permission to surveil former Trump campaign adviser Carter Page, and criticized the agency for knowingly using the bogus ‘Steele Dossier’ as basis for this FISA application.

While the report stopped short of accusing the agency of bias, it didn’t do the FBI any favors in the PR department. Enter former Director William Webster, who set about correcting the record in a New York Times op-ed on Monday.

“Calling FBI professionals ‘scum,’ as the president did, is a slur against people who risk their lives to keep us safe,” he wrote. Barr’s accusations of bias, he continued, “risk inflicting enduring damage on this critically important institution.”

President Trump’s assertion last week that current FBI Director Christopher Wray “will never be able to fix the FBI” is another dangerous threat, Webster opined. “The independence of both the FBI and its director are critical and should be fiercely protected by each branch of government.”

Webster seems to forget that the FBI exists to protect America’s people and government, not the other way round. 

Ironically, if anything, the Inspector General’s report shows that left to operate independently, the FBI cannot be trusted. Though Inspector General Michael Horowitz did not directly accuse the agency of bias, a mountain of evidence suggests otherwise. 

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Text messages between former agent Peter Strzok and former agency lawyer Lisa Page showing the two lovers planning to “stop” Trump’s election; a discussion between the two on concocting an “insurance policy” against his election with former Deputy Director Andrew McCabe; the revelation that Comey leaked classified information to the media to pressure the Justice Department into investigating Trump. The list goes on.

Likewise, internal alarm over the veracity of the ‘Steele Dossier,’ which among other things accused Trump of hiring two prostitutes to urinate on a bed in a Moscow hotel, didn’t deter the agency from using it to bolster the case for spying on Trump’s campaign.

Testifying before the Senate Judiciary Committee on Wednesday, Inspector General Michael Horowitz said that the FBI’s “basic, fundamental, and serious errors” amounted to a “failure” by the “entire chain of command.” Yet in Webster’s world, even daring to question the agency’s professionalism is an “assault” on the “rule of law.”

“This difficult moment demands the restoration of the proper place of the Department of Justice and the FBI as bulwarks of law and order in America,” Webster declared, praising Presidents Jimmy Carter and Ronald Reagan – under whom he served as director – for respecting the agency’s independence.

Yet to refer to the FBI of the past as politically independent requires an olympic level of mental gymnastics. Under J Edgar Hoover’s 37-year directorship, the FBI harassed political dissidents and activist groups. The agency’s Counter Intelligence Program (COINTELPRO) illegally collected evidence, infiltrated anti-Vietnam protest groups and civil rights organizations, financed militias to target the Anti-War Movement, and smeared dissidents – including Martin Luther King Jr. – as perverts and homosexuals, to name but a few abuses.

Serving as director under six presidents, Hoover built the FBI into a politically independent organization, in that it functioned as a bonafide “deep state.” Hoover’s files on suspects and subversives were extensive, and reportedly included the presidents and lawmakers he served under.

Yet at the time, he carried a reputation as a hardworking and trustworthy public servant.

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Since the Hoover years, the FBI’s directors have been limited to ten-year terms, to avoid placing the country’s domestic intelligence gathering in the hands of one man again. Yet the abuses have continued. Post-9/11, the agency has been accused of spying on political activists, suppressing whistleblowers, dodging Justice Department oversight, and warrantless wiretapping.  

Just two months ago, the FBI was revealed to have searched through and accessed 3.1 million illegally-collected phone records, potentially violating the Fourth Amendment rights of millions.

Of the FBI’s employees, Webster asks that readers “rest assured that they are serving our country well.” History asks that they take that advice with a massive grain of salt.

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