Why the FBI is hard to trust

The Fed­eral Bureau of In­ves­ti­ga­tion claims to be above pol­i­tics, but that’s not so

The Washington Times Daily - - OPINION - By David A. Keene David A. Keene is edi­tor at large at The Wash­ing­ton Times.

Can any­one with a mod­icum of com­mon sense trust the Fed­eral Bureau of in­ves­ti­ga­tion? The an­swer to that ques­tion is a re­sound­ing “no.” The claim that the FBI strives to be above pol­i­tics is to­day and has al­ways been ab­surd. When for­mer FBI Direc­tor J. Edgar Hoover ad­mit­ted in an in­ter­view that his “agents” had tapped the phones of 1964 Repub­li­can can­di­date Barry Gold­wa­ter and even bugged his cam­paign plane, Mr. Hoover told his in­ter­viewer, who won­dered how some­one in his po­si­tion could so cav­a­lierly ig­nore the law and the con­sti­tu­tional rights of Amer­i­can cit­i­zens, that when the pres­i­dent asks you de­liver.

That and much else that Mr. Hoover or­dered his “agents” to do dur­ing his too long ten­ure as FBI Direc­tor was bad enough, but in the years since he de­parted the scene, the FBI has de­vel­oped a pen­chant for break­ing the law with­out even re­quir­ing a wink and a nod from above. The Bureau picks its tar­gets for what­ever rea­son and goes af­ter them, con­coct­ing ev­i­dence or set­ting them up to tech­ni­cally break laws that have noth­ing to do with the “rea­sons” for the orig­i­nal tar­get­ing.

As an in­sti­tu­tion, the Bureau has al­ways been more in­ter­ested in its own im­age than in crime, es­pi­onage and ter­ror­ism, but its brief­ing on how James Thomas Hodgkin­son came to shoot the third high­est rank­ing mem­ber of Congress on July 14 in Alexan­dria bog­gles the mind as Bureau spokes­men more in­ter­ested in po­lit­i­cal cor­rect­ness than facts twisted what any­one with a pass­ing in­ter­est in the episode al­ready knew into a nar­ra­tive that makes no sense.

Last Wed­nes­day, An­drew Vale, direc­tor in charge of the FBI’s Wash­ing­ton Field Of­fice, flanked by other FBI of­fi­cials and rep­re­sen­ta­tives of the Capi­tol Po­lice and the Bureau of Al­co­hol, To­bacco and Firearms an­nounced the Bureau’s find­ings. In the of­fi­cial FBI re­lease, rather than say that Mr. Hodgkin­son had tar­geted the con­gress­men prac­tic­ing at the Alexan­dria base­ball field they had been us­ing for years, the state­ment sim­ply said that Mr. Hodgkin­son “shot in the vicin­ity of the field” and could find no real po­lit­i­cal mo­tive be­hind the man’s act. The sug­ges­tion was that the shooter, who had surveilled, the field, was “liv­ing” in a van parked ad­ja­cent to the field, and had re­searched the back­grounds of Rep. Steve Scalise and other mem­bers of Congress, was sim­ply an un­for­tu­nate with “anger man­age­ment is­sues” who snapped and be­gan fir­ing in “the vicin­ity” of the men who were shot but not tar­geted. There is no ques­tion that Mr. Hodgkin­son was a nut and vir­tu­ally ev­ery­one agrees with the con­clu­sion that what he did was not part of a larger ter­ror­ist op­er­a­tion, but that does not mean he wasn’t po­lit­i­cally mo­ti­vated. He hated Repub­li­cans, was a de­vout far left, pro­gres­sive and the anger he had so much dif­fi­culty man­ag­ing was po­lit­i­cal anger di­rected at Mr. Scalise, Repub­li­cans in gen­eral and, no sur­prise here, Pres­i­dent

Don­ald Trump. Mr. Vale’s brief­ing re­minds one of the press con­fer­ences held af­ter some­one blows him­self up, af­ter yelling “Al­lahu ak­bar” at which the pub­lic is in­formed that while in­ves­ti­ga­tors, are, of course, look­ing into whether the man was ei­ther a Mus­lim or a ter­ror­ist, they have seen no real ev­i­dence to sug­gest ei­ther.

At one end of the spec­trum there are folks who ac­tu­ally be­lieve Democrats would like to kill Repub­li­cans. These are peo­ple who per­haps take the over the top rhetoric of ac­tors, ac­tresses, co­me­di­ans and “re­sis­tance” lead­ers more se­ri­ously than they should, but at the other end are peo­ple like those who oc­cupy top posts at the FBI who will go to any lengths to ex­cuse a man who trav­elled from Illi­nois, prac­ticed his marks­man­ship, stud­ied his tar­gets and open fired on them. He didn’t break. He pre­pared for and launched a pre-med­i­tated at­tack on fed­eral of­fice­hold­ers. Agent Vale pointed out, per­haps in sup­port of his cocka­mamie the­ory, that Mr. Hodgkin­son had never ac­tu­ally threat­ened a mem­ber of Congress by tele­phone, mail or email. The FBI likes to in­ves­ti­gate, threaten and even charge those who do that and lit­tle more and have ap­par­ently never bought into the idea that those se­ri­ously con­tem­plat­ing do­ing what Mr. Hodgkin­son did rarely tip their hands in ad­vance.

Fir­ing Mr. Comey was a good first step, but only a first step if the FBI is to be trans­formed into the first-rate crime fight­ing or­ga­ni­za­tion it pro­fesses to be rather the laugh­ing­stock it has be­come.

Agent Vale pointed out, per­haps in sup­port of his cocka­mamie the­ory, that Mr. Hodgkin­son had never ac­tu­ally threat­ened a mem­ber of Congress by tele­phone, mail or email.


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