Republican lawmakers are demanding to know why FBI agents have been permitted to violate the agency’s rules (and probably a few federal statutes) hundreds of times over the course of a year-and-a-half, a pattern that suggests the bureau is operating as it pleases under the ‘leadership’ of Director Christopher Wray.
The Washington Times reported:
House lawmakers said Tuesday that they want answers about the FBI’s operations after an internal audit revealed agents flouting the rules during investigations involving politicians, candidates, religious groups, news media and others.
FBI agents broke their own rules at least 747 times in 18 months while conducting sensitive investigations, according to an internal 2019 FBI audit first reported by The Washington Times.
Rep. Andy Biggs (R-Ariz.) said the audit’s findings should not come as a surprise (but they ought to anger every American, regardless of political affiliation).
“The FBI has strayed away from its core mission of protecting the American people and upholding the Constitution of the United States,” Biggs said in a statement this week. “They have a track record of not following the law, and that should concern all Americans. Congress must investigate this report and hold those accountable who enable this behavior.”
According to the Times report, the internal review found a distinct pattern of behavior that cannot be a coincidence or accidental and would only be allowable in an environment where rule-bending and rule-breaking is regularly permitted and, probably, encouraged.
“The internal review showed a ratio of slightly more than two ‘compliance errors’ per sensitive investigative matter reviewed by FBI auditors,” the paper reported, citing the review.
The review found that from Jan. 1, 2018, to June 20, 2019, ‘errors’ made by agents including the failure to get approval from senior bureau officials to open investigations, the failure to document a necessary legal review before launching a probe, and failing to tell prosecutors what agents were doing
‘Sensitive’ investigations are considered to be those that affect an American citizen’s constitutional rights because they involve figures who are engaged in government, media, politics, religious expression, and other related activities.
“We need to dispel the absurd but prevalent misconception that the FBI is an independent agency accountable to no one or even capable of self-policing,” Rep. Thomas Massie (R-Ky.) said in a statement. “They are part of the executive branch and the president should fire any director who tolerates this level of malfeasance.”
The audit does not reveal the identities of the groups and people investigated by the FBI, but a categorical breakdown showed most of the cases examined, 191, involved domestic public officials.
Dozens more cases involved religious organizations or their prominent members, and dozens involved political organizations and individuals. An additional 10 cases involved domestic political candidates, and 11 cases involved news outlets.
The FBI audit only looked at a small portion of the bureau’s caseload, leaving Cato Institute senior fellow Patrick Eddington to suggest that there is much more wrongdoing taking place.
Indeed, the audit was essentially uncovered by accident; Eddington learned about it during litigation against the bureau to obtain records from the federal government.
Since 2008, the U.S. Attorney General’s office has followed a policy that allows the FBI to use assessments as lead-ins to formal investigations. “They can include surveillance not requiring a court order, the use and recruitment of human sources, and the examination of publicly available information,” the Times reported.
Obviously, this process is being abused.
Two House members, Reps. Jaime Raskin (D-Md.) and Nancy Mace (R-S.C.) “said they wanted the GAO to study whether FBI agents’ assessments yielded improper monitoring of constitutionally protected activity of Americans, including those in political, racial or religious organizations,” the Times reported.
“It seems like this program, these assessments, are crossing the line and [are] abusive, and violating individuals’ civil liberties and civil rights,” she said, adding that her staff is working with Raskin’s to come up with a course of action.
Massie isn’t interested in working with Democrats, however, because he doesn’t think the party is serious about holding the FBI to account.
“Sadly, under the Democrats, Congress, which created the FBI, has also failed to provide sufficient oversight of this agency while continuing to increase its funding,” Massie said. “When Republicans retake the majority, I expect our Judiciary Committee will investigate several issues that have been swept under the rug.”