Drain the FBI’s Swamp   4 comments

When President Trump fired FBI chief James Comey, I don’t think I was alone in giving a small cheer of support. Comey’s refusal to forward charges against Hillary Clinton almost made me vote for Donald Trump (I didn’t, it was just a momentary flirt with the idea), because I believe firmly that the elite of this country should face the same penalties as the rest of us and there are many ordinary people serving decades for mishandling classified information in less egregious ways than Hillary Clinton. The United States is not Europe where anyone with the right pedigree can buy their way to immunity. Former First Ladies who have bought their way up the political food chain should be held to the same standard as current presidents and low-level Navy operatives. If Hillary Clinton is allowed to skate, then Bradley Manning should be released and Edward Snowden should be given a full pardon … and a parade down Pennsylvania Avenue. While we’re at it, we should grant Julian Assange American citizenship and give him the key to Oval Office bathroom.

Image result for image of the fbi in a swampI’m not entirely kidding. Snowden and Assange are personal heroes of mine for telling the American people what our government is doing behind our backs.

Firing Comey looks a bit like a tiny step toward draining the DC swamp and I applaud that. Maybe it will inspire more such forays into therapeutic political land sculpting.

But more than just getting rid of a single swamp critter, the firing of James Comey provides a welcome chance to dethrone the FBI from its catbird’s seat in American politics and life. It’s not a Twitter fantasy. The FBI has a long record of both deceit and incompetence.

Five years ago, Americans learned that the FBI was teaching its agents that the bureau “has the ability to bend or suspend the law to impinge on the freedom of others.” That we didn’t know about it before doesn’t negate the fact that has been the FBI’s underlying culture since its creation.

J. Edgar Hoover ran the FBI from 1924 until his death in 1972. He built a revered agency that utterly intimidated officials in Washington. In 1945, President Truman wrote: “We want no Gestapo or secret police. FBI is tending in that direction. … This must stop.” Apparently, nobody listened to President Truman, because the bureau’s power soared after Congress passed the Internal Security Act of 1950. This authorized massive crackdowns on suspected “subversives”. Hoover compiled a list of more than 20,000 “potentially or actually dangerous” Americans who could be seized and locked away at the president’s command. “Congress secretly financed the creation of six of these (detention) camps in the 1950s,” noted Tim Weiner “Enemies: A History of the FBI” (2012).

From 1956 through 1971, the FBI’s counterintelligence programs (COINTELPRO) conducted thousands of covert operations to incite street warfare between violent groups, to get people fired, to smear innocent people by portraying them as government informants, and to cripple or destroy left-wing, black, communist, white racist and anti-war organizations. FBI agents also busied themselves forging “poison pen” letters to wreck activists’ marriages.

Image result for image of the fbi in a swampCOINTELPRO was exposed only after a handful of activists burglarized an FBI office in a Philadelphia suburb, seized FBI files, and leaked the damning documents to journalists. No FBI agents were jailed and few were fired stemming from this disclosure.

Maybe not surprisingly for a “bulletproof” agency, the FBI haughtiness was on display April 19, 1993, when its agents used armored vehicles to smash into the Branch Davidians’ sprawling compound near Waco, Texas. The tanks intentionally collapsed much of the building on top of the huddled residents. After the FBI pumped the building full of CS gas (banned for use on enemy soldiers by the Chemical Weapons Convention), a fire ignited that left 80 children, women and men dead. You don’t have to be a Branch Davidian supporter to find these actions deplorable.

The FBI swore it was blameless for the conflagration, but six years later, an investigation revealed that the FBI fired incendiary cartridges into the building before the blaze erupted. No FBI agents were penalized or prosecuted for their fatal assault against American civilians.

The FBI also lost track of a key informant at the heart of the cabal that detonated a truck bomb beneath the World Trade Center in 1993.

Before the 9/11 attacks, the FBI dismally failed to connect the dots on suspicious foreigners engaged in domestic aviation training. Though Congress had deluged the FBI with $1.7 billion to upgrade its computers, many FBI agents had old machines incapable of searching the Web or emailing photos. One FBI agent observed that the bureau ethos is that “real men don’t type. …The computer revolution just passed us by.”

The FBI’s pre-9/11 blunders “contributed to the United States becoming, in effect, a sanctuary for radical terrorists,” according to a 2002 congressional investigation.

In the late 1990s, the FBI Academy taught agents that subjects of investigations “have forfeited their right to the truth.” This doctrine helped fuel pervasive entrapment operations after 9/11.

Image result for image of the fbi in a swampTrevor Aaronson (The Terror Factory: Inside the FBI’s Manufactured War on Terrorism) estimated that only about 1% of the 500 people charged with international terrorism offenses in the decade after 9/11 were bona fide threats. Thirty times as many were induced by the FBI to behave in ways that prompted their arrest.

The bureau’s informant program extends across many facets of American society. It bankrolled an extremist right-wing New Jersey blogger and radio host for five years before his 2009 arrest for threatening federal judges. The FBI crime lab is infamous for its perpetual false testimony. It uses National Security Letters and other surveillance tools to illegally vacuum up Americans’ personal info. It has whitewashed every shooting by an FBI agent between 1993 and 2011.

The FBI’s power has rarely been effectively curbed by either Congress or federal courts. In 1971, House Majority Leader Hale Boggs declared that the bureau’s power terrified Capitol Hill:

Our very fear of speaking out (against the FBI) has watered the roots and hastened the growth of a vine of tyranny. … Our society … cannot survive a planned and programmed fear of its own government bureaus and agencies.

Boggs vindicated a 1924 American Civil Liberties Union report warning that the FBI had become “a secret police system of a political character” — a charge that supporters of both Hillary Clinton and Donald Trump would have alternatively cheered last year.

If Trump fired Comey to throttle an investigation into Trump administration criminality, that is an impeachable offense. I am not a Trump supporter and I don’t think Mike Pence could do a worse job. That doesn’t negate the fact that Comey’s fall provides an excellent opportunity to take the FBI off its pedestal and place it where it belongs — under the law.

No, I’m not saying disband it … at least not yet, but it is past time to cease venerating a federal agency whose abuses have perennially menaced Americans’ constitutional rights. If the Trump administration is truly serious about draining the swamp, this is a good place to start.

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4 responses to “Drain the FBI’s Swamp

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  1. Whenever you have a situation where the police are not being effectively policed, there is no limits on the abuses that will happen, to the detriment of the whole country. Power has a tendency to corrupt, and absolute power corrupts absolutely. (not my words).

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    • Lord Acton, I think. Yeah. According to an old retired cop I know, the younger ones (in the last 30 years) are trained in the police academies to be abusive jerks. He knows this because when he retired from active duty, he was invited to teach at the Alaska Academy, so then he was sent to two other state academies to learn “new procedures”. He figured it would be psychology and some brush-up on the Constitution. But no, both academies taught techniques in assuming that every traffic stop will escalate into an altercation, how to convince people to allow a search of their vehicle, and how to use coercion and physical pain to force compliance … in other words, being abusive jerks. John taught for three years on old-style protect and serve, the public is not our enemy techniques, mixed with “if things go bad, there are techniques available.” He was eventually asked to step down because he refused to advocate for the militarization of the Alaska State Troopers.

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      • When own citizens are treated like ‘enemies’ the tag line that many police forces have is “To Protect and to Serve” becomes totally meaningless. I’m afraid some Canadian police forces are moving away from their tag line as well particularly when it comes to First Nations citizens.

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      • See, I don’t see it as a racial thing. I can’t speak for Canada, of course. Here in the US, people always want to make it a racial thing, but I’ve encountered more racism among my cousins on the Res than I have in majority culture and I have a couple of black friends who say the same thing. I think police oppressing minorities in the US is mainly a media manipulation. They focus on race when the person being abused is black, but ignore the subject when the person is white, thus making a slight imbalance seem like we’re still back in the Jim Crow era.

        I think making it about race divides we the people into separate, competing, rival groups who fight against each other rather than uniting against the authoritarianism that allows police (in all their guises) to treat citizens like “enemies.” Only by laying aside race as a constant mantra will we deal with the actual problem … the government against the people. Law enforcement must be reduced and put back into proper place. I think when we do that, we’ll find that race really hasn’t been the issue for American whites for decades, though it remains an issue of perception for blacks, Hispanics and Indians mainly because they live in self-segregated bubbles … which is exactly what the authorities want. Heaven forbid that we forgive what our ancestors did generations ago and decide to unite against a common enemy now … our own government.

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