FBI Resignations: Where Are They?

Roughly 150 FBI agents were assigned to the Hillary Clinton email case.  It was a criminal investigation to determine if the Secretary of State violated any laws when she a) installed an unauthorized email server in her home, b) conducted State business on that server, c) sent and received classified information on that server, and d) stored classified information on that server.  If it was determined that any of the above were crimes, then a criminal indictment would apply.

Tuesday, FBI Director James Comey, announced that no charges would be sought.

Where are the FBI agent resignations?

I don’t ask this because this is a politically charged event where I can score points.  Others are doing that and they don’t need my help.  I ask because I am passing judgment on the agents who saw a crime, are now associated with the cover-up, and are now doing nothing.

I can pass this judgment because I once faced a similar decision.

After fourteen years in the Army Reserves, I had achieved my career goal of becoming a company commander.  I made that goal in the mid-80’s when I was a private (E-1) in basic training.

In the late 90’s I took command of a company.  The primary responsibility of an incoming commander is also the least glamorous: master all the paperwork.  In doing so, I discovered that my First Sergeant had been falsifying pay records for several months.  He was getting paid for work he wasn’t doing.  I went immediately to my boss, the Battalion Commander, with the evidence, which consisted of signatures, pay receipts and proof that no duty had been performed.  It was a slam-dunk case.  My commander was a fellow MP officer and a lawyer in the civilian world.  He knew what to do.  First, he pulled his copy of the Uniform Code of Military Justice and identified the three felonies that applied to my First Sergeant.  He then consulted the two Sergeant Majors in the Battalion and his 2nd in command for their advice.  They agreed with the evidence and the need for action.  The Battalion Commander then told his new company commander, “Select the proper punishment, and I will support you.”

After some research I chose the least bureaucratic of the punishment options: show the First Sergeant what his annual review would look like if he stayed in the unit.  This is a common procedure in the reserves.  Unlike a court-martial, a bad review costs nothing. It is also a private matter between superior and subordinate.  I showed him a career-ending review that identified ‘his need for supervision when it came to pay matters,’ and I offered to write a good review if he were to leave immediately.  He, in turn, energized his network at Brigade (over the battalion), and found a sympathetic ear with the Brigade Commander.  That same Battalion Commander who told me “I’ll support you” said several weeks later, “We are not going to punish the First Sergeant.”  

A common training item in the military is the subject of ethics.  I would venture the FBI trains on this topic too.  For 14 years I was trained, or I trained others, to know the difference between a legal order and an illegal order.  And part of any good ethics review is integrity.  Knowing the difference between right and wrong and the importance of having strong moral principles.  These are universal values at the FBI.

Integrity also comes into play when you see a wrong.

After basic training -- still a Private (E-1) -- I stood outside my platoon sergeant’s office at parade-rest waiting to meet him and join the platoon.  I waited there a half-hour while he finished his coffee.  A yellowed mimeographed copy of a copy was taped to the lime-green hallway wall.  It was the only thing I could read from where I stood, so I read it over and over again.  I remember every word after 30+ years.  It said:

If you see something wrong and don’t do anything, you’ve just set a new standard.

There was something wrong when my Battalion Commander told me to ignore my First Sergeant’s crimes. My commander ignored his oath and put his career before the Army.  I resigned my command that day, and my Army Reserve Commission shortly thereafter.

Changing gears like that mid-career is rough.  It is a big decision.  But one lesson I can share, the big decisions in life are the easiest.  Assuming you are true to yourself.

As many as 150 FBI agents face the same large, yet simple, decision.  (I think they should have already made the decision over a year ago.)  Did any of them see anything wrong Tuesday when Director Comey ignored his oath and put his career before the FBI?  Because if they did, and because no resignations have been reported, each agent on this case who went back to work today has set a new standard.

Karl blogs at Ushanka.us.  He is pictured above taking command of his Army Reserve company.

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