Will the Arrogance of the FBI Ever End?

American conservatives have lost their respect for the integrity and professionalism of the FBI, and for good reason. In recent years its executives and top agents have demonstrated an arrogant confidence that they are above the law and will never suffer the consequences for misconduct.

James Comey, FBI director 2013-17, published a memoir, A Higher Loyalty, in which he discussed how he handled the investigations of Hillary Clinton and Donald Trump; but when testifying before Congress about the cases he couldn’t recall or remember a fact 79 times and that he “didn’t know” the answer 166 times. He needed to evade questioning for many reasons. One was because he signed false declarations to the FISA Court to obtain secret warrants to spy on the Trump campaign.

FBI Deputy Director Andrew McCabe was fired in 2018 from the FBI because he repeatedly lied to investigators about his leaks to the Wall Street Journal of sensitive information about the Clinton Foundation investigation. In October 2021, the Biden Justice Department agreed to give him back his pension, expunge the record of his firing and pay over $500,000 in attorney’s fees.

FBI lawyer Kevin Clinesmith was convicted in August 2020 of lying to the FISA Court in order to obtain a warrant to spy on the Trump 2016 campaign when he falsely denied that Carter Page was a source for the CIA. For this felony, he was sentenced to probation and community service. In June 2021, we learned that the District of Columbia was restoring his license to practice law in August.

At a recent Judiciary Committee hearing, Sen. Ted Cruz put the FBI Executive Assistant Director of the National Security Branch, Jill Sandborn, on the spot when he cross-examined her on how many FBI informants, agents, and assets participated in the January 6, 2021 riots on Capitol Hill. She refused to answer question after question, claiming that she could not disclose “specifics of sources and methods.” She even refused to answer the question, “Did any FBI agents or confidential informants commit crimes of violence on January 6th?”

Senator Cruz had every reason to ask those questions after the news hit that about half of the participants in the alleged plot to kidnap Michigan Governor Gretchen Whitmer were FBI informants. They reportedly pushed the kidnapping plot while the FBI provided funding for it. The FBI agent in charge of the “investigation” was promoted to the Washington, D.C. field office, perhaps just in time to supervise a similar operation on January 6th. Defense lawyers have asked the federal judge presiding over the case in Michigan to order the Justice Department to provide “use immunity” to FBI agents and informants they want to cross-examine at trial.

FBI misconduct in “political cases” against Republicans goes back at least five years to the “Crossfire Hurricane” investigation, when the FBI accused then-candidate Donald Trump of “colluding” with “the Russians” to steal the 2016 election. The FBI used the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act to grab electronic communications of the top people in the Trump campaign and later the Trump administration.

There is now a controversy as to whether Crossfire Hurricane was started because of the now-infamous Steele Dossier from former MI6 agent Christopher Steele. It alleged ties between the Trump campaign and the Russian government.

In December 2019, DoJ Inspector General Michael Horowitz reported to Congress that he concluded that the Steele Dossier “played no role in the Crossfire Hurricane opening,” although the FBI did make some use of it. Special Counsel John Durham, who is investigating Crossfire Hurricane, announced that his office had “advised the Inspector General that we do not agree with some of the report’s conclusions as to predication and how the FBI case was opened.”

The news media has been peddling the story for years that Steele’s allegations did not reach the Crossfire Hurricane team until Sept. 19, 2016. That was over a month and a half after the official opening of Crossfire Hurricane on July 31, 2016.  I disagree and believe that even the choice of the name “Crossfire Hurricane” was an instance of FBI arrogance. Peter Strzok, Deputy Assistant Director of the FBI Counterintelligence Division and in charge of Crossfire Hurricane, was so arrogant that he named the investigation in honor of his favorite British spy, Christopher Steele.

The media brushed off the name as a borrowing from the opening line of the Rolling Stones’ hit “Jumpin’ Jack Flash” (1968): “I was born in a crossfire hurricane.” But I believe that it is more likely that Strzok’s inspiration was not the song. It was the 1986 movie Jumpin’ Jack Flash about a British spy (Jack) and Terry Doolittle (played by Whoopi Goldberg) who ends up saving his life when he is on the run in Eastern Europe after his exit plan was blown.

Terry is a computer geek working at a New York bank handling coded messages over the bank’s network. (This is pre-Internet.) For fun, she chats over that network with people around the world. By chance, she gets a coded message from “Jack” who has lost the contacts he needs to exfiltrate and is looking for help on the other side of the Iron Curtain. The key to the code he’s using is in the song “Jumpin’ Jack Flash.”

Peter Strzok decided to be cute in coming up with the code-name for an operation that started because of a message (the Steele Dossier) from a (former) British spy. Christopher Steele’s career as a covert agent for MI6 in Russia ended abruptly in 1999 when his cover was blown. Although he stayed with MI6 until 2009, he could not go back to Russia.

It took a lot of chutzpah to make a joke out of the name of the investigation. Unfortunately, it was a bad joke for this country, because Crossfire Hurricane was part of an effort to undermine, if not drive from office, an American President.

One can only hope that the Special Counsel John Durham will catch up with the jokers at the FBI -- the sooner, the better.

Image: FBI

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