Piercing the halo of the FBI special agent

When confronted with a litany of examples of recent FBI partisan bias, Director Christopher Wray in his congressional testimony always a makes a point of praising the rank-and-file special agents as being above the fray.  For example, here is an exchange with Louisiana senator John Kennedy on August 4, 2022 (starting at 8:40):

Wray: “I will tell you that what you’re describing is not representative of the FBI that I see up close every day in this country where I see patriots working their tails off ...”

Kennedy: “And I agree with that ...”

Wray: “... with tremendous integrity and objectivity”

Kennedy: “I, I agree with that and have said that to you repeatedly ...”

Note that Politico’s reporting — Kennedy said he agreed with Wray’s statement that the majority of FBI employees have “tremendous integrity and objectivity” —was either sloppy or dishonest, because if you watch the video, Kennedy, in his slow Southern drawl is still responding to “patriots working their tails off,” not to “with tremendous integrity and objectivity.”  Even so, care always seems to be taken not to criticize the rank-and-file special agent.

Is such care warranted?

If you follow any FBI partisan bias story carefully, there are always rank-and-file special agents carrying out orders.  For example, recall special agent Joe Pientka, who accompanied Peter Strzok when interviewing (and allegedly entrapping) Michael Flynn and the 302 he may have written up exonerating Flynn, and case agent Stephen Somma, Stefan Halper’s handler.

When the FBI excessively sent 25 uniformed agents armed with guns and shields to surround the house of pro-life activist Mark Houck and his family (after the Philadelphia Police Dept. did not file charges against him, the Philadelphia D.A. declined to prosecute him, and he had offered to turn himself in), did you expect a special agent tasked to be part of this operation to refuse to participate and get fired over it?  (Note: Houck was eventually acquitted of all charges.)

Same question with the pre-dawn amphibious assault on 66-year-old Roger Stone’s house, which aside from the frogmen included 17 vehicles, two of them armored and on his front yard, and CNN cameramen who just happened to be strolling around his residence in the darkness.

Same question with the raid on Donald Trump’s Mar-a-Lago residence.

Consider too that FBI special agents are entitled to a far more generous pension than other federal employees:

Special agents receive retirement benefits through the FERS [Federal Employee Retirement System]. Their pension is based on the number of years of service as a special agent and their three years of highest income. Special agents receive 1.7 percent of this average multiplied by 20 for the first 20 years of service. Added to this is 1 percent of the high-three average salary multiplied by the number of years over 20 the special agent served.

In contrast, other federal employees generally get 1 percent per year of service, bumping up to 1.1 percent with age ≥ 62 and years of service ≥ 20.   I won’t weigh in on the merits of the higher FBI pension (special agents do risk their lives, they have a mandatory retirement age of 57, etc.).  But if you are a special agent two thirds through your twenty years, would you risk throwing away not only your job and health insurance, but your pension benefits (and possibly a post-retirement freelance job), not to mention having your reputation smeared by partisan Democrats and the MSM?

Not speaking up — while harmful to our country and possibly resulting in unjustified imprisonment and even death — is not on the same level as the Nazi defense “I was just following orders to kill people.”  In fact, FBI officials often defend their actions as legal judgment calls.  I would like to believe that if I were a special agent in the know, I would’ve spoken up early on about the Trump-Russia collusion plot, but talk is cheap.

FBI special agents risk their lives doing important national security work; praise them for that if you like.  But it’s also true that they follow orders from their superiors, just like other federal employees.  They are not praiseworthy — and certainly don’t get credit for “tremendous integrity and objectivity” — carrying out orders on, and knowing and keeping quiet about, so many FBI actions or inactions biased against conservatives such as the Trump-Russia collusion plot; suppression of Hunter Biden’s laptop; targeting MAGA followers, attendees of the traditional Catholic Mass, and soccer moms protesting to the school board; and possible J6 incitement and entrapment.  Maybe this distinction can be raised the next time Wray testifies.

W.A. Eliot is a pseudonym.

Image: Tom Ahearn via Flickr, CC BY-NC 2.0 (cropped).

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