Top Ten Systemic Issues within the FBI
By Steve Friend
A nationwide poll conducted in March 2023 revealed that 64% of Americans agreed with the statement, “the FBI has become politically weaponized, starting from the top in Washington.” This result is undoubtedly rooted in the FBI’s evolution into an increasingly politicized law enforcement agency that is weaponized against groups of Americans who are disfavored by the ruling regime. The below list identifies the top ten systemic issues within the FBI that have incentivized it to work against the interests of the American people, instead of protecting them.
1) The FBI uses arbitrary performance metrics which create incentives for the weaponization of FBI resources. The FBI created the Integrated Program Management system approximately ten years ago to prioritize threats, allocate resources, and measure performance. The field offices and Senior Executive Service leaders are rated and receive bonus compensation based on the system’s predetermined metrics. The Integrated Program Management evaluation system is a year-long cycle which requires significant time investment from large swaths of FBI personnel and incentivizes the use of inappropriate investigatory processes or tools to achieve arbitrary statistical accomplishments. The Integrated Program Management’s performance metrics essentially mandate a minimum number of intelligence products authored during the fiscal year, new cases opened for each criminal or national security program, arrest quotas, surveillance operations, search warrant operations, polygraph examinations, National Security Letters, subpoena issuances, and subject interviews. Accordingly, quantity versus quality of casework or investigations is often emphasized.
2) The FBI’s National Security Branch is expanding its role into domestic criminal investigations. The National Security Branch began as an effort to combat foreign threats in the aftermath of 9/11 but subsequently transitioned to preventing “homegrown violent extremists.” More recently, the FBI departed from investigative rules for January 6th-related cases and created a false statistical narrative to support the argument that domestic terrorism is a rising, nationwide threat. This in turn provided a justification for the National Security Branch’s more active involvement in domestic criminal investigations. Additionally, President Biden’s remarks about “extreme MAGA Republicans” beginning in September 2022 characterized Republican voters and elected officials as antigovernment extremists provided further incentive for the National Security Branch to focus on domestic criminal investigations. It is therefore not surprising that the National Security Branch also listed “antigovernment” and “racially motivated extremism” as two of its top four threat priorities in its proposed budget for fiscal year 2023.
3) The FBI is weaponizing process crimes and reinterpreting laws to initiate pretextual prosecutions in order to persecute political enemies. Process crimes are offenses that interfere with investigative procedures such as false statements and obstruction of justice. These crimes can logically derive from legitimate investigations of serious criminal offenses. Nevertheless, the FBI has repeatedly initiated contact with certain individuals who work in politics and policy in the hopes that they lack candor with interviewing special agents. In these situations, the FBI pursued criminal charges for false statements to federal officials.
For example, in 2017, former FBI Director James Comey directed agents to meet and interview National Security Advisor General Mike Flynn. After, the FBI launched a full investigation of Flynn for making false statements. In a revelatory hand-written note regarding the Flynn investigation, former FBI Counterintelligence Director Bill Priestap penned, “What’s our goal? Truth/Admission or to get him to lie, so we can prosecute him or get him fired?”
4) The FBI’s intelligence analysis capability increasingly dictates operations, turning the FBI into an intelligence agency with a law enforcement capability. Many FBI intelligence analysts author intelligence products but do not provide any tactical intelligence to assist with ongoing FBI investigations and operations. In the field, intelligence analysts assign “Requests for Collection” leads to special agents. The leads are intended to garner information to assist the intelligence analyst with authoring a new intelligence product and often do not pertain to the agents’ investigative work, which in turn creates distractions and perverse incentives. A recent whistleblower disclosure concerning an FBI intelligence report about “Radical Traditional Catholics” relied on information from left-leaning political entities like the Southern Poverty Law Center, Salon.com, and The Atlantic. There were no counterbalancing sources and it would appear the report was a political grievance list used to create the predicate for a national security investigation. In this case, the author identified pro-life, pro-traditional marriage, and pro-border protection policy preferences as an ideological gateway to radicalization against the government.
5) The FBI is colluding with Big Tech to gather intelligence on Americans, censor political speech, and target citizens for malicious prosecution. The Twitter Files revealed the FBI’s willingness to coordinate with social media companies to influence elections and censor content that could damage the government’s preferred political candidates and messages. Meta CEO Mark Zuckerberg spoke publicly about the social media giant’s decision to restrict the 2020 New York Post story about Hunter Biden’s laptop. Zuckerberg cited FBI warnings about misinformation as the rationale for the censorship. Additional reporting in September 2022, highlighted the FBI’s “Operation Bronze Griffon” as an unconstitutional method for Meta to provide private user information and messages to the FBI without consent and contrary to existing legal processes such as search warrants and subpoenas.
Amazon Web Services (AWS) hosts federal government data and is uniquely positioned to influence the FBI’s investigative agenda. In February 2020, Amazon lobbied the FBI to charge a former employee, Carleton Nelson, with fraud. Although Amazon sustained no financial harm, its representatives met with FBI and DOJ personnel on dozens of occasions. During the meetings, Amazon encouraged the FBI and DOJ to charge Nelson with an obscure fraud crime while failing to disclose the details of Nelson’s Amazon employment contract as well as the fact that his felony conviction would permit Amazon to void a $100 million real estate contract. FBI and DOJ officials utilized civil asset forfeiture to seize the Nelson family’s assets for 21 months and pressure Nelson to plead guilty.
There is a clear, symbiotic relationship between former FBI executives, big tech, and social media. The alliances create a mechanism for the FBI to censor and investigate first amendment protected activity. Tech companies commenced an FBI executive hiring spree in 2016. Some who transitioned to work for these firms list their bona fides publicly. The highest profile executive hires are:
-John Turner: YouTube Director of Intelligence, Trust & Safety
-James Baker: Twitter Deputy General Counsel
-Douglas Turner: Twitter Senior Manager, Corporate and Executive Security Services
-Dawn Burton: Google Director/Chief of Staff Privacy & Safety;
Former Twitter Senior Director Trust & Safety
-Rachel Hespell: Google Executive Speechwriter and Communications Manager
-Eric Miller: AWS Senior Manager/Principal, Security
-Mark Jaroszewski: Twitter Director, Corporate Security/Risk
-Matthew Braverman: AWS Security Response Manager
-Jeffrey Van Nest: Meta In-House Counsel
-Cynthia Deitle: Meta Director, Associate General Counsel
-M.K. Palmore: Google Director Office of the CISO
-Kadia Koroma: Meta Corporate Communications Manager
-Rick Cavalieros: Meta Trust & Safety Manager
-Steve Pandelides: AWS Director of Security
-Karen Walsh: Twitter Director Corporate Resilience
-Brian Brooks: AWS Senior Practice Manager, National Security
6) The FBI often militarizes investigative processes, creating risk for both FBI personnel and those being investigated. The FBI has wide, subjective latitude for use of its SWAT teams. For example, field office executive management and supervisors are supposed to consult a decision matrix when considering deploying SWAT teams for search and arrest warrants. However, the criteria for using SWAT are incredibly broad and easily exploited. Presence of dogs, likelihood a subject possesses a firearm (regardless of 2nd Amendment rights), or a simple request for assistance from a local law enforcement agency are acceptable justifications to deploy SWAT.
Even when SWAT is not deployed, FBI search and arrest operations feature special agents and task force officers donning protective body armor and brandishing rifles. New agents must participate in arrest operations in order to satisfy probation requirements. As a result, many arrest operations feature swaths of inexperienced agents attempting to “check the box” and result in larger than necessary FBI forces for many arrest and search operations.
Overly aggressive SWAT and Non-SWAT tactics were displayed in arrests of January 6th subjects and pro-life protestors. In almost every instance, these American citizens were represented by attorneys and in communication with the FBI. Many pledged to cooperate and peacefully surrender in the event of criminal charges. Nonetheless, the FBI elected to use aggressive arrest techniques which placed the subjects and FBI personnel at greater risk in order to “send a message.”
7) The FBI’s dysfunctional promotion process fosters a revolving door of inexperienced, ambitious supervisors ascending the management ladder within the agency. Pursuing a managerial career path means a participant is expected to promote every 18-24 months. To facilitate upward mobility, supervisors demonstrate leadership ability by creating new programs and initiatives. Once approved by higher-ranking employees (also anxious to take credit for overseeing the new program), the promoting agent includes this new initiative on applications for future promotions. Managers announce their ambitions for a new program within the first 6-12 months upon taking a position but usually reach the end of their full 18-24 months tour before a program is functional. They leave their subordinates to handle any fallout.
Multitudes of FBI executives are decades removed from investigative work. Many oversee operational or support activities for which they have no baseline experience. This arrangement leads to catastrophic failures for which FBI executives are seldom held accountable. Current Executive Assistant Director Jennifer Moore investigated white collar crimes from 1998 to 2005. After, she supervised information security, internal investigations, administrative functions, and criminal matters. Despite having no experience in intelligence collection, Moore was elevated to Special Agent in Charge of Intelligence at Washington Field Office in 2019 and was in that role in the lead up to the events at the U.S. Capitol on January 6th, 2021- which was by any reasonable assessment a massive intelligence failure. She was subsequently promoted twice to Assistant Director of the Security Division and Executive Assistant Director of the Human Resources Division.
8) FBI confidential human source (CHS) protocols are broken, abusive, and weaponized. The FBI relies on informants to gather critical information for its investigations. However, confidential human source (CHS) use is an FBI performance metric tied to Senior Executive Service compensation. As such, agents are pressured to continually handle at least two active CHS regardless of their knowledge or ability to report on criminal activity. Quantity is prioritized above quality to meet arbitrary totals and ensure executives’ bonuses.
Recent, high-profile cases exposed FBI misuse of CHS during domestic terrorism investigations to entrap vulnerable citizens. CHS and undercover agents provided training, equipment, and transportation resources to members of a militia called the Wolverine Wolves in order to encourage them to conspire to kidnap Governor Gretchen Whitmer. When the group was poised to dissolve prior to committing any criminal activity, FBI agents encouraged their CHS to keep the group together. An objective analysis of the facts of the case clearly demonstrates than none of the Wolverine Watchmen were predisposed to engage in violence against Governor Whitmer without FBI encouragement and facilitation.
The seditious conspiracy prosecution of several Proud Boys may have demonstrated egregious use of an FBI informant to gain intelligence about defense strategy. Prosecutors notified the court about the CHS one day before her testimony as a defense witness. Jen Loh was an FBI informant from April 2021 to January 2023, which overlapped with trial preparation during which Loh communicated with the defendants and defense attorneys. This potential breach of attorney-client privilege demonstrates how CHS can be used to subvert Americans’ constitutional rights.
9) The FBI is attempting to purge employees who choose not to get vaccinated. President Biden’s issued an executive order mandating that federal employees receive a COVID-19 vaccine. Assistant Attorney General Lee J. Lofthus advised FBI personnel that failure to meet the November 22, 2021 vaccination deadline without securing a reasonable accommodation would result in disciplinary action, up to and including removal from service. Submissions for reasonable accommodation on religious grounds were invasive and unconstitutional. They required FBI employees to describe sincerely held religious objections, the duration of these beliefs, and how the COVID-19 vaccination substantially burdened religious exercise. Though submitters received automated emails promising a response, many requests for reasonable accommodation were ignored. Even after the preliminary nationwide injunction prohibiting implementation and enforcement of the executive order, unvaccinated employees faced security and disciplinary investigations under suspicious circumstances. In one instance, Deputy Assistant Director Brian Griffiths told internal investigators that an employee’s refusal to comply with the vaccine mandate was a “psychological condition concern” justifying suspension of security clearance. Consensus amongst unvaccinated FBI employees is that the FBI utilized the attestation process to establish a list of employees to target for adverse action.
10) The FBI skirts the Whistleblower Protection Act and weaponizes the security clearance revocation process. Despite FBI Director Wray’s false promises, the FBI searches for almost any rationale to suspend whistleblowers’ security clearances. Once suspended, the employee cannot work in FBI workspace. Though “employed,” the whistleblower is usually unpaid and must obtain FBI permission for any outside employment. Requests for outside employment are subject to a lengthy review process and frequently rejected. The FBI Security Division investigates and makes recommendations to a committee that has not convened in years about whistleblowers’ security clearances. This forces employees to resign from the FBI due to financial hardship. The FBI Inspection Division also initiates investigations against whistleblowers. The employees receive a gag order barring them from discussing matters with friends, family, media, and attorneys. OIG has advised this is an illegal practice.
The FBI is presently a weaponized arm of the political left. Without vital reform, America will witness the agency continue to target conservative Americans, and trample constitutional rights and judicial norms. Congress must use its power to end these abuses and fundamentally transform the FBI in way that ensures it prioritizes working the American people as opposed to against them.
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