A wave of “relentless” criticisms and allegations of political bias are prompting at least one FBI agent to leave the intelligence agency.
The release of the congressional memo on Friday caps an ongoing public relations fiasco for the FBI that runs so deep it threatens national security and the agency’s ability to effectively function, former special agent Josh Campell wrote in an op-ed piece for The New York Times.
In the congressional memo, the FBI and the Justice Department are accused of employing abusive surveillance tactics in their investigation of a former Trump campaign adviser’s ties to Russia. Staffers for House Intelligence Committee Chairman Devin Nunes (R-Calif.), compiled the memo, which Nunes said reveals "violations of the public trust."
“The Committee has discovered serious violations of the public trust, and the American people have a right to know when officials in crucial institutions are abusing their authority for political purposes," Nunes said in a statement Friday. "Our intelligence and law enforcement agencies exist to defend the American people, not to be exploited to target one group on behalf of another."
What are the key issues?
In part, the memo accuses the FBI of using an unverified, allegedly biased document, the Steele dossier, to obtain a warrant to spy on Carter Page, the former Trump campaign adviser. The dossier, prepared by British spy Christopher Steele, weaves together an alleged conspiracy between President Donald Trump and the Russian government. Additionally, the memo indicates the document was partially financed by the Clinton campaign and the Democratic National Committee, which was not disclosed when the FBI and Justice department requested a surveillance warrant from the FISA court, according to published reports.
Campbell also points to damage caused by anti-Trump text messages written by FBI agents. He said the texts showed poor judgment, but they do not reflect on the entire agency. Instead, the messages were played politically to say the FBI is biased and corrupt, Campbell stated.
"Political operatives are weaponizing their disagreement with a particular investigation in a bid to undermine the credibility of the entire institution," he wrote. "'The system is rigged' is their slogan, and they are now politicizing the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act process used to collect critical intelligence about our adversaries.
Does he support the FBI?
Campbell defends the FBI in his op-ed, while also admitting the agency is comprised of humans who "make mistakes."
All of it goes beyond embarrassment or bad feelings.
The agency must maintain credibility with the American public and foreign informants to effectively perform, Campbell said.
When the F.B.I. knocks on someone’s door or appeals to the public for assistance in solving crime, the willingness of people to help is directly correlated to their opinion of the agency. When an agent working to stop a terrorist plot attempts to recruit an informant, the agent’s success in gathering critical intelligence depends on the informant’s belief that the agent is credible and trustworthy. And, as the former director, James Comey, would frequently say in underscoring the importance of high standards, whether a jury believes an agent’s testimony depends on whether it has faith in the bureau’s honesty and independence. To be effective, the F.B.I. must be believed and must maintain the support of the public it serves.
Campbell also explained the ultimate reason he is resigning from the FBI.
"Why?" Campbell stated. "So I can join the growing chorus of people who believe that the relentless attacks on the bureau undermine not just America’s premier law enforcement agency but also the nation’s security. My resignation is painful, but the alternative of remaining quiet while the bureau is tarnished for political gain is impossible."