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Like many Americans, I followed news of the release of the FBI Inspector General's (IG) report last week closely. It's no secret that I hate the FBI. It's no secret that they tried to entrap me into committing espionage by running an agent at me who offered me money in exchange for classified information. I refused, of course. They ended the operation because I kept reporting the contact back to the FBI. But it just shows you what kind of people they are. When I was at the CIA, we used to joke that entrapment was the only way the FBI could make a case. That ended up being true. And it's not funny.
But something more important came out of that IG report. The IG revealed that the FBI leaks like a sieve. And all the while, they're investigating "leakers" with an eye toward putting them in prison, even for the rest of their lives.
Here's just one example: On page 458, the IG wrote, "We have profound concerns about the volume and the extent of unauthorized media contacts by FBI personnel that we have uncovered during our review." Why would FBI agents talk to the media? To blow the whistle on waste, fraud, abuse, or illegality? Nope. The IG said they did it for meals, invitations to parties, tickets to sporting events, and golf outings. They also do it to make themselves feel important.
In 2011 I was working on the Senate Foreign Relations Committee staff. A prominent conservative journalist emailed me and invited me to lunch one day. I didn't respond. But he was persistent and emailed me two more times. My boss finally authorized it: "Go ahead and accept," he said. "I'm curious what he has to say."
I went to lunch with him a couple of days later. At the end of lunch, his voice dropped to a whisper. "You're under surveillance," he said. I nearly panicked. "By whom?" "The FBI," he told me. I couldn't imagine why the FBI would be interested in me. The reporter said, "They think you're the source for the John Adams Project." I had no idea what the John Adams Project was, and I told him so. He said, "Wow. That's not the response I was expecting."
He explained that the John Adams Project was a program at the ACLU to provide legal support for the Guantanamo detainees. I told him again that I didn't know what he was talking about and that his source was wrong. "My source is in the FBI," he responded. His source was leaking. As it turned out, the FBI's investigation of me was classified at the "top secret" level. The existence of Robert Mueller's "John Kiriakou Task Force" was equally highly classified. But an FBI agent had run to a reporter to tell him all about it.
There are several potential crimes in the IG report and in my own experience with the FBI. First, it's a violation of the Espionage Act for any FBI agent to give classified information to a reporter. The US Code defines "espionage" as "providing national defense information to any person not entitled to receive it." "National defense information" is not further defined. So it can mean whatever a prosecutor wants it to mean. That's how the FBI targeted Tom Drake, Bill Binney, Kirk Wiebe, Jeffrey Sterling, and me, among others. It was to clamp down on dissent with an iron fist and to frighten any would-be whistleblowers with the possibility of prison and financial ruin.
As it turns out, though, FBI agents were doing the same thing, at the same time, with impunity. And by the way, information in exchange for a tangible benefit like invitations or tickets is bribery. It's the very definition of corruption. All of these crimes are felonies.
I've said this before and I'll say it again. In a fight between Donald Trump and the FBI, we don't have to pick a side. We can have a situation where there's no good guy. I think this is one of those situations. Don't think that this is an endorsement of the Trump administration or the criminals who staff it. It certainly isn't. We're supposed to be a country governed by the rule of law, where everybody at least ought to be treated equally. Paul Manafort, Michael Cohen, Rick Gates, Mike Flynn, and the rest of them deserve what they're getting. But the FBI is corrupt. The entire system is corrupt. There's one version of the law for you and me and another version for the FBI. The Inspector General laid it all bare. Now let's see if anybody does anything about it. Don't hold your breath.
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