Thursday, Apr 11, 2024

FBI Whistleblower Testimony Highlights Abuse of Power

 

Bureau’s Credibility Undermined by Continuing Scandals

 

Last Thursday, three FBI whistleblowers delivered passionate testimony decrying the weaponization of the agency before the House Judiciary and House Select Subcommittees.

The three men were among a group of over two dozen FBI agents who chose to risk their careers to expose alleged abuse of law-enforcement power within the leadership ranks of the FBI, reported leading news outlets.

The alleged abuses include spying on everyday Americans without a legal process, classifying law-abiding parents as “domestic terrorists” for speaking out at school board meetings, and attempts to purge FBI ranks of conservative employees.

Coming on the heels of the Durham’s report excoriating the FBI for wrongdoing in the Trump-Russia probe, and earlier disclosures about the agency’s dereliction of duty in the Hunter Biden laptop scandal, the whistleblowers’ testimony has dealt the Bureau perhaps the most devastating blow of all recent exposes.

The hearing comes after Republicans published a 1,000 page report last November on “FBI and DOJ Politicization.”

The report included information on disclosures from 14 whistleblowers that revealed FBI leadership demonstrated a “political bias” against conservatives, manipulated domestic violent extremism statistics for “political purposes” and downplayed the investigation into Hunter Biden – among other alleged abuses of power.

Since then, many other former and current FBI employees have spoken out. One of the strongest accusations leveled at the FBI is that the agency has worked to force out conservative employees.

Select Committee Chairman Rep. Jim Jordan, R-OH, said the hearing was being conducted to shine a light on disclosures by “good, brave FBI agents who are willing to come forward and give us the truth.” Jordan says his committee spoke with over two dozen FBI whistleblowers in compiling its report.

GOP Sens. Chuck Grassley, R-Iowa, and Ron Johnson, R-Wis., testified as the select committee’s featured witnesses.

Special Agents Garret O’Boyle, Stephen Friend and Marcus Allen—all veteran FBI employees with exemplary records of service—spoke about their experiences in first going up the chain of command to discuss issues of deep concern to them.

When warnings, threats or punitive measures were launched against them for questioning controversial FBI policies, the agents reported their concerns to Congress under official whistleblower guidelines.

Building upon the whistleblowers’ disclosures, the House Select Committee released a report last week detailing their complaints, and the severe retaliation the men say they endured from senior FBI management.

“The FBI, under Director Christopher Wray and Attorney General Merrick Garland is broken,” asserted Rep. Jordan in the report released Thursday.

The FBI has pushed back on accusations that the agency is “politicized”.  Director Christopher Wray defended the Bureau at a congressional hearing last month, saying that the FBI has been “unfairly criticized” and that his agents are doing hard work on behalf of the American people.

Democrats slammed last week’s hearings and the Select Committee’s report as an effort by Republicans to “showcase conspiracy theories.”

Targeting Everyday Americans

“Over the last year, a multitude of whistleblowers have approached Judiciary Committee Republicans with allegations of political bias by the FBI’s senior leadership, and misuses of the agency’s federal law-enforcement powers,” the Committee report begins.

“As described by the whistleblowers, the leadership at the FBI and Justice Department have weaponized federal law enforcement against everyday Americans, seeking to silence those who dare to have a different viewpoint.”

“The whistleblower testimonies highlight that the FBI’s partisan leadership is currently engaging in a ‘purge’ of agents who hold conservative beliefs,” the report continues. “The FBI is clearing the Bureau of employees who dissent from its woke, leftist agenda.

As the radical left pushed its woke agenda on America’s children, parents across the country started speaking out at school board meetings against critical race theory, unscientific mask mandates, classroom instruction on subject matter inappropriate for children, and anti-America ideology.

“The Biden Administration could not abide this growing parental rights ‘revolution’ and created a pretext—articulated in an October 4 memorandum from Attorney General Garland—to use the federal law-enforcement apparatus to silence parents,” the Judiciary Committee report details.

The FBI was a willing participant in this “anti-parent endeavor,” the report continues. “A press release accompanying the Attorney General’s memorandum highlighted the FBI’s National Threat Operations Center for tips about parents at school board meetings”—essentially a “snitch line.”

The FBI then began to open investigations across the nation and established case files on dozens of parents with information that included their political views and the application of the “threat tag,” simply because they exercised their fundamental constitutional right to speak.

Artificially Inflating Statistics

Special Agent Steven Friend described how the FBI is artificially inflating statistics about domestic violent extremism across the country, fueling the Biden Administration’s narrative that extremism of this sort is the biggest threat to the nation.

A high volume threat of this nature would justify a wide array of emergency measures such as suspending First Amendments rights, and allowing the federal government to intrude into what would normally be the jurisdiction of local law enforcement entities.

According to whistleblower Friend, the FBI is abusing its counterterrorism authorities to investigate parents who spoke at school board meetings. Friend disclosed how, shortly after the National School Boards Association urged President Biden to use the Patriot Act against American parents, the FBI Counterterrorism Division set up a special “threat tag” to track school board-related cases.

According to whistleblowers, the FBI opened investigations into one mother for allegedly telling a local school board “We are coming for you.”  They opened a file against a father who railed against government mandates.

They have also described how FBI leadership is pressuring its agents to “reclassify” cases as domestic violent extremism even if the case in question does not meet the criteria, the report states.

Blowing up Jan 6. Investigations

The whistleblowers also explained how the FBI is misrepresenting the scale of domestic “extremism” nationwide by blowing up January 6th-related investigations out of all proportion, and making the case files appear to spring from FBI field offices across the country, as opposed to a single incident in Washington, DC.

“Instead of hundreds of investigations stemming from an isolated incident at the Capitol on January 6, 2021, FBI and DOJ officials point to significant increases in domestic violent extremism and terrorism around the United States.”

Specifically, the former agents accuse the FBI of inflating statistics on “domestic violent extremism” to fit the Biden administration’s political narrative that extremism is on the rise nationwide.

“The manipulative casefile practice creates false and misleading crime statistics, constituting false official federal statements,” Friend wrote in an affidavit.

In addition, the former officials told the committee that they were instructed to pursue Jan. 6 investigations over child abuse cases, because the latter is “no longer a priority.”

The report says whistleblowers have had their security clearances revoked, have been suspended without pay and some have been left “homeless” for speaking up.

In one example of alleged retaliation, the FBI suspended Special Agent Friend’s security clearance and suspended him without pay after he made protected disclosures about the bureau’s handling of Domestic Violent Extremism cases (DVE), and after he expressed concern about the bureau’s handling of cases related to the Jan. 6, 2021 Capitol riot.

Friend explained to the Committee that the FBI’s handling of Jan. 6-related investigations “deviated from standard practice and created a false impression with respect to the threat of DVE nationwide.”

In the case of Marcus Allen, the committees’ report said the FBI suspended his security clearance for simply performing duties of his job — conducting research using open-source news articles and videos and sending his search results to his task force colleagues.

Allen told the committees that he sent around links to opinion videos related to the Capitol riot for “situational awareness,” after being told by a higher-up that federal agents were in the crowd, disguised as Trump supporters

“Because these articles circulated by Allen questioned the FBI’s handling of the violence at the Capitol, the FBI suspended Allen for ‘conspiratorial views in regard to the events of January 6th,’” the report states, adding that the FBI did not give him approval to seek outside employment during his suspension.

Backlash and Retaliation

One section of the report details the retaliation the whistleblowers have allegedly faced at the
hands of the FBI.

Friend suffered retaliation after he expressed concerns about excessive and unnecessary force used in apprehending January 6 subjects, and for making protected disclosures to Congress.

Excerpts from Friend’s testimony before the Select Committee:

  1. Were you ever told or notified that the FBI SWAT team would be used during search and arrest warrants for January 6th subjects?
  2. Yes.
  3. Did that concern you?
  4. Yes.
  5. Why did the plans for the execution of these warrants concern you?
  6. Because the subject of the arrest warrant had been in communication with the FBI and had expressed a willingness to cooperate with the FBI. And, in my experience, the FBI tends to use the least amount of force necessary to bring individuals into custody safely. I felt that the use of SWAT was an unnecessary tool to use for that particular individual.
  7. Can you explain some of the less intrusive methods that might be used for a subject who is cooperating with the FBI?
  8. You can call the individual and ask them to surrender. You can issue a summons. You can contact their attorney, if they’re represented, and ask them to surrender. You can ask for local law enforcement to execute an arrest warrant. You can use surveillance resources to interdict an individual while they’re traveling…
  9. And, to your knowledge, none of these were used for the January 6th subjects that you were tasked with executing search and arrest warrants for?
  10. No.

Q: Did you raise these concerns to your direct supervisor?

  1. I did.
  2. What did you say?
  3. I raised my concerns about

the use of the SWAT team for
the arrest. I also said that I believed that we were infringing on individuals’ Sixth Amendment rights.

  1. Okay. And how did he respond to your concerns?
  2. He said that I had a good reputation and that my career could be in jeopardy if I begged out of participating in the upcoming arrest and searches.

Shortly thereafter, as Friend recounted, when he arrived at work on September 19, 2022, four officials from his office, including the chief security officer, met him and took his badge, firearms, and all FBI property.

“They said that—they issued me a letter from Human Resources Division, detailing the rationale for suspending my security clearance,” Friend testified. “Without a security clearance, I can’t work in an FBI space and I can’t fulfill my duties as a special agent, so I was suspended indefinitely.”

The retaliation did not end with Friend’s indefinite suspension. Despite informing Friend that he could seek outside employment, the FBI reportedwly refused to sign off on his requests to obtain it or to provide him with the documents necessary for other employment.

  1. Mr. Friend, do you know why they have not given you the records?
  2. No, I don’t.
  3. Do you think this is just another episode of retaliation, by not giving you your records?
  4. Yes.

Q: And if you had to put an estimate on it, how much has this ordeal cost you both in time and financially?

  1. …I don’t think you can put a price tag on the incredible stress and suffering it’s cost our family.

 

“It’s clear to me that the Justice Department and the FBI are suffering from a political infection that, if it’s not defeated, will cause the American people no longer to trust these storied institutions,” Sen. Grassley said during the hearing.

Rep. Matt Gaetz, R-Fla., echoed whistleblower claims that the Washington, D.C., field office is the source of much of the “rot” within the organization.

“A lot of the rot, the committee has learned, emerges out of headquarters, out of the Washington field office,” Gaetz said. “[A whistleblower] described the conflict that existed as the Washington field office put pressure on other field offices around the country to engage in law enforcement work without predication.”

Johnson and Grassley wrote to the FBI last fall, demanding the agency reinstate Special Agent Friend’s security clearance because he is protected under the Whistleblower Protection Act.

“Accordingly, the FBI should immediately cease the disciplinary actions it is actively taking to punish Special Agent Friend for his protected whistleblowing activity,” they wrote.

Suspended Without Pay After Moving His Young Family Across the Country

Like Stephen Friend, Garret O’Boyle was subject to FBI retaliation for making protected disclosures to Congress after expressing his concerns up his chain of command with no action being taken.

O’Boyle, too, had his security clearance suspended. In his interview, he testified that the FBI has “weaponized that clearance process.”

“I am disappointed and I am angry that I have to be here to testify about the weaponization of the FBI and DOJ. Weaponization against not only its own employees, but against those institutions and individuals that are supposed to protect Americans,” O’Boyle remarked in his opening statement before a bipartisan House committee.

Some excerpts from his testimony follow below.

  1. I just want to make sure that we have the facts straight on this. So you’re notified in June that you’re joining the new unit and you’re going to be transferred from Kansas to Virginia, correct?
  2. Correct.
  3. And in your opinion, do you believe this whole ordeal with recovering your personal goods and having to cover those costs, about $10,000 was that just another episode of retaliation?
  4. I believe it was. I think every step of the way it just—the whole process continues to get weaponized.
  5. And let’s talk a bit more about your transfer from Kansas to Virginia. You said that you accepted the position in June and then moved. Your first day was September 26th, I think

you said. Is that correct?

  1. Correct.
  2. So during that time, you sold your house in Kansas, correct?
  3. Correct.
  4. And then were your personal belongings

moved or shipped to Virginia at some point?

  1. They were. Right before we closed on our house in Kansas, we had a contract [through the government]. So they came to our house, they packed up our stuff, put it in a truck and brought it to Virginia, where it was put in [FBI] storage. And we were supposed to get that—those belongings delivered to the new house once we closed on it.
    Q. And so for over a month you weren’t able to access your personal goods. And can you describe what that includes?
    A. Everything. I mean our daughters all had, like, a backpack with a toy and some clothes. And then my wife and I, same, had just a backpack of clothes and stuff like that.
  2. So you’re now in Virginia, your Wichita house is sold, and your belongings are in Virginia, and then on the first day at your new job in Virginia, you’re suspended, correct?
  3. Correct.
  4. So then you have to wait over a month to retrieve your belongings because, as you’ve said, the FBI was giving you the runaround, correct?
  5. Correct.
  6. Did you have access to those belongings during that period of time?
  7. I did not.
  8. And did you ask the FBI for access to those belongings?
  9. We did.

[Ms. Moore, who signed O’Boyle’s notice that his security clearance was suspended, testified to the Committee that O’Boyle’s situation—being suspended on the very day he was to start his new FBI job—was a mere “coincidence.”]

  1. Mr. O’Boyle, the retaliation that you’ve testified to today seems to have an enhanced feature of cruelty to it.
  2. Yes, it does. You know, earlier, I alluded I went to Iraq and Afghanistan, a year each, as an infantryman. I received the Combat Infantryman Badge. So I’ve been shot at. I’ve had rockets shot at me. And it’s different, but what I’m going through right now is harder than those deployments. When I got home from Afghanistan, I knew I was getting out of the Army. I had just turned 25, and I was like, “I’m done. The hardest thing I will do in my life, I’ve done it, and now I can move on.” And then this happened. And it’s not war, but it’s very war-like, in what it has done to me mentally, what it’s doing to me and my family.

“The FBI has the power, quite literally, to ruin a person’s life—to invade their residence, to take their property, and even to deprive them of their liberty,” the Committee’s report notes.

“The potential abuse of this power, or even the appearance of abuse, erodes the fundamental principle of equality under the law and confidence in the rule of law.”

The FBI’s tremendous power is precisely why the people’s elected representatives in Congress must conduct vigorous oversight, particularly in light of allegations of abuse and misconduct made to date, the report emphasizes.

“This issue transcends partisan politics, and the information contained in this report should concern all policymakers.”

 

*****

Bank of America Turned Over Confidential Records Without Legal Process

Rep. Thomas Massie, R-KY, questioned the suspended FBI whistleblowers about allegations of collusion involving Bank of America and their agency.

He also questioned the witness panel over alleged bombshell reports that federal agents spied on local school board meetings, citing an October 2021 memo Merrick Garland sent to various law enforcement agencies.

Retired FBI Intelligence Analyst George Hill’s testimony is recorded on page 30 of the newly released House report. Hill’s published statements allege Bank of America provided the FBI’s Washington Field Office a list of customers that made debit or credit card transactions between January 5 and January 7, 2021.

“The Bank of America, with no directive from the FBI, data-mined its customer base,” retired FBI Supervisory Intelligence Analyst George Hill told the House committee.

The report concluded the FBI not only invaded Americans’ privacy, but they worked with a private banking institution to obtain otherwise confidential records without correct legal process.

The House publication continues that Hill’s revelation was corroborated by Special Agent-in-Charge Joseph Bonavolanta, who testified separately about his concerns over this same matter.

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