CREDIT: Tweet from Jim Mancino
This story is actually being urged upon me, and I find myself a bit conflicted. At first, I tried to find a reason to sympathize with whatever predicament the FBI Agents found themselves that caused them to kneel down. There is conflicting reporting about whether the Agents kneeled in order to minimize the potential for confrontation with a much larger group of protesters who were calling for them to do so, or whether the Agents were, in fact, demonstrating sympathy for the views being expressed by the protesters. That was a story put out that was sourced to anonymous FBI officials. But the more I look at what happened, and the more agents I talk to, the more obvious it seems that someone in FBI management is trying to rescue these agents from the internal and external consequences of their horrendous judgment.
After I watched the video which is embedded here, I struggled to see any coercion or compulsion for their actions.
I noted that several not only kneeled down, they applauded the protesters. Agents I know, who are aware of my platform here, have been directing messages my way asking me to denounce on their behalf what those Agents did. They are absolutely outraged by what they have seen.
— Kneeling before the “mob” – whether protesting peacefully or not — was unthinkable.
— Respect them with silence and stoicism, but never endorse lawbreaking by doing anything that suggests approval for what those groups have advocated the past 2 weeks.
— They owed an obligation to the LAW ENFORCEMENT agency that employs them.
— They swore an oath to uphold the law and defend the Constitution.
— One tenant of that is that an accused is presumed innocent until proven guilty beyond a reasonable doubt in a court of law by a jury of 12 persons.
— The four former Minneapolis Police Department officers are presumed innocent until proven guilty in a trial where they are afforded all the rights given to anyone accused of a crime.
— Those officers are being prosecuted by the State of Minnesota.
— But they are also being investigated by federal authorities, and the FBI is at the forefront of that investigation.
This handful of FBI Special Agents, by kneeling down and applauding groups like Antifa and Black Lives Matter can now be said to have endorsed the political views of those organizations and prejudged the case against those officers.
The hard fact is that their motivation for kneeling down doesn’t matter. No matter how well-intentioned they might have been, they have done damage to themselves within the Bureau and to the image of the Bureau with millions of Americans who were already mulling over reasons to question their confidence in the FBI.
The FBI exonerated Hillary Clinton of criminal activity on the basis that “no reasonable prosecutor would actually pursue criminal charges under the circumstances” where there is little doubt that her actions violated federal laws.
The FBI pursued Donald Trump and his campaign for years over facially dubious allegations of coordination with Russian government actors and continued that pursuit long after it knew the allegations were baseless. In doing so, it falsified evidence and withheld crucial information that would have brought the entire fiasco to a halt years earlier.
The FBI Agents who knelt took sides in a political dispute that currently divides the country over enforcing the law and protecting the rights of others.
Each of those episodes can be attributed to only a relative “handful” of people among an FBI workforce of 15,000 Special Agents.
But the combined effect of the three is to tell roughly half the country – or more – that the FBI is a “political opponent.” Political opponents of Hillary Clinton and political supporters of President Trump believe the FBI put its thumb on the scale of justice in each of those investigations to the detriment of their world view.
Tens of millions of Americans who looked on via their television screens in horror over the past 10 days as cities were looted and burned, see FBI Agents sworn to uphold the law kneeling down and applauding two organizations that those tens of millions of Americans see as largely responsible for the mayhem and destruction.
Local law enforcement agencies who have been besieged in their cities by agitators, rioters, and looters look at this video and see the supposedly premier law enforcement agency in the world smiling, applauding, and ultimately kneeling down before two groups now calling for “defunding” local police agencies, and who are widely viewed as having led the campaign of violence since the death of George Floyd.
The FBI has a workforce that is no different than the United States population as a whole. Over the expanse of approximately 15,000 Special Agents, you will find the entire spectrum of political views represented. As a whole, the workforce probably tilts more conservative than liberal, but there are certainly distinct demographic groups within the Special Agent force whose politics resemble the politics of like demographics in the population at large. So from that viewpoint, it is not surprising to find Special Agents who express sympathy with the views of the protesters, just as there are millions of Americans across the country who express sympathy with the views of the protesters.
But those millions of Americans are not sworn FBI Agents. The dozen or so caught on camera applauding and kneeling in their ballistic vests with “FBI” emblazoned across the front are sworn FBI Agents.
The FBI – notwithstanding the fact that it is charged with investigating criminal cases involving the violation of civil rights by police officers – is not a “social justice” organization. It is a law enforcement organization. Its mission is to bring lawbreakers into the court system, not to express support for the political views – whether the protesters in question were acting lawfully and peacefully or not. That is EXPECTED, and meeting those expectations doesn’t warrant applause or kneeling. So the only plausible explanation for having done so is that the Special Agents were applauding for and kneeling down to the message being delivered by Antifa and BLM.
The job of those FBI Agents was to stand-by in order to enforce the law if necessary. Beyond that, they had no role to play. By applauding and kneeling down they abandoned their role as neutral law enforcer.
For those of us with the perspective of time, the sad reality is that today’s FBI is not what the Bureau was in the not-too-distant-past. When the Bureau was first formed, and even after Agents began carrying firearms, it was an agency that employed a tremendous number of professionals like lawyers and accountants as Special Agents. I’m told by some who remember the Bureau of the ’50s and ’60s that the Agents pretty much looked and acted like lawyers and accountants.
But when I first came to be personally acquainted with the Bureau in the 1990s, its ranks had grown in that decade in response to two significant factors – the increased federalization of law enforcement by expansion of the federal criminal code, and the significant increase in the number of federal law enforcement agent positions to enforce those new laws.
Throughout the 1990s, as Bill Clinton hollowed out the military following the first Gulf War, a significant number of officers departing from active duty found a second federal career in the ranks of the FBI Special Agent force. These former officers had college degrees and organizational training in the military that made them task-oriented. They took and gave orders with equal ease. My experience in talking with older agents was that the ex-military types — largely male — fit right into the Bureau’s culture because they respected the older agents’ experience, they were comfortable in a chain of command structure, and they were willing learners.
Physical fitness and physical agility were favored attributes of FBI Agents at that time. Physical training — both with and without firearms — was part of the daily work schedule. Agents worked 10 hour days on the basis that two hours each day would be spent on physical fitness. Peer pressure was a primary motivating factor for remaining in top physical condition. Most major Field Offices had work-out equipment, weights, and locker rooms with showers for agent use during the day or after-hours. Smaller offices that lacked such facilities arranged for private gym memberships for agents. Fitness was a job requirement, and maintaining fitness was part of the workday.
The FBI’s Special Agent force was mainly composed of “Alpha” personalities – male and female. When I walked through the offices of the FBI in the 1990s, you noticed the Special Agents, and they stood apart physically and by their bearing from the intel analysts and support staff. You respected them because the way they behaved earned your respect.
Today’s FBI? Not so much. In many ways, far far from it.
Robert Mueller stated very publicly after 9/11 that the FBI was shifting its primary mission from “crime-solving” to “crime prevention.” The criticism received by the FBI for not having detected the presence of the 9/11 hijackers inside the United States for a period of weeks/months prior to the attacks on 9/11 drove Mueller to remake the FBI into an “intelligence-driven” agency. Data collection and analysis to prevent another 9/11 over-rode the history and ethos of the Bureau’s crime-fighting culture.
Recruiting changed. Multi-lingual applicants with multi-cultural experiences and backgrounds became the preferred archetype. “Diversity” in the Special Agent workforce meant modifications to recruiting standards. Physical fitness and physical agility were no longer seen as necessary attributes where the primary job functions no longer involved confronting the “criminal class” during or after criminal activity. Many FBI Offices abandoned much of their “violent crime” work to local and state agencies. The changes in FBI priorities meant changes to the FBI workforce. More analysts were recruited, and some significant portion — based on my own discussions – of the Special Agent force began to wonder “Who works for who” when it came to the roles played by Special Agents and Analysts vis-à-vis each other.
I last walked through an FBI office about 2 years ago in connection with an interview of a client who was a “whistleblower” on public corruption matters. I had met individual agents many times over the years since I left DOJ, but this was my first time back in their workspace.
It’s like a completely different world than what I first encountered and experienced between 1992 to 2002. Few, if any, Special Agents seem to have that bearing and demeanor that you can often read as ex-military. There are few “physical specimens” among the male or female agents. In meetings, this newer generation of Agents can’t “command the room” because they don’t have the personality and they don’t know how. There is simply nothing about most of the Agents I meet today that demands my respect. They are note-takers and paper shufflers for the most part. They are mostly “Betas” — male and female alike.
One particular Agent I’ve known for a long time — was in my wedding — retired not too long ago after nearly 28 years with the FBI. When the end came, I was told that the calculation was simple — the job was still good, but that Bureau wasn’t the same. Every day brought another series of opportunities for something to go wrong, with a career and retirement potentially put in jeopardy. The metric for success has disappeared in the “intelligence-driven” Bureau, but second-guessing by ineffective supervisors of Agent decisions has risen to intolerable levels. The response to seeing the video was predictable based on my years knowing this agent:
“I’d never work with anyone in that video. How could I ever trust them? How would I be sure that if we were ever in a position that I needed them to “have my back” that they would stand up or kneel down?”
Maybe they won’t get that reception back at the Washington Field Office where they are apparently based. But I would wager there are a large number of Agents in that office who feel this same way.
Go back and watch the video again. Look closely just at the physical appearance and demeanor — not to mention the physique — of the Agents you see.
Who does that group intimidate? No one.
What about that group screams out the “premier law enforcement agency in the world”? Nothing.
It didn’t used to be that way.
I’m saddened by the reality of what the Bureau has been made to be.