criminal investigation, David Petraeus, FBI, James Comey, Lee Oswald, Osama bin Laden, public relations, Robert Mueller, scandal, Watergate
James Comey supplanted Robert Mueller as FBI director last week. How would you like to take on leadership of an organization that’s become a national joke? Alright, national jokes make it into Jay Leno’s monologues, or Jon Stewart’s Daily Show. I’m not sure the FBI has actually achieved that level of distinction yet. Let’s merely call it a national disgrace.
Remember the third word in the Bureau’s title: investigation. The Bureau is supposed to find things out. If you can’t find the person, or people, who shot John F. Kennedy, what can you do? If you can’t find the people who planned the 9/11 attacks, why do you exist? Except for Booth’s murder in Ford theater, these two crimes in 1963 and 2001 are the most important crimes ever committed in American history. Yet we don’t know who committed them. If you can’t solve crimes like that, what are you good for?
You’ll say, of course we know who committed those crimes: Lee Oswald and Osama bin Laden. If you believe that, you either haven’t paid attention, you are willing to believe what the FBI tells you, or you just need to evaluate evidence more carefully. Certainly the FBI doesn’t evaluate evidence carefully.
The problem with the FBI is that it’s not a Bureau of Investigation. It’s a Bureau for the Protection of State Secrets. That makes it a Bureau for the Corruption of Truth.
More accurate still is to call it the Federal Bureau for the Protection of Some State Secrets. If the secrets are good scandal material, and they involve the CIA, the FBI wants to reveal those. That worked to our advantage when Mark Felt, or Deep Throat, talked to Woodward and Bernstein about Watergate burglars with shady pasts. That impulse didn’t work to David Petraeus’s advantage when the FBI started opening his personal email while he was Director of Central Intelligence. If you want someone to spy on the CIA for you, ask the FBI!
As you recall the FBI’s stunts, remember the list of ding-dong investigations this outfit has undertaken for propaganda purposes. With dismaying regularity, they nab some poor guy for doing something he never would have done without the FBI’s help. These news stories have a life cycle of about one day, perhaps two or three for Iranian plots to assassinate the Saudi ambassador. The plots are so laughable you almost can’t believe the FBI keeps doing that to its reputation.
Worse still, the FBI does not get much public relations value from these elaborate stings. It just looks foolish and even absurd. The stings have slacked off some now, so perhaps the FBI’s internal affairs people decided they should find a new strategy. Maybe they should arrest the president. I’m sure they could set up a sting that would ensnare the White House.
The most egregious malperformance on the FBI’s part comes out of the Whitey Bulger trial here in Boston. Bulger’s FBI handler, John Connolly, once said as he accepted a big payoff from the Winter Hill murderers, “I guess I’m part of the gang now.” Good for you: you’re a made man now. You really did good service to all those people Bulger killed with your help. I suppose if Connolly’s an example of what happens when the FBI really goes to work, we should be happy they mess around with their inane public relations activities.
We all wish you well, Mr. Comey. After a career where you probably distinguished yourself, you lead an agency where the Bureau’s disgrace becomes yours. With leaders like J. Edgar behind you, you have a reputation to maintain. Go for it.