Sunday, November 6, 2016

What's going on behind the scenes at the FBI?

Yochi Dreazen, writing for the Vox news website, Nov. 5, 2016, made a good effort at explaining what's going on behind the scenes at the FBI.   The bottom line is this:   it's a mess of factions, political interference, and questionable guidance coming down from the top.   Here's some of what Dreazen wrote:

“. . . .  'Comey has unleashed a lot of the bad behavior by people down the line by signaling that it’s okay to treat Hillary Clinton differently,' says Matthew Miller, a Democrat who formerly served as a spokesperson for the Justice Department. 'There certainly seem to be FBI agents who have taken a really hard partisan line and are just kind of blinded by their anger and hatred toward Hillary Clinton.'

"The recent series of FBI leaks are particularly worrisome because they raise the prospect of a state security agency equipped with the full resources and investigative might of the federal government working to interfere in the elections. The FBI is so powerful — it can, with court approval, issue subpoenas, tap phones, intercept emails and conduct round-the-clock surveillance — that even a small coterie of its agents can find ways of influencing the political process. . . .  

It’s impossible to know how many agents support Trump, and the anti-Clinton leaks are likely the result of only a tiny minority of the bureau. Still, the fact that a small fraction of the FBI’s workforce has felt free to take steps that could impact the election is profoundly alarming. Comey stumbled by personally entering the political fray. His bigger mistake may have come from signaling to other agents that they could do the same. . . . 

"The FBI chief’s decision has also spurred a sustained counterattack from the Clinton campaign, which has repeatedly pointed out that Comey took the step despite having earlier argued against publicly accusing Russia of hacking a variety of Democratic targets. He claimed this was to avoid influencing the race by bolstering Clinton’s contention that Moscow was trying to help Trump win the presidency. In a conference call with reporters Monday, Clinton campaign manager Robby Mook said Comey’s reluctance to name Russia was 'a blatant double standard.'

"Outside experts on the FBI say Comey has made a serious and perhaps irreparable mistake.  'His actions were unprecedented, unethical, shocking, and have apparently led to chaos within the bureau, an unprecedented number of leaks, and chaos in our election cycle,' said Douglas Charles, a history professor at Penn State.

"Charles, the author of a book about J. Edgar Hoover’s FBI, said Comey has a long history with the Clintons that may have left him with a 'personal grudge or underlying or subsumed political motive' to try to derail Hillary Clinton’s candidacy.

"He noted that Comey had helped probe the 1990s-era Whitewater real estate scandal, which focused heavily on Hillary Clinton’s financial dealings and willingness to fully cooperate with investigators, and oversaw the Marc Rich prosecution in the late 1980s. (Comey said he was “stunned” by Bill Clinton’s decision to pardon the financier.)

"The FBI chief’s defenders say that Comey felt he had no choice but to send the letter because he’d promised to keep lawmakers abreast of any new developments in the email server case, and the discovery of Clinton-related emails on the laptop of the estranged husband of Clinton confidante Huma Abedin certainly qualified.

"They also argue that Comey would have been accused of covering up for Clinton if he sat on the information until after the election. One unnamed “senior law enforcement official” told NBC News that Comey had sent the letter 'out of an abundance of caution.'

"Comey has had a long reputation for personal integrity and nonpartisanship, and we may never definitively know why he chose to publicly bash Clinton’s handling of her emails even though he said he’d found no evidence of criminal wrongdoing; decided to testify on Capitol Hill about the probe and give lawmakers access to the bureau’s investigative files; and opted to ignore the wishes of his bosses and release his new letter.

"But his actions appear to have triggered a cascade of other anti-Clinton leaks by agents who, rightly or wrongly, believe he gave them the green light."

That is far from the totality of Yochi Dreazen's lengthy article.   Nor is it the totality of the story of FBI interference in the election.   Dreazen did not touch on the Rudi Giuliani - FBI connection and the direct leaking to the Trump campaign.   It's clear from what Rudi told Fox News hosts that he personally knew well in advance, as did the Trump campaign, that Comey was going to write the letter informing congress about the Huma Abedin emails on husband Anthony Weiner's computer.    And Rudi gleefully bragged, "Of course I knew."  In fact, he said, "I thought it was going to be about three or four weeks ago."

At least he's savvy enough, as a former prosecutor himself, to know that he should not imply that FBI agents were talking directly to him.   So he explained that he has a lot of connections with former FBI agents, and they talk to him.   Well, of course, we can infer that these former agents still have friends who are active agents who talk to them.   So it's a clear once-removed conduit of leaks.   Current FBI agent to former agent to Rudi to Trump.

From other sources, the pro-Trump faction in the FBI -- some of them quite fanatical, it seems, one of them repeating the line that Hillary is the "anti-Christ" -- is largely in the New York district branch, which Giuliani has long been associated with.

It is true, as discussed here a couple of days ago, that James Comey did insist that the FBI not be listed, along with the NSA and Homeland Security, in announcing our certainty that the Russian government was behind the email hacks of several Democratic entities.   He stated, in early October, that it was too close to the election.  So the announcement was made by the NSA and Homeland Security, omitting any mention of the FBI.  But the end of October was not too close to put out innuendo -- not evidence or even direct knowledge, mind you -- about new Clinton emails.   Is that a double standard?

Even the great Boy Scout James Comey seems to make decisions that are influenced by his grudges and strong feelings on controversial topics.   Just as Antonin Scalia was, even though he would never entertain the idea.

Those who proclaim their purity are more likely to be blind to their impurities.


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