Have you ever worked with an individual who is always part of the problem, but never part of the solution? You know the type – the new guy who’s always convinced he has the answer to every organizational problem, even those about which he knows nothing.
This is the loudmouth who’s convinced he’s under-tasked and under-appreciated by management, who – if they were only wise enough to recognize his obvious talent and prowess – would, forthwith, harness his genius and raise him to a station befitting the magnitude of his hubris. A person who demonstrates an aptitude for sowing discord, ceaselessly propagandizing colleagues with an avalanche of enumerated, self-inflicted grievances drawn relentlessly by the gravity of perceived affronts to their neglected and overlooked talent.
Throughout my 20 year career as an FBI agent, I can gladly say I knew few whose arrogance was only surmounted by the spectacle of their self-aggrandizing tales — so fantastic they would have made a 19th century snake oil salesman blush.
Recently, some voices at the heart of the current FBI whistleblower phenomenon have been elevated to the national stage. Unfortunately, to those who know, they reflect poorly on themselves, and will, eventually, blight their benefactors and supporters. There seems to be a paucity in thorough vetting that may soon prove to be embarrassing. Podcasters, journalists, and commentators would do well to pause and complete due diligence before rushing to the front of the line with a hot, new story.
When it comes to FBI whistleblowers, as is true of any source, they are definitely not all created equal.
In the courtroom, a witnesses’ character may be impeached. Meaning, facts may be submitted which cast doubt on a witness's credibility. This point of criminal procedure arises from the understanding that a person’s character is important when evaluating the quality of their testimony. Exaggerations, fabrications, or taking poetic license with a narrative do not lend credibility to a witness or ‘whistleblower.”
Character counts. Or in other words: the messenger is every bit as important as the message.
And when the message is critically important, of national consequence, only seasoned, temperate, and sober emissaries can be relied upon to be harbingers of truth.
Unfortunately, recent commentary about the many problems with FBI culture and practice have been handled by sources of less than sterling character. The tragedy inherent in this state of affairs is that the real issues: the urgent truths about January 6th, the Crossfire Hurricane investigation, the FBI’s response to the violence perpetrated by Antifa and BLM during the summer of 2020, and the FBI’s involvement in investigating parents who attended school board meetings (among other issues), will be lost in a fog of ancillary controversy.
Whistleblowers serve a vital function. They are people, with great courage, who often inhabit our national bureaucracies and compose a Maginot line of sorts —a last defense against nascent totalitarianism. They are people motivated by noble sentiment and usually hold in high esteem the institutions for which they, with sadness, must oppose. They embody dignity, gravity, and veracity. They are not hatchet men who gleefully denigrate with abandon.
The last few days have given rise to strident voices that have slandered the honor of FBI “brick agents” — street agents who compose the backbone of FBI operations — who dutifully discharge their oaths without the accolades generated by primetime spotlights. They are the men and women who do the quiet work of covert surveillance. I did this work for more years than the short tenure of some celebrated whistleblowers, and I can personally attest to the dedication of my colleagues who were required to work long hours, sometimes for weeks on end. It is dangerous work. And, a number of FBI personnel have lost their lives while engaged in surveillance operations due to proximity to criminal subjects or due to the working environment.
Moreover, as a result of some of this recent commentary, surveillance methods and procedures have been divulged, potentially jeopardizing the safety of fellow FBI agents. Though likely unintentional, these comments also provide a certain degree of leverage to our adversaries. I’m hopeful that those involved will be held to account.
Additionally, blanket statements made by a former FBI agent, separated from service while still on probation, have been broadcast to a national audience, discounting the dangerous nature of the work FBI agents do as a matter of routine. This commentary is being generated by individuals who steeped themselves in grievance, and sulked because they despised the seniority structure successfully navigated by their betters. Simply, they never earned the right to engage in highly complex and dangerous tactical operations. This calumny is an odious betrayal of the deepest order and is deserving of complete repudiation.
The general aspersions about the dangers faced by FBI agents are revelatory only of the commenter’s inexperience and naïveté — that opinion is based on my six years of experience as a local law enforcement officer as well as three years as a Miami SWAT operator, and three and a half years as a member of the Attorney General’s Protection Detail. In total, more than 25 years in law enforcement.
Download the movie Donnie Brasco and remember that FBI agents continue to risk their lives penetrating criminal organizations across the globe. Or, call to mind the harrowing mission to rescue a kidnapped boy held in an underground bunker. The story can be found here. Members of the FBI’s Hostage Rescue Team braved heavy gunfire to execute a successful rescue operation. There are literally thousands of other examples where FBI agents risk life and limb for their countrymen both here and abroad.
I am incensed and disgusted by any implication that the work of FBI agents is somehow trivial. The work of the FBI could only be regarded as trivial by people of suspect character. Furthermore, to popularize that opinion is, at best, reckless and at worst, malevolent. When I first embarked on my career as an FBI agent, my training agent — an old school G-man — told me, “if you’re bored as an FBI agent, that’s your fault.”
Any FBI agent who claims to be bored, regardless of the violation to which they have been assigned, is only commenting on his or her lack of character, imagination, and motivation. Being an FBI agent isn’t about the individual and their personal objectives, it’s about serving the needs of the FBI as they align with constitutional principles and in opposition to the threats posed to our national security.
The FBI deserves harsh criticism for its recent foray into the political sphere, or at least for playing patsy to a political party. However, anyone who characterizes the FBI as an American Stasi, yet remains within its employ is pursuing an agenda. I have been critical of FBI policy in recent months and especially of its unprecedented, unconstitutional raid of Mar-a-Lago, but the brick agents of the FBI do not deserve to have their professional reputations tarnished by a greenhorn upstart.
Finally, agents that decide to not go down the whistleblower path are serving the interests of justice as much or, in some instances, more than the conscientious objector. There is no easy answer, this is a profoundly idiosyncratic question.
Those who choose to stay exercise an influence within their sphere of leadership — outcomes are influenced from within. I know this from personal experience. Those who choose a different path relinquish the ability to create just outcomes, usually without creating any real change, except as it relates to their own status.
Journalists, commentators, and podcasters beware. Vet your sources carefully. I know whereof I speak.