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November 15, 2023

Whistleblowers: FBI Targets Pro-Trump Agents

The bureau continues to retaliate against the reformers in its midst — especially those who hold the wrong political views.

When J. Edgar Hoover’s FBI was snooping on Martin Luther King Jr. back in the 1960s, they at least suspected him of being a communist and a sexual libertine, and perhaps even to have been an enthusiastic witness to a sexual assault.

It’s a sign of just how far the bureau has fallen, then, that these days it targets its own agents, especially those who they suspect aren’t communists at all but instead are merely supporters of the former and perhaps future president, Donald Trump. As The Washington Times reports:

More whistleblowers have stepped forward to tell Congress that high-ranking FBI officials are targeting agents, specifically former military members, for their political beliefs and trying to force them out of the bureau. A Marine and other military veterans at the FBI have been accused of disloyalty to the U.S. because they fit the profile of a supporter of former President Donald Trump, according to two disclosures sent to lawmakers on the House Judiciary Committee.

The whistleblowers said Jeffrey Veltri, deputy assistant director of the bureau’s security division, and Dena Perkins, assistant section chief, specifically pursued employees who served in the Marine Corps or other military branches. They stripped the agents of security clearances, which sidelined them on the job and pushed them toward the exit, according to the disclosures.

“Whistleblowers play an essential part in identifying and rooting out waste, fraud, abuse, mismanagement, and corruption within government agencies,” said House Judiciary Chairman Jim Jordan in response. “All Americans owe them a debt of gratitude for their service and sacrifices. Our committee strongly supports their efforts to shine a light on abuses of power, and we will not tolerate retaliatory conduct against any whistleblower.”

Let’s hope so.

What does the FBI have to say for itself? Initially, not much of anything. And then it responded with a statement of righteous indignation:

It is wholly irresponsible of The Washington Times … to include outrageous and demonstrably false allegations that the FBI singled out former military employees. It is offensive that The Washington Times chose to publish, on Veteran’s [sic] Day, such baseless, unsubstantiated claims and include the names of FBI employees, one of which is a veteran. The FBI has not and will not retaliate against individuals who make protected whistleblower disclosures. We do not target or take adverse action against employees for exercising their First Amendment rights or for their political views. The FBI is proud to have many veterans in our workforce and we thank all veterans for their service.

Well. Normally, we might be sympathetic toward the bureau, especially given that the rot within it is understood to be on or near the J. Edgar Hoover Building’s 7th floor, where its leadership resides. And we might suspect that what we have here is a one-off, a disgruntled employee. But not this time. The FBI no longer deserves the benefit of the doubt because this sort of crackdown isn’t new. It’s part of a pattern. Some might say it’s even par for the course.

Indeed, we wrote about the FBI’s efforts to purge the conservatives from its ranks back in October of last year, especially its whistleblowers. Our Mark Alexander wrote at the time that one of these whistleblowers — Special Agent Steve Friend, an FBI SWAT member and an eight-year veteran agent — was one of the more than 20 agents who’d come forward to Congress with formal complaints about the bureau’s rot. In August 2022, Friend — who didn’t even vote for Donald Trump in the 2020 election — was tasked with a SWAT raid against a January 6 riot suspect, but he refused because of what he believed to be the “overzealous” politicization of the J6 investigations leading to an ever-wider target list. “I have an oath to uphold the Constitution,” he told his superior. “I have a moral objection and want to be considered a conscientious objector.” For that, he was suspended, his credentials were seized, his security clearance was revoked, and he was escorted out of his Daytona Beach office building.

You’d think congressional Republicans would be incensed by this sort of retaliatory behavior, but you’d be wrong — or at least partly wrong. Instead of punishing the bureau with the power of the purse, the GOP is rewarding it. As one of those intrepid FBI whistleblowers, the aforementioned Friend, recently posted on X: “Last year, I brought protected whistleblower disclosures about FBI weaponization to House GOP. They used it to go on TV and get elected. I lost my career and am under FBI investigation. Today the House GOP voted to give the FBI a $300 million HQ. Soulless demons. Go to hell.”

It’s hard to blame Friend for being furious. And who could blame future whistleblowers if instead of coming forward they decide to keep mum, decide that it’d be best to keep quiet about the bureau’s corruption rather than risk the career-wrecking retaliation?

What Jim Jordan said last year in the wake of the initial purge holds true today: “The law is clear. You don’t retaliate against whistleblowers.”

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