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How Should Congress Stop The FBI From Taking Sides?

by David Teitelbaum (Principles: It all begins with Respect. ) - 1 year ago

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A politicized FBI is a threat to our cherished freedoms. It’s happened before. It can happen again. Congress must play a constructive role in making sure the FBI is non-partisan.

Whether you agree with Nancy Pelosi that the MEMO created by Congressman Devin Nunes “endangers our security” or you are satisfied that it “totally vindicates” Donald Trump, the importance of the MEMO should not be minimized. Seen within the context of the rump / Russia affair, it may ultimately amount to nothing. But the larger issue address by the MEMO is grounded in the fear that has shaped America since its inception – namely, the fear that institutions created for the purpose of benefitting all citizens, would become corrupted and used to benefit one side against the other.

One need only look to the many authoritarian or totalitarian government anywhere in the world to find justification for this fear. Those countrys use their version of the FBI to  prosecute opponents of the government while turning a blind eye to the criminal activities of those who support the government. With few exceptions in the course of human history, this is the role that institutions like the FBI have played. They serve the interests of the government while repressing any dissent from the people.

Nor should we in the U.S. have any reason for feeling complacent. J Edgar Hoover, who led the FBI from 1935 until his death in 1972, was considered during his lifetime to be a hero by most Americans. Hoover, who was an expert at public relations, is credited with transforming a small agency into the powerful effective modern crime fighting machine that America needs to remain safe.

However, in the years following his death, stories of his abuse of power surfaced and many have been confirmed. Particularly relevant is Hoover’s lifelong campaign against “subversives” and “radicals” – terms that were defined by Mr. Hoover’s own personal political views.  Hoover investigated and wiretapped civil rights leaders, most famously Martin Luther King, not because they were suspected of being criminals but in order to intimidate them and gain compromising information.

During Hoover’s reign, he was allowed to operate with very little interference from Congress or from the 6 Presidents under whom he served. It is not out of the question, though not confirmed, that one reason for this lack of oversight is that Hoover had collected compromising information on the politicians themselves. Now fast-forward to today and the hyper-partisan atmosphere that exists in Washington DC and just imagine putting modern surveillance tools into the hands of a politicized unfettered FBI. Preventing this is a worthy objective and had Nunes approached this in the right way, we would deserve praise. 

But his approach was not only wrong, it was self-defeating   Congressman Nunes’  claims that the FBI has been politicized were fatally undermined by his own actions in politicizing the work of the House Intelligence Committee.  Rather than working with Democrats to investigate potential abuses, he operated unilaterally and secretly. By doing so, Nunes turned the House Intelligence Committee into just another fully politicized organization that has lost all credibility in its mission to keep the FBI neutral.  

There was a better way. The reality is that Democrats are every bit as concerned as Republicans about the potential for FBI abuse. One need look no further than their continuing belief that the October 2016 James Comey memo resulted in Donald Trump defeating Hillary Clinton. If there truly were abuse, Nunes would have found a willing partner in the Democrats on his Committee to investigate and expose that abuse.

Instead, Nunes actions have made it more, rather than less, likely that the FBI will indeed become the abusive organization that he claims to fear. If Congress is to play a constructive role in prevent the FBI from becoming politicized, it must go back to the drawing board and figure out a way to create and maintain a non-politicized watchdog.

Comments and Responses (1)

General Comments
By  Facebook Commenter - 1 year ago
The FBI has often been criticized for violating the fourth and perhaps fifth amendment rights against search and seizure and self incrimination. This is a deep and legitimate concern which Núñez and the GOP have manipulated with the release of this memo. The memo is substantively erroroneous erroneous in nearly every assertion it makes. I heard a Republican committee chairman state that he gave ten years of his life to American intelligence. I have to ask, given his support of this misleading memo, why the esteemed gentleman from Texas has given up on supporting his country and its intelligence services.
Discussion Leader's Response : This comment is relevant to the discussion. (Commenter's rating is increased.)
Discussion Leader's Explanation : Thank you for the perceptive comment. I agree that Nunes took a legitimate concern and used it to try to gain a partisan advantage. Long term, if his memo has any impact at all, it will be to undermine the oversight committee and make future FBI abuses more, rather than less likely. As to why the Republicans on the committee unanimously supported the memo, I think the answer is clear. They cannot challenge the President at this time and still have any chance to be re-elected.