Later On

A blog written for those whose interests more or less match mine.

“On the Mood Among My Former Colleagues at the FBI”

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The author:

Nora Ellingsen is a second year student at Harvard Law School. Prior to graduate school, she spent five years working for the FBI’s Counterterrorism Division. She graduated cum laude from Northwestern University with a B.A. in Psychology and Political Science.

She writes at Lawfare:

On May 9, immediately after the firing of FBI Director James Comey, Deputy Press Secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders told CBS that the administration fired Comey, at least in part, because “rank-and-file” FBI employees had lost confidence in the Director—a claim that Acting FBI Director Andrew McCabe later disputed when he testified before the Senate Intelligence Committee a few days later.

I know a little something about rank and file FBI employees, having been one myself. I worked at the FBI for five years as an analyst in counterterrorism investigations before going to law school, and I still have a lot of friends and former colleagues there.

So Benjamin Wittes asked if I would write a short piece on morale at the Bureau following the firing. For the record, given what follows, let me stress that he didn’t ask for a puff piece about Comey. He asked what I could glean about the disparity between the White House’s account of the matter and McCabe’s. What is the mood like, he asked? And is there anything to be said for Huckabee Sanders’ claim? [or was Huckabee Sanders simply lying to the American public? – LG]

I was hesitant to post on the subject. I am no longer an employee of the FBI, and even if I were, I would have concerns about presuming to speak on behalf of the more than 35,000 employees. I wasn’t sure I could write a fact-based post that would be able to capture or do justice to the mood of a massive and diverse organization. I’m not a pollster, after all.

But here’s the thing: opinion on the subject within the Bureau is not, as far as I can glean anyway, diverse at all. I spoke about my concerns with a friend and former coworker, explaining that I was worried that if I were to write on the subject, the post would devolve into a weepy love letter to Director Comey. My friend’s response went a long way towards summing up what, I believe, is actually the overwhelmingly consistent reaction of FBI employees to the firing of the director: “But how could the post be anything except a weepy love letter?”

Because the basic truth is that while Comey was a controversial figure in the larger political system and among Justice Department officials, he was not a controversial figure at the FBI at all. Nearly everyone loved him. In any other piece, I would caveat this statement as obvious hyperbole and oversimplification of the situation, but the degree of consensus on this point as I have talked to people has been incredible. In the most literal sense of the word, it’s almost hard to believe.

My former coworkers who agreed to help me with this post represent a variety of career paths within the FBI. With very few exceptions, all of them are “rank-and-file” employees. They come from diverse backgrounds and, in their personal lives, represent almost the entirety of the ideological spectrum. If you were to invite them all to a dinner party and bring up politics, I can’t guarantee that everyone would make it out alive. There are also a lot of them. I don’t want to go into specifics because people have legitimate fears of retaliation for speaking out right now. But consider this post as reflecting input from as many as 20 individuals.

All of the people I talked to described having the same reaction when they heard that the director had been fired: complete shock, followed by deep sadness.

Several employees spoke of Director Comey as a kind of father figure, and equated his leaving the organization with the death of a family member. They described him as a leader who acted on a daily basis with the utmost integrity. He pushed his employees to realize their own potential and leadership capabilities. By all accounts, he was working to turn, very slowly, a massive bureaucratic ship and change the organizational culture of the Bureau—and had the full support, if not always the agreement, of those who worked for him.

Comey’s decision-making process earned him enormous respect both at FBI Headquarters and in the 56 field offices around the country. He was transparent in his thinking, and he continuously engaged employees “as shareholders” as he weighed different options. Feedback and participation were encouraged, and Director Comey was methodical, almost academic, in his approach to problems. But when a final decision had to be made, there was no doubt that the Director was the one who made it.

This is not to say FBI employees always agreed with all of Comey’s decisions. But in talking with my former coworkers, I heard the same sentence over and over again, in completely independent conversations: . . .

Continue reading. There’s a lot more.

The Trump administration’s continual lying to the American public can serve as one of several grounds for impeachment. The president and his or her administration works for the American public, and if that president and administration cannot be trusted, it must be replaced. Americans deserve an administration that can be trusted.

Written by LeisureGuy

1 June 2017 at 1:06 pm

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