If you watch TV even half as much as I do, the image of the Federal Bureau of Investigation hammered into your skull weekly is that of the most dedicated, well-trained, well-run and honorable law enforcement organization on Earth. There are three hour-long dramas focusing on the FBI’s heroism; its work is also central to “Blacklist.” On the streaming platforms and on cable, special series and older FBI-centered shows are abundant: “Criminal Minds,” “Without a Trace,” “White Collar,” “Night Agent,” “The X-Files,” “Blindspot,” “Quantico,” “The Rookie,” “Shooter”…too many to list, so I won’t list them all. Movies in which FBI agents are the heroes are legion There is no agency or organization that has a more suffocating and relentless indoctrination presence in the popular culture than the FBI.
It is no wonder the that public and the media are inclined to pooh-pooh or ignore entirely the massive evidence of sinister and illegal FBI activities devoted to bringing down the Trump administration, the machinations of James Comey, and the other scandals. Periodically some glimmers of the corruption and abuse of power that has infected the FBI’s culture since the long reign of its shadowy creator J. Edgar Hoover sneak into various programs: the lying FBI forensic expert whose work is exposed in the documentary “Staircase;” and the two excellent docudramas exploring the horrors of Waco and its cover-up are examples.
Clearly, the time has come to discard the presumption of virtue that has protected the FBI for generations. It is at least as inept, corrupt, politicized and incompetent as the rest of federal government, and perhaps even more so.
An episode in Boston earlier this month—barely reported by the mainstream media, of course—strongly hints at an “Emperor’s New Clothes” situation. The FBI was holding a special training exercise at the Revere Hotel in downtown Boston in coordination with the U.S. Army. Role players—that is, actors—were supposed to help create a realistic simulation for the agents who had to react to unexpected developments. Around 10 p.m. on the evening of April 6, FBI agents banged loudly on the door of the room where a Delta Air Lines pilot was staying. The surprised guest was handcuffed when he opened the door, detained and interrogated, and thrown into the shower.
Oopsie! Wrong room number.
Lt. Col. Mike Burns of the U.S. Army Special Operations Command told the AP that the “training was meant to enhance soldiers’ skills to operate in realistic and unfamiliar environment…The training team, unfortunately, entered the wrong room and detained an individual unaffiliated with the exercise.” The FBI emphasized that no one was injured in the debacle, which it said occurred because of “inaccurate information.” Hogwash. Being falsely arrested, cuffed and interrogated is being injured: check the Constitution, not that the FBI cares about what ‘s written there.
“I know that these types of trainings are necessary, they are a clear part of making sure that all of our public safety agencies are prepared and ready for whatever may come, but there needs to be a level of precision and accuracy,” Boston Mayor Michelle Wu said, proving herself to be a master of the obvious. Hotel sources say they were not informed about the training, as in “We’re the Federal Government, and we do what we want to.” Meanwhile, Wu might want to explain why the Boston police responded to the scene where an innocent citizen had been assaulted and abused, and just left as soon as the agents told them, “No biggie—we were just playing around, and got mixed up.” The FBI’s treatment of the pilot was a crime. The fact that the damage was relatively minimal is moral luck. What if the guest in the hotel had reacted like Breonna Taylor’s boyfriend?
Security expert Todd McGee told Boston media, “The controls that are put in place are put in place for a reason to prevent situations like this….This is something that shouldn’t have happened.” (Ya think?) Another law enforcement critic interviewed by the Boston media questioned the idea of a training exercise at a public hotel in the dead of night. “I think they’ll be changing their practices,” he said.
Don’t bet on it. After all, this is…
16 thoughts on “It Pains Me To Say This, But It Just Might Be Time To Stop Assuming That The FBI Is Ethical, Trustworthy Or Competent…”
The introduction of false ideas was introduced years ago to the masses with the T.V., and humans need to be entertained.
Study how departments such as the F.B.I. found using T.V. shows and movies indoctrination as a valuable and easy psychological manipulation of individuals’ beliefs, attitudes, and behaviors.
Growing up and watching shows like “Baretta” or “The FBI” starring Efram Zimmbalist Jr. I understood that these programs were aspirational and not doctrinal. At issue in most,if not all, cop shows was that element that good must triumph over evil. Perhaps the tide shifted in the 70’s when individual rights were often used to get the bad guy off the hook. people wanted the good to triumph over evil, so they began making allowances. Dirty Harry Callahan and Charles Bronson began taking the mantra that good must always triumph over evil and the means won’t matter so long as the ends justify the means. The Dirty Harry movies made the Constitutionalists the bad guys. The exception to that was Magnum Force in which he had to reign in the death squads operating under the color of law. What we have today is a situation in which some in law enforcement think because they are on the side of the “good” that nothing they do can be “bad”. They have become that way because we as citizens created that belief.
Because of that shift we have been acculturated to too often err on the side of the “good guys” which in effect gives them a Kings Pass. Unfortunately, until their own rights are abused, Americans seem to be willing to allow bad things to happen to allegedly bad people. When police do bad things to people who were not doing anything wrong those people will create an entirely new frame of reference from the opposite direction. In those cases, the public gets the idea that the police are out to get them.
No longer do we give the accused the benefit of the doubt; we assume the party is guilty. If 51 intelligence officers imply that Russians are trying make you see Joe Biden in a bad light you accept it without question, especially if you are predisposed to hate his political opposition. It is an established fact that officers will lie to you to get you to say something that will help the establish probable cause of wrongdoing. It is not illegal and is part of police training. My police friends will tell you that it is an effective practice to gather evidence to fight crime. The flip side of that argument is there is an obvious imbalance of power in the conversational roles and a person can feel it necessary to converse with the officer to avoid any escalation. At that point, people tend to make ill-considered statements that give the officer a reason to get more aggressive in the questioning, especially if the subject has been conditioned to distrust police. The more aggressive the officer gets the more defensive the individual gets and things can get out of hand very quickly.
The point I am trying to make is that we need to get back to the aspirational American values Jack extols in many of his posts. He chided me yesterday on that very issue and I have just become so cynical that I cannot hold any one individual responsible for the evisceration of American values when son many of us have played an integral role in their destruction. To get back to those aspirational goals we all have to hold those entrusted with power to exemplify those aspirations and stop either demanding a Kings Pass, or using some contrived expert authority to achieve an agenda. As citizens, if we allow the powerful to continue as they are so that they may maintain their power and control over us such that they can limit our movements, thoughts and ideas, it will be on us for we will be the ones letting the authoritarians rule us. Hollywood and TV does not indoctrinate it gives us what we demand. So it is time we need to think about what we are buying.
“As citizens, if we allow the powerful to continue as they are so that they may maintain their power and control over us such that they can limit our movements, thoughts and ideas, it will be on us for we will be the ones letting the authoritarians rule us.”
I think that train has already left the station Chris. Just ask Roger Stone. Not very aspirational TV.
While individuals may know what they are viewing is make-believe it also conditions the mind to disregard and dismiss when factual matters present themselves, such as in the case involving the F.B.I. Military, police, and Delta Pilot, too, where news outlets and many citizens (not all citizens) disregard the importance of occurrence, to let go of the importance of such information and look the other way so as those doing such a mission/practice can carry on without much questioning. It is a form of indoctrination, and it works very well..
Upon your recommendation, I watched the “Waco” series this week. Paramount Plus has it, though it does not have the Aftermath program.
As someone who remembers that whole mess, I was stunned by how much now appears to have been misrepresented to the public.
I don’t agree with David Koresh’s interpretation of the Seven Seals. I do believe he was manipulative. I also disagree with laws that allow 14 year olds to marry even with the permission of their parents. But I saw nothing in the show that adequately explained the use of force that was leveled against them or any evidence that the children inside were being mistreated or neglected.
Of course, this was a dramatization based, in part, on the memoirs of a survivor. I don’t have all the facts.
50 years ago, the Left hated the FBI and all it stood for. 20 years ago, they rationalized away the Waco and Ruby Ridge incidents. Today, they deny the Bureau is politicized against political opponents.
What has happened over the decades and when did it happen? Why did we not see it?
My reaction exactly, A.M.
> Lt. Col. Mike Burns of the U.S. Army Special Operations Command told the AP that the “training was meant to enhance soldiers’ skills to operate in realistic and unfamiliar environment…”
Inadvertently conducting the training in the real world perfectly fits the scenario’s goals. Perhaps conducting training exercises that normalize violations of suspects’ civil rights is the problem, not that some random civilian found out the hard way.
To answer your question about the Boston Police, this reminds me of a case I had about ten years ago where a mentally ill young man was wandering in an agitated state in the City of Newark. His parents were pleading with him to go to the hospital and seek treatment, but the NPD couldn’t help, there is no law against wandering in an agitated state, he had to actually do something before they could act.
Eventually he gets in the ambulance and goes to UMDNJ, which is run by the State of NJ, think of it as Rutgers Medical and Dental School, so it has its own police, who are state employees. As he got there and was getting out of the ambulance, he snapped and started acting crazy. The UMDNJ cops proceeded to give him a severe beat-down, breaking his eye socket as well as inflicting multiple contusions and then brought criminal charges, which were ultimately dismissed. The Newark officers stood by and did not intervene. It was not their jurisdiction and there are seventeen policing agencies operating in the City. It is not for any of them to interfere with another’s operations unless they have a specific mandate to do so, like one policing agency being tasked with looking into allegations of corruption at another. Obviously he sues the UMDNJ police, but he also sues the City, saying we deliberately stood back and didn’t do our jobs while these other cops were whaling on him. I moved for dismissal, saying that the law doesn’t guarantee police protection, so we didn’t violate it. The judge tossed the case against Newark, and he settled with UMDNJ only. The court agreed with my argument that to make various police agencies responsible for policing one another, at the risk of liability if they did not do so, was a bridge too far and not in keeping with the purpose of the law, which is to keep public entity liability down. It would also encourage “turf wars” and interference where it was not needed and was counterproductive.
Let’s also get real here, police officers do their best not to jam up other police officers. No one wants to be labeled a rat or a troublemaker. There is also a pecking order between Fed, state and local officers, with an understanding that the Feds are at the top of the pecking order, state is next, and local is after that. There is an understanding that state and local officers are to extend the Feds all cooperation they request, and if there are questions, 1PP and 26 Fed or the equivalent will sort them out. If local officers have questions, then they are supposed to send them up the chain of command, and they will be dealt with up top. If they interfere with the actions of another agency or refuse to cooperate with one, especially the Federal government, the involved individuals are facing, at a minimum, obstruction of justice charges, to say nothing of administrative charges that put their jobs and pensions at risk. There is also the matter of possible loss of Federal funding for the city if the Assistant Director or whoever is in charge of that FBI office reaches out to the AG or Homeland Security and complains about lack of cooperation.
Now, this pilot can file an action against the involved agents under Section 1983 of the Civil Rights Act, but the US Attorney’s office isn’t some municipal law department with 2/3 the staffing and 1/2 the motivation it should have, who might have to settle early or cut corners because it just doesn’t have the resources to work up every case for trial like it’s really going to try it. That’s really his only option.
The F.B.I. is as political as any other branch of government, that’s well known and has been for a long time. They are the most powerful of more than 20 Federal agencies with the authority to use force and make arrests. They know it and everyone else knows it too. One thing they do not have is patience, and they really do not need it. Lying to the state or local police is a very bad idea that may come back to haunt you at trial. Lying to the FBI (or other Federal agencies) is a CRIME that can land you in prison for five years. Refusing to cooperate with the local cops may or may not get them to look elsewhere. Refusing to cooperate with the Feds will get you locked up as an accomplice. However, the top level of the agency, like any other government agency, is as political as any other. That means the directors and deputy directors are as partisan as anyone else and know who they have to kiss up to to keep their jobs and pensions. That includes Comey handling Hillary with kid gloves, lest she get elected (as everyone thought she would) and replace him with a woman on day one. That includes other higher-ups doing all they could to keep Trump from getting elected and acting like a bull in a China shop, constricting his power once he did, and digging up enough damaging evidence to keep him out of office again, where he can’t upset the oh-so-perfectly balanced applecart, and they can get back to investigating parents (easy) and shooting rural conservatives (the government will back them all the way). That organized crime investigation thing is so last century, and terrorism now runs a distant second to racism as a threat.
BTW, the three shows are decent, but the flagship series is probably the best. I could do without the affair between John Boyd’s Stuart Scola and a fellow agent, and the fact that it’s mostly plot-driven rather than character-driven sometimes results in unrealistic things happening, like Maggie taking her eye off the ball at EXACTLY the wrong moment during a critical operation to answer a phone call regarding her sister’s drug-induced craziness so that it almost becomes a complete pooch screw, then receiving only a stern warning from Jeremy Sisto’s ASAC Jubal Valentine rather than an immediate suspension pending her firing. However, it’s better than International, which is still finding its footing and is at its best when it becomes Tom Clancy-lite, and Most Wanted, which too often dips into shocking Criminal Minds territory and is a little too infected with wokeness, although I think I like Dylan McDermott’s bon vivant Remy Scott better than Julian McMahon’s Jess LaCroix, who had too much private life stuff going on (his demise was still heartbreaking, since it left very likeable daughter Tali having lost BOTH her parents).
This episode demonstrates extreme incompetence. I had assumed that the organization was maliciously corrupt but at least knew what they were doing.
I’m not familiar with many of the shows listed, but “The X-Files” is largely about an outsider agent (and his more conventional partner) battling against evil forces within the Intelligence Community. No fan of that show is going to come away with an overall positive impression of the F.B.I.
I’m not sure what current polling data shows, but my impression is that most Republicans have little trust in the F.B.I.
Yes, but why is there a partisan split? Why would anyone trust the FBI at this point?
“Refusing to cooperate with the Feds will get you locked up as an accomplice.”
Are you saying that remaining silent is a crime?
Doesn’t a person have the right to a lawyer even when being questioned by the Feds?
My trust in the FBI began to slide with the Ruby Ridge killings (The BATF was already beyond redemption.), and was lost completely after Waco.
All federal officers take an oath to “preserve, protect and defend the Constitution of the United States,” but some of them apparently had their fingers crossed. The United States Attorneys for each district have a lot of influence on how the agents within their various jurisdictions conduct themselves. Would that they would exert that influence forthrightly.
Training in the “real world” is always the most fraught with potential screw-ups, missteps and unintended consequences. Almost as alarming as the incompetence shown in this incident is the very fact that the FBI is helping train the Army in techniques for rounding up citizens in and of this country. Sounds like they anticipate doing many of these operations in the near future. Good to know.
Ruby Ridge tragedy occurred on 08/1992 and Waco calamity occurred just nine months later on 04/1993.
No one is safe from the FBI, period. They are out of control.
Or perhaps more accurately, they are controlled by sinister power mongers.
You certainly held out longer than I did, Jack.
From the already legendary misbehavior-prone ATF, to Ruby Ridge and Waco (just watched the first documentary…”We’re going to start shooting tear gas into your building, but we’re not attacking!” Nice. ), through Eric Holder’s gun-running and contempt of Congress, through Comey, Strzok and Page, “Russian Collusion”, Garland’s politically biased use of or refusal to use assets, and the recent Twitter revelations, etc., etc,, there has been little but a steady stream of reasons for citizens to mistrust the Department of Justice.
I hate that this is so, and am still certain that there are many honorable employees and agents, but the idiom “The fish rots from the head down” does seem to apply here.
It *might* be time to stop assuming the FBI is ethical, trustworthy, or competent? That statement could have been accurate as late as 1992, but by the end of 1993, you should have dropped the “just might be” part. Somewhere between then and Whitey Bulger or James Comey or the Liberty City Seven or the
Gretchen Whitmer “kidnapping plot” or Hunter Biden’s laptop (or dozens of other incidents one might enumerate, like the letter sent by the agency to MLK attempting to blackmail him into committing suicide in 1964 – the rot has permeated this organization almost since its inception), one ought to have come to the conclusion that the FBI is an irredeemably broken agency that should be cast into the dustbin of history as soon as possible. This botched training exercise doesn’t even make it into the top 100 all-time FBI fuck-ups and malfeasances.
There’s a reason there’s so much propaganda painting the FBI so positively: they desperately need it. You don’t require much promotion to sell a good product, but if your product is shit, you have to advertise the hell out of it. There’s a Burger King commercial on TV virtually every second of the day somewhere. How many ads does Morton’s Steakhouse run?
I know, it’s not exactly fair to compare the FBI to Burger King in that analogy. One is a bottom-of-the barrel organization that exploits society’s unskilled rejects to create a rotten product, and the other is a terrible hamburger restaurant.
Why was the FBI working with the Army’s Special Operations? What kind of training requires that they break into a hotel and waterboard a guy for 30 minutes until his screams make the neighboring rooms call the police? What are they preparing to do? Is this what people who question school boards have to look forward to?