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Former FBI Analyst Says Trump’s Firing of Comey Shocked, Saddened Bureau

James Comey testifies about President Trump before a Senate committee.

James Comey testifies about President Trump before a Senate committee.

By Nora Ellingsen
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?

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.


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