When reading my blogs, please understand that I never take a political position. I prefer to focus on crime and security matters, providing my insight based on my experience and expertise. You may agree or disagree, which is the point of the blog – to inspire intelligent and civil discourse. The deep political divide of our country does not allow that, so I avoid politics. While this issue touches the political scene, my opinion and analysis address only the recent actions of FBI Director Comey and is not intended to support either political party or candidate. I have never met Director Comey and was long retired from the FBI when he became Director.
When Director Comey first announced that the FBI recommended to DOJ that Hillary Clinton not be prosecuted regarding her private e-mail server, my first impression was that Comey did what he had to do. Specifically, he offered his opinion as to Clinton’s carelessness and what she should have known. This was necessary to quell the political outrage he knew would follow. Yet within the hour, after considering what I had learned during my 24 years in the FBI about what the FBI should and should not say, I changed my mind.
Comey’s judgement and opinion were important and properly considered in his discussions with FBI Agents and DOJ prosecutors. But those opinions were appropriate only behind closed doors. The FBI Director is not the Chief Scolder. If not charging someone with criminality, his job is not to publicly say what someone should have known, should have thought or should have done. His personal assessments are not for public consumption.
As an FBI Special Agent in Charge, I spoke before the media many times, though not on matters of such political importance. My training and experience dictated that I report only the facts as we knew them and what the FBI had done and will do. I was never authorized to provide my personal assessment of what someone should have done or should have known. Such discussions were conducted only internally when addressing internal FBI matters.
Just as Comey was assessing Clinton’s thought processes, he left the public wondering about his thought processes. Republicans thought he contradicted himself; Democrats thought that he took a political shot at Clinton.
Then Comey took the extraordinary step of notifying Congress of “…the existence of emails that appear to be pertinent to the investigation. Although the FBI cannot yet assess whether this material may be significant.” The letter noted that the FBI had yet to assess the importance of the emails. That says a lot of nothing relative to the FBI investigation of Clinton’s private e-mail server. Again, he created questions instead of answering them. We do not know if there is anything incriminating in these emails, but Comey’s letter has fueled speculation.
Generally, the FBI does not acknowledge the existence of an investigation. One reason is that it does not make good investigative sense to do so. Another reason is the realization that an FBI investigation will put a cloud over somebody and tarnish their reputation, when the investigation may not yield any incriminating evidence.
Now we must consider what Comey should have known. Should he have known that such a letter would be used for political purposes? Should he have known the letter, despite broad and unspecific wording would be viewed as accusatory? Comey again left the public wondering as to his motivation. Was he trying to influence the election?
Irrespective of your political affiliation and whether you believe your candidate will benefit from Comey’s letter, you should reject Comey’s letter as, at a minimum inappropriate and not what the FBI stands for.
Attorney General Loretta Lynch reportedly disapproved of Comey’s letter. I wonder if it was simply a disagreement; or did she, as his boss, direct him not to send that letter? If the latter, Comey was insubordinate.
This was a serious error that put the political neutrality of the FBI in question.