FBI Agents Association Details How Shutdown Is Hindering Investigative Work And Harming Open Cases
Federal terror investigations are being irreparably harmed, informants in drug cases compromised and lives put at stake as the government shutdown grinds on, according to a group of frustrated FBI special agents.
One agent working counter-intelligence and counter-terrorism cases described just how hard it is to maintain a relationship with an informant without funds in a new report issued Tuesday by the FBI Agents Association.
“We cannot secure safe places to meet with our informants and we cannot pay them for their information,” the agent wrote. “In most cases, this means not being able to make regular meetings and missing out on information altogether, leaving a concerning gap in intel relating to national security.”
An anonymous undercover agent from the southeast lamented the loss of funds and how it has hindered their work.
“On the child exploitation side, as an (undercover employee), I have had to put pervs on standby … this just puts children in jeopardy,” they wrote.
The report, dubbed “Voices from the Field,” centers on dozens of troublesome accounts. The federal agents airing their grievances have not received a paycheck in a month as the President Trump refuses to sign any spending measure that doesn’t include taxpayer funds for a border wall.
Agents, some of whom are now relying on food banks to feed their families, detail how the government shutdown is upending their lives, interfering with investigations related to sex trafficking, drug and gang crimes, as well as counter-intelligence and terrorism operations in the 72 page document.
“We don’t have funds for operations,” an agent from the Western Region notes. “We…are unable to do undercover or (Confidential Human Source) operations that require using government funds to purchase narcotics or firearms from gang members, which is a method we use to get drugs and guns off the streets and to prosecute the violent gang and drug traffickers.”
Another noted that the shutdown has hampered investigations focusing on financial firms because the “United States Attorney’s Office is unable to issue grand jury subpoenas for financial institutions.”
The association represents roughly 13,000 special agents, the majority of whom have been working without pay since the shutdown began on Dec. 22. The FBI’s roughly 35,000 employees, including the special agents, are scheduled to miss their second paycheck of the shutdown on Friday.
In all, about 800,000 federal workers have been affected by the shutdown, which has cut off funds to roughly a quarter of the government.
“It is truly sad that we must resort to this because we are being let down by our elected officials,” Thomas O’Connor, the president of the FBI Agents Association, said.
An agent identifying themselves as a Joint Terrorism Task Force coordinator said the inability to pay source has crippled counter-terrorism investigations.
“We have lost several sources who’ve worked for months, and years, to penetrate groups and target subjects, these assets cannot be replaced,” the agent wrote. “Serving my country has always been a privilege, but it has never been so hard or thankless.”
Jack Owens, a former counterintelligence FBI agent who was based out of the Birmingham, Ala., field office for 30 years until his retirement in 1999, said he has spoken to agents at his former office about their current situation.
“It’s pinching the bureau’s resources and they’re scrambling to move operations off of the burner that should be there,” Owens said. “It’s not good for national security or the safety of the American people.”
Some of the agents Owens spoke with support Trump’s border wall plan, but none think the government should remain closed while Congress and the administration discuss the matter.
“They don’t agree with the shutdown,” Owens said. “They think people should come back and get paid and then they can work out the politics.” ___
This article is written by Chris Sommerfeldt and Denis Slattery from New York Daily News and was legally licensed via the Tribune Content Agency through the NewsCred publisher network. Please direct all licensing questions to firstname.lastname@example.org.