There is no doubt that the DOJ IG report yesterday, stripped of all political baggage, painted a picture of an agency that operated outside the boundaries of federal law. Those political quips made on agency phones are all violations of the Hatch Act and make the person doing the texting subject to dismissal. This shouldn’t be surprising though, former deputy director Andrew McCabe appeared in the campaign literature of his wife who was running for a Virginia state senate seat as a Democrat and he pimped her candidacy on his official email. A fish, they say, rots from the head down.
While the political stuff got the most interest, this is the part that demonstrates the FBI is an organization without internal discipline.
As we also describe in Chapter Twelve, among the issues we reviewed were allegations that Department and FBI employees improperly disclosed non-public information regarding the Midyear investigation. Although FBI policy strictly limits the employees who are authorized to speak to the media, we found that this policy appeared to be widely ignored during the period we reviewed.
We identified numerous FBI employees, at all levels of the organization and with no official reason to be in contact with the media, who were nevertheless in frequent contact with reporters. Attached to this report as Attachments E and F are two link charts that reflect the volume of communications that we identified between FBI employees and media representatives in April/May and October 2016. We have profound concerns about the volume and extent of unauthorized media contacts by FBI personnel that we have uncovered during our review.
Indeed, Andrew McCabe was fired for leaking unauthorized investigative information to reporters and then lying about it. But if you want to understand how and why these unauthorized contacts took place, the next paragraph provides the answer:
In addition, we identified instances where FBI employees improperly received benefits from reporters, including tickets to sporting events, golfing outings, drinks and meals, and admittance to nonpublic social events. We will separately report on those investigations as they are concluded, consistent with the Inspector General Act, other applicable federal statutes, and OIG policy.
The federal standard for employees taking gifts is pretty easy to understand. You can’t do it unless there is a pre-existing personal relationship between you and the person giving the gift and they don’t “have business before the government.” This is not a policy, this is federal law and carries potential criminal penalties.
The value of the gifts you can receive is limited to $20 per occasion and no more than $50 in one year. The value is not based on what the giver says it costs but on fair market value. So if a reporter says, “my office got free tickets to the Large Animal Buggery championship and I can’t go, you can have my ticket” the value of that gift is whatever it would cost to buy the ticket. It is literally impossible to accept a ticket to a sporting event or golf outing that isn’t going to break the gift limits.
Reporters offering FBI agents and officials gifts is not a huge shock, that’s what reporters–and enemy agents–do to develop sources. But the fact that FBI personnel took those gifts, despite having to take an annual course on how it is illegal to take gifts, shows a contempt for the law which, apparently, was not only known but tolerated.
This falls squarely in line with the political commentary--all of which violated the Hatch Act as it was conducted via text message on government phones–as a symptom that the FBI thinks the law is for the little people.
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