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Sending the DOJ after 'Anonymous' is dangerous nonsense

As a former FBI special agent, I watched with horror on Monday as White House press secretary Sarah Sanders ...

Posted: Sep 12, 2018 6:06 AM
Updated: Sep 12, 2018 6:06 AM

As a former FBI special agent, I watched with horror on Monday as White House press secretary Sarah Sanders doubled down on claims made by President Donald Trump the previous week, when he indicated he wants the Justice Department to investigate the identity of the anonymous author of a recent and explosive New York Times op-ed.

The White House insists that identifying the writer is a matter of national security. Officials say the op-ed writer might be in a position to learn and then leak sensitive intelligence secrets.

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These claims are complete nonsense. And they are dangerous.

First and foremost, the Department of Justice has very specific guidelines that dictate when a criminal investigation may be launched. According to the FBI Domestic Investigations and Operations Guide, for a full investigation, the FBI must have an "articulable factual basis" that reasonably indicates a crime has occurred, a crime is about to occur, or an investigation may yield foreign intelligence that helps protect the nation.

In the case of the anonymous administration official whose blistering op-ed sounded an alarm about a chaotic and dysfunctional White House, there is no crime that has been committed. There is no threat to national security. Sure, the matter is embarrassing for Trump, and I personally believe this writer should have publicly attached their name to such criticisms. But the FBI does not launch investigations at the pleasure of the President in order to ferret out people who say mean things.

The most solemn duty any President has is determining whether to send men and women in uniform into harm's way. I would argue a close second to that is responsibly overseeing executive branch agents who carry badges and guns and who literally have the power to deny someone of their liberty.

From the moment a new recruit steps foot onto the grounds of the FBI Academy in Quantico, Virginia, they are taught and drilled in the incredible responsibilities that come with exercising their law enforcement duties.

The FBI reinforces the seriousness of this undertaking throughout an agent's career, reminding them at each turn that federal officers face grave consequences should they zealously overstep their mandate. These agents know that speech and action protected by the First Amendment are off-limits to investigation, regardless of how any politician might feel about such activities.

Similarly, not only do FBI agents understand the limitations placed on them personally, but they also know it is their duty to report any suspected violations by their colleagues. This may come as news to some, but FBI employees must annually review and sign a document attesting they have witnessed no unreported intelligence abuses, which is then reported to the President's own Intelligence Oversight Board. Put simply, upholding the rule of law is not just a job description but a requirement taken very seriously and reiterated often.

Which is why the President's remarkable insistence that the Justice Department investigate the anonymous op-ed writer is so alarming. His request runs counter to everything these people stand for -- in direct conflict with the oath they have taken to support and defend the Constitution of the United States.

Unfortunately, the latest attempt to dragoon the Justice Department is not a one-off when it comes to this administration exploiting the levers of government power. From the "lock her up" chants about former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton to revoking security clearances of former officials critical of the President, the Trump administration is going to new extremes to abuse its immense power.

We have come a long way since the revelation of government abuses made famous during the 1970s Church Committee hearings, which unearthed widespread wiretapping and surveillance by government agents, frequently conducted without factual basis and authorized by the simple stroke of a pen by the FBI director, attorney general, or national security adviser.

We do not want to go back to that place and time, where zealous politicians could enlist the use of government agents for their own political aims. Such backtracking would destroy institutional norms since established to ensure independence in enforcing the law.

In the coming days we will see if current Justice Department officials decide to placate a persistent President, or whether they hold firm in adhering to the important precept that dictates their work be done impartially, without fear or favor.

Mississippi Coronavirus Cases

Data is updated nightly.

Cases: 145636

Reported Deaths: 3745
CountyCasesDeaths
DeSoto973199
Hinds9668197
Harrison6898109
Jackson6178119
Rankin5319100
Lee487695
Madison4666106
Forrest371386
Jones346788
Lauderdale3355144
Lafayette317549
Washington3122107
Lamar283449
Oktibbeha240861
Bolivar240184
Lowndes229763
Neshoba2177115
Panola215849
Marshall209650
Leflore201490
Pontotoc196128
Monroe191477
Sunflower190555
Lincoln186865
Warren172657
Tate165451
Union163925
Pike160658
Copiah159540
Yazoo152039
Scott150729
Coahoma148743
Itawamba148234
Pearl River146567
Alcorn146327
Simpson145153
Prentiss141230
Adams137949
Grenada137745
Leake131943
Holmes126561
Tippah123030
George122324
Covington119737
Winston119124
Wayne116223
Hancock115939
Marion111646
Attala109833
Tishomingo106542
Chickasaw104132
Newton103629
Tallahatchie96327
Clarke88853
Clay87127
Jasper81222
Walthall75328
Stone73114
Calhoun72913
Montgomery72125
Carroll70614
Lawrence70314
Yalobusha70027
Noxubee69717
Smith69616
Perry65426
Tunica59619
Greene58422
Claiborne57616
Jefferson Davis55017
Humphreys52918
Amite51814
Benton48717
Quitman4816
Webster42114
Kemper41918
Wilkinson38722
Jefferson34211
Franklin3265
Choctaw3117
Sharkey30717
Issaquena1124
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Alabama Coronavirus Cases

Cases: 239318

Reported Deaths: 3532
CountyCasesDeaths
Jefferson31391491
Mobile19562361
Tuscaloosa12813154
Madison12741146
Montgomery12198235
Shelby1000577
Baldwin847398
Lee764466
Morgan634348
Calhoun6112115
Marshall607954
Etowah606565
Houston517038
DeKalb474736
Cullman428038
Limestone413744
St. Clair409055
Elmore400762
Lauderdale393653
Walker3588108
Talladega343453
Jackson307624
Colbert301941
Blount285539
Autauga268641
Franklin247833
Coffee239715
Dale230354
Dallas224531
Russell22053
Chilton219638
Covington216833
Escambia197431
Chambers173749
Tallapoosa173391
Pike157514
Clarke156319
Marion136535
Winston129923
Lawrence124836
Geneva12028
Pickens119418
Marengo119124
Barbour117010
Bibb116217
Butler114441
Randolph100921
Cherokee100824
Hale94531
Clay90223
Washington90219
Fayette87316
Henry8496
Lowndes79129
Monroe78111
Cleburne75714
Macon72321
Crenshaw70730
Bullock69119
Conecuh68314
Perry6756
Lamar6508
Wilcox63118
Sumter57122
Choctaw41913
Greene41418
Coosa3374
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