FBI Integrity Project was founded by former FBI employees with a deep understanding of FBI policy and culture. We have identified the presence of three deficient policy and culture constructs that incline the FBI to abuse its authority, make it susceptible to undue partisan influence, and expose the country to the possibility of illiberal democracy, a governance system characterized by a marked decrease in pluralism and the erosion of civil liberties and civil rights. Thus, to realize our mission to protect the Federal Bureau of Investigation’s integrity by mitigating its capacity and proclivity to abuse its authority and by safeguarding it from undue partisan influence, FBI Integrity Project will address these constructs.
Deficient Policy and Culture Constructs
Construct 1: Ineffective legislative and judicial accountability
Throughout its history, the FBI has lobbied successfully to exclude itself from meaningful civil service and whistleblower reform legislation. Lack of legislative accountability has resulted in policy, processes, and practices that lack fairness, transparency, and are not subject to independent or judicial review, three key markers of government agencies predisposed to make sound, ethical decisions.
Construct 2: FBI managers place personal interests ahead of the public interest
Absent these markers, FBI managers have used FBI policy, processes, and practices to create insular power bases loyal to their personal and collective interests. Promotion to management, especially executive management, is tied to relationships as opposed to success in prior roles. This has ensured only those who adopt and support the often-self-interested priorities of management can advance. Echo chambers have formed in the Bureau’s management ranks. Conformity and complacency have supplanted diversity and ingenuity as defining managerial traits. This has led to unsound, unethical decision-making.
Construct 3: Suppression of whistleblowers and public accountability
As in most organizations that place too high a value on conformity, the FBI habitually suppresses any voice – internal or external – that questions its actions or its actors. Internally, this is accomplished through collusive, retaliatory personnel action, which typically occurs in a culture of avid followers and in the absence of an independent mechanism to challenge it. Externally, this is accomplished by responding inadequately to legitimate requests for information or calls for change by outside watchdogs. Additionally, the FBI has customarily frustrated congressional oversight by abusing secrecy assertions to hide mismanagement, delaying responses to congressional inquiries, and providing incomplete or false information to mislead overseers. Taken together, there is no internal or external watchdog that is either willing or able to effectively intervene when the FBI considers or takes courses of action that constitute waste, fraud, mismanagement, abuse of authority, or illegality.
These constructs combine to incline the FBI to abuse its authority, which manifests as the manipulation of investigations and operations for organizational, personal, or political gain. Perilously, the constructs make it possible for the FBI director to use the FBI to further his or her special interests or the special interests of others. Thus, if helmed by a partisan FBI director, the agency could engender a significant step toward illiberal democracy by contriving with an authoritarian-minded president to eliminate political competition, chill free speech, and undermine the rule of law.
We stand at a crossroads in history.
The American public can no longer tolerate the FBI’s unique ability to police itself, which has inclined it to abuse its authority, subjected it to undue partisan influence, and exposed the country to the possibility of illiberal democracy. As an outside watchdog with insider knowledge of this secretive and powerful agency, FBI Integrity Project is uniquely positioned to address the FBI’s deficient policy and culture constructs. In doing so, we will drive the type of change that will foster better decision-making and ensure the FBI continues to protect America while upholding our Constitution.