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665+ FBI employees investigated for sexual misconduct left agency unpunished: Whistleblower

FBI agents. (Melanie Rodgers Cox/US Air Force)
October 10, 2022

At least 665 FBI employees were allowed to leave the agency between 2004 and 2020 without any disciplinary action after they were investigated for sexual misconduct, according to a whistleblower disclosure shared with Sen. Chuck Grassley (R-IA).

Grassley described some of the contents of this whistleblower disclosure in a Thursday press statement. According to the disclosure, these 665 FBI employees retired or resigned from the agency over the course of 16 years “following an FBI or [Justice Department Office of Inspector General (OIG)] investigation into alleged misconduct, but prior to [the Office of Professional Responsibility’s (OPR)] issuance of a final disciplinary letter.”

According to the disclosure, this pattern of retirements and resignations before final disciplinary action benefited several senior employees. Among the 665 employees allowed to leave the agency before disciplinary action were 45 Senior Executive Service-level (SES) employees.

The whistleblower complaint states that these 665 departures were just for employees who left after an investigation but prior to disciplinary action. The data does not include resignations or retirements that took place before or during an active misconduct investigation. As such, the actual number of employees who left the FBI amid allegations of sexual misconduct could be even higher than the 665 documented by the whistleblower.

According to Grassley’s press statement, the whistleblower included a second document showing that since FBI Director Christopher Wray implemented a “zero tolerance” policy toward sexual misconduct in December 2020, there has been an inconsistent pattern of adjudicating sexual misconduct claims.

“[R]ecent sexual misconduct cases appear to show OPR’s application of this directive has resulted in seemingly random penalties and disparate treatment, potentially compromising the consistency, fairness, and due process of the FBI’s disciplinary system,” the second whistleblower document states.

In addition to sharing the whistleblower claims, Grassley wrote a letter to Wray and U.S. Attorney General Merrick Garland, criticizing the contents of the disclosures, requesting changes to FBI and DOJ internal processes and demanding more information about how the agency has handled past cases.

“The allegations and records paint a disgraceful picture of abuse that women within the FBI have had to live with for many years,” Grassley wrote. “This abuse and misconduct is outrageous and beyond unacceptable.”

In response to The Hill, the FBI said it “cannot legally stop someone from resigning or retiring.”

“It is infuriating that we are left with little disciplinary recourse when people leave before their case is adjudicated,” the FBI added. “Under circumstances where an employee leaves under inquiry, the FBI takes available steps to ensure that the individual’s file reflects that they left under inquiry, which may lead to disqualification from certain privileges otherwise available to former law enforcement, among other things.”

These latest allegations come as the FBI has faced a number of complaints about its practices.

In July, other FBI whistleblowers told Grassley that the agency had schemed to prevent information about potentially criminal activity involving President Joe Biden’s son, Hunter Biden, being released before the 2020 presidential election. More recently, one of Hunter Biden’s former business partners said he handed the FBI evidence of potential crimes by Biden but they never followed up on the lead.

Also in July, Rep. Jim Jordan (R-OH) wrote a letter to Wray citing whistleblower allegations that the agency’s leadership has been “pressuring agents to reclassify cases as ‘domestic violent extremism’ even if the cases do not meet the criteria for such a classification.” Jordan raised the possibility this was being done to support a narrative from President Joe Biden that the country is at a particularly heightened risk from domestic violence extremism.

In September, another FBI whistleblower raised allegations the agency has been prioritizing political cases over child sexual abuse cases.

The New York Post also published an op-ed, alleging an FBI whistleblower named Steven Friend has been punished by the agency after he refused to use heavily-armed SWAT tactics to arrest a defendant in the Jan. 6, 2021 capitol riot who was only facing misdemeanor charges. Friend similarly alleged the FBI was manipulating its case management processes to create in inflated impression of a right-wing terror threat to the U.S.