Anyone who may have guessed that after two years of near constant attacks by President Trump and the firing of a significant portion of their leadership, the employees of the Federal Bureau of Investigation were suffering from low morale have vastly understated the seriousness of the crisis at the FBI now that the government shutdown has added working without pay to their list of Trump-induced indignities.
“I’m not going to try to candy-coat it,” Tom O’Connor, a special agent and president of the FBI Agents Association, told The Atlantic this week. “We really feel that the financial insecurities we are facing right now equate to a national-security issue.”
With Trump’s border-wall-tantrum-inspired government shutdown poised to become the longest in U.S. history this weekend and with no end in sight, thousands of FBI agents and other essential national security-related federal employees have either been furloughed or are being forced to work without pay and under severe budget constraints.
An article in The Atlantic details the damage to the morale at the FBI that the shutdown has augmented coming after Trump’s assault on the bureau, citing dangerous jobs made considerably more difficult due to a turn against the bureau by Trump followers who traditionally identified as staunch supporters of the law and order that the FBI represents.
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“Part of it is Trump’s constant attacks,” said one fomer agent who left at the end of last year. “Bigger than that, though, is that it seems like a portion of the population believes him. Which makes their jobs harder to do.”
Even more frightening is the news from another former agent that politically sensitive evidence was sometimes ignored because agents did not want any further anger aimed at the bureau from the Oval Office. This is the rule of law dissolving before our very eyes.
While most of Trump’s attacks on the bureau relate to its role in the initial investigations into Russian collusion with his 2016 presidential campaign, the president further embarrassed the agency by utilizing it as a powerless and feeble prop in the improperly hampered investigations into allegations of sexual assault by Trump’s last nominee to the Supreme Court, Brett Kavanaugh.
According to O’Connor, the head of the FBI Agents Association, he and his colleagues are getting fed up.
“You know the old adage that crime doesn’t pay? Well right now, agents are starting to feel like neither does the federal government,” O’Connor said.
According to the Atlantic:
“In a conference call with reporters on Thursday, O’Connor said that nearly 5,000 special agents, intelligence analysts, attorneys, and professional staff are currently furloughed, resulting in reduced staffing for ‘critical functions that support field operations.’ None of them are being paid, he said. He wouldn’t elaborate on which investigations were being impacted, but emphasized that a lack of funding has hurt agents’ ability to do their job ‘completely and to the fullest ability we have.’”
According to another FBI agent spokesperson, individual FBI offices are responsible for determining which investigations they will continue to pursue with the limited and shrinking resources now at their disposal, leaving dangerous holes in our national security as a result and achieving the exact opposite of what President Trump claims his excuse for the shutdown will accomplish.
With unpaid Transportation Security Administration agents already calling in sick so they can take part-time jobs that will actually deliver them a paycheck at the end of the week and enable them to keep their families alive, worries are emerging that demoralized FBI agents may soon follow their lead.
As head of the closest thing that the FBI agents have to a union, O’Connor has said that he doesn’t know of any plans for a “sick out,” but since federal laws prohibit government employees from striking, it’s unlikely that he would admit to it even if he did hear of such a job action.
“Whether we’re paid or not, we’re going to show up and do our jobs to protect the United States,” he said.
That’s easy to say after the first missed paycheck, but if the government remains shuttered for the “months or even years” that President Trump has peevishly suggested it might, even the most dedicated agents will have to decide if their ultimate loyalties are with the bureau that is failing to meet its payroll or with their responsibilities to themselves and their families.
While the prospect of a drastically impaired FBI is frightening enough on its own, consider the other federal agencies crucial to our national security that are in the exact same position.
As The Atlantic reports:
“More than half of the staff of the newly established Cybersecurity and Infrastructure Security Agency, a division of Homeland Security tasked with protecting the country’s critical infrastructure, have been furloughed, according to DHS. Nearly every employee of the Secret Service—which protects current and former government officials as well as the president—is going without pay, too, according to The New York Times, as are TSA agents and air-traffic controllers. “The growing financial insecurity may lead some agents to consider career options that provide more stability,” O’Connor said on Thursday. “The field is trying to be fully funded and staffed. But as we go forward, that’s going to change.”
If President Trump truly cared about the security and welfare of all Americans rather than enabling his white nationalist dreams, he would immediately put an end to the government shutdown that he is callously using as leverage to get his ego-driven wall built. No national emergency exists, except in Trump’s phony xenophobic fantasies, and meanwhile, real dangers are being ignored as the president puts the nation in even greater danger than his fake news claims already exists.