FBI Sexting and Stealing a Great Reason To Not Give The Bureau More Power


J. Edgar Hoover
Library of Congress

P. J. O'Rourke famously quipped that "giving money and power to government is like giving whiskey and car keys to teenage boys." If he were writing today, though, he might have compared the state's self-restraint to that of FBI agents handed smart phones and surveillance equipment. As reported by Reason 24/7, an internal disciplinary report from last fall shows that our fearless G-men (and women) have been busy sending each other pictures of their junk and using their surveillance skills to bug their supervisors' offices. So you can definitely trust them with all of that extra spying power they've been gathering.

The disciplinary report, dated October 1, 2012, was obtained and published by CNN (PDF). Understandably, it's marked, "not for public dissemination," given that J. Edgar's heirs probably aren't enthusiastic to share little gems like these:

  • Misdemeanor; Unprofessional Conduct; Lack of Candor Under Oath: Employee hid a recording device in supervisor's office. In addition, without authorization, Employee made copies of supervisor's negative comments about Employee that Employee Iocated by conducting an unauthorized search of the supervisor's office and briefcase. Employee provided the notes to lawyer in support of lawsuit against supervisor. Finaily, Employee lied to investigators during the course of the administrative inquiry.
  • Unprofessional Conduct: Employee used personal cell phone to send nude photographs of self to several other employees. In aggravation, Employee's conduct created office gossip and
    negatively impacted office operations. The Division advised that Employee's misconduct adversely affected the daily activities of several squads.
  • Unprofessional Conduct; Insubordination: Employee e-mailed nude photograph of herself to ex-boyfriend's wife. Ex-boyfriend and wife reported the incident to the local police. Employee failed to cease contact with ex-boyfriend and wife after twice being ordered to da so by supervisor and Chief Security Officer. In mitigation, Employee sought assistance from EAP and was suffering from depression related to break-up.
  • Misuse of Government Computer: Employee used government-issued Blackberry to send sexually explicit messages to another employee. In mitigatiori, Employee accepted responsibility and
    expressed remorse. In aggravation, Employee's conduct was repeated, intentional, and occurred during work hours.

Those are wonderfully salacious details but, more seriously, FBI employees were also disciplined for, among other naughtiness: knowingly marrying drug dealers, misusing their FBI status, shoplifting, using stolen ATM cards, purchasing child pornography, check fraud, perusing FBI databases for personal reasons and tax fraud. Personally, I don't object to anybody hitching up with purveyors of illicit intoxicants or dodging taxes, but if you're going to willingly enforce drug and tax laws against other people, it seems unsporting to return at night to a home stocked with cocaine and bundles of cash.

To be honest, in any large organization, you're going to have disciplinary problems ranging from the minor to the mind-boggling. The Federal Bureau of Investigation is no different. But that's just the point. As the government builds its databases, imposes ever-more intrusive laws and regulations and exercises increasingly unchecked power to monitor and track people's activities, all that authority is inevitably wielded by people who get drunk and stick their Blackberries down their pants. There's no way to avoid that.

CNN quotes FBI assistant director Candice Will commenting on years of disciplinary cases:

"As long I've been doing this … there are days when I think 'OK, I've seen it all,' but I really haven't," Will said. "I still get files and I think, 'Wow, I never would have thought of that.'"

I appreciate that. People have always done some stupid and irresponsible things, and they always will. Maybe the best reason ever to limit coercive government authority over people's lives is to limit the damage that can be done by inherently flawed human beings.