The FBI Agents Association (FBIAA), representing the nearly 13,000 active FBI special agents, sent a petition to Congress and the White House on Thursday calling for the immediate funding of the bureau — arguing that the partial government shutdown is compromising their work and the security of the nation.
Representatives from all 56 FBIAA field offices in the United States signed the letter. They said many FBI agents, along will other federal workers, will miss their first paycheck on Friday, Jan. 11, due to the shutdown, but most will continue to work to protect the country.
“The men and women of the FBI proudly serve this nation and are honored to protect our country and Constitution from all threats, foreign and domestic,” the letter reads. “We are confident that our leaders share this commitment to protecting our country and will find a path forward to fund the DOJ and the FBI.”
During a conference call Thursday, FBIAA President Tom O’Connor said their national executive board and chapter representatives agreed unanimously that elected leaders and the public must understand the damage being done by the ongoing shutdown.
“This is not about politics for special agents. For special agents, financial security is national security. The FBIAA has over 14,000 active duty and retired agent members and nearly 90 percent of active-duty FBI special agents are FBIAA members,” O’Connor said.
The petition lays out three key reasons the signers say national security is inextricably linked to financial security:
FBI special agents are subject to high security standards and undergo meticulous financial background checks to make sure they are responsible. Missed payments could result in delays in renewing security clearances.
Although FBI leadership is stretching resources, dwindling funds will have an effect on the bureau’s operations. For example, O’Connor said, support activities for investigations are understaffed because almost 5,000 special agents, intelligence analysts, attorneys, and technical staff are currently furloughed.
Pay uncertainty could undermine agent recruitment and retention because they have a variety of employment options in the private sector.
“We have met and will continue to meet with all key federal officials working to resolve this matter,” O’Connor said.
This approach may fail to move President Trump, who has had a rocky relationship with the nation’s intelligence and law-enforcement agencies. The FBI is part of the investigation into Moscow’s interference with America’s 2016 elections, which has resulted in a stream of indictments and guilty pleas from the president’s associates.
By appealing on the grounds of national security, the letter undercuts Trump’s central argument for continuing the shutdown: his insistence on a wall along the U.S.-Mexico border to reduce illegal immigration and drug smugglers. Trump’s national address from the Oval Office on Tuesday night focused on criminal gangs and human traffickers.
“There is a growing humanitarian and security crisis at our southern border,” Trump said. “Every day customs and border patrol agents encounter thousands of illegal immigrants trying to enter our country. We are out of space to hold them and we have no way to promptly return them back home to their country.”
Sources told Yahoo News that White House senior adviser Jared Kushner has reached out to members of Congress from both parties about ending the shutdown, and has floated a “DACA for the wall” deal — referring to the Obama administration program to allow immigrants brought to the U.S. illegally as children to stay in the country, which Trump has tried to end.
But Trump has repeatedly said he might declare a national emergency so he can circumvent Congress and allocate funds to build the wall. This threat has prompted fierce debate over whether Trump has the legal authority for such a declaration in this circumstance, and Democrats have said they would challenge it in court.
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