FBI agents say shutdown hinders fight against gangs and terrorism

·Reporter
·3 min read

The FBI Agents Association (FBIAA) repeated its call for the partial government shutdown to end, arguing that it is undermining the bureau’s ability to protect the nation.

On Tuesday, FBIAA released a report of first-person accounts from special agents in the field on how the shutdown is compromising their work on a host of issues, including terrorism, drugs, gangs and child trafficking.

“Victims from domestic minor-sex-trafficking cases are not receiving the attention they need and/or visits and counseling services,” one agent said.

“The shutdown has eliminated any ability to operate. …. It’s bad enough to work without pay, but we can only conduct administrative functions while doing it,” another said. “The fear is our enemies know they can run freely.”

Founded in 1981, the FBIAA represents more than 14,000 active and retired FBI special agents. The organization sent a letter to Congress on Jan. 10 — a day before furloughed government workers missed their first paycheck — requesting immediate funding for the bureau and outlining how the shutdown could disrupt operations.

Tom O'Connor
FBIAA President Tom O’Connor. (Photo: Al Drago/Bloomberg via Getty)

With Jan. 25 (the date of their likely second missed paycheck) approaching, FBIAA President Tom O’Connor held a news conference to repeat his plea for funding. He said the new report demonstrates that the concerns voiced in their letter two weeks ago are becoming a reality.

“While special agents remain on the job and will continue on the job, to be effective the operations of the FBI require funding,” O’Connor told the press.

According to the report, the lack of funding is preventing FBI agents (most of whom are still working) from paying for their basic operational needs, such as booking flights, filling official FBI vehicles with gas or purchasing pre-paid phone cards. The agents also said they haven’t gotten the same level of support from their respective offices because many staffers are furloughed. The report outlines many other ways the lack of funding impedes training and investigations.

He said politicians in Washington need to listen to the voices of the men and women in the FBI who have committed to protecting the American people. He said some agents are struggling to provide for their families and that this precariousness may prompt good workers to find employment elsewhere or make it difficult to attract qualified candidates.

The J. Edgar Hoover FBI building
The J. Edgar Hoover FBI building in Washington, D.C. (Photo: Michael Brochstein/SOPA Images/LightRocket via Getty Images)

When asked whether he thinks airing their grievances risks damaging the FBI’s relationship with President Trump, O’Connor said neither the bureau nor the agent’s association are political and that his statement has “no politics in it.”

Trump already has a strained relationship with the intelligence community. The FBI is part of the investigation into Russian interference with the 2016 presidential election, which has resulted in a stream of indictments and guilty pleas from the president’s associates.

The FBIAA’s appeal to funding the bureau on the grounds of national security detracts from Trump’s explanation for continuing the shutdown: A wall along the U.S.-Mexico border is essential to reduce illegal immigration and drug trafficking.

“I want to make one point clear. Agents were working cases yesterday, they are working cases today, and they will be working cases tomorrow,” O’Connor said. “They are doing so without pay and under conditions that grow more challenging every day.”

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