There is a dangerous myth that permeates the political arena that government agencies and bureaucrats can somehow be non-political and independent.
How absurd. On the one hand, there are obvious political appointments, like Eric Holder as Attorney General under Obama, or Rex Tillerson as Secretary of State under Trump. Each was clearly chosen to advance the interests of the President, Holder for his radical leftist views and Tillerson for his business ties.
And then there are scarily independent agencies like the CIA and NSA who pretty much do whatever they want, regardless of who heads the Department.
But the FBI is a sketchy mix of independence and politics, and it always has been. From its inception, the first FBI Director J. Edgar Hoover made the agency a hotbed of political suppression, arresting anarchists and communists sometimes without warrants, and deporting thousands of immigrants based on minimal evidence of subversion.
But that’s not how the mainstream media is selling it. Will Trump Be The First to Politicize the FBI? asks Politico Magazine. Their concern is that Trump might appoint someone to the position with a political background, rather than a law enforcement background.
From its founding over a century ago until Tuesday afternoon, when James Comey was summarily fired as director, the FBI has been led exclusively by nonpartisan career law enforcement professionals with no background in elected politics.
The bureau, in fact, has been perhaps the last bastion of nonpolitical leadership in Washington—an agency whose powers are so extensive and potentially damaging to American citizens that it has been kept clear of direct political influence.
Of course, this statement is ridiculous, you cannot separate a government agency from politics. They are conflating not having been elected with being nonpartisan or apolitical
If anything the “independence” of the agency is a political wildcard. It wasn’t for political purposes that the FBI sent a letter to Martin Luther King Jr. encouraging him to kill himself?
But really Politico inadvertently touches on the main problem with the FBI: it was created to target Americans domestically. The FBI was given broad powers that were not just “potentially damaging to American citizens,” that is exactly who they targeted.
Hoover compiled a list of disloyal Americans after WWII and had a plan, which was never put into practice, to suspend habeas corpus and detain thousands of Americans for not being loyal enough to the United States government. For being a “nonpolitical” leader, he certainly did a lot to suppress political opposition to those in power.
But Hoover was just doing the only thing he knew. That is how he started in government, during WWI.
President Woodrow Wilson created the political monster, appointing Hoover to the War Emergency Board during WWI and tasking him with arresting foreigners without trial who seemed disloyal to the United States. The raids took place without search warrants, and even though Hoover was the man behind the “Palmer Raids” he escaped the political backlash and was even appointed to clean up the Bureau which would become the Federal Burea of Investigation.
J. Edgar Hoover shaped the FBI to be the organization it is today.
…he created the Counter Intelligence Program, or COINTELPRO. The group conducted a series of covert, and oftentimes illegal, investigations designed to discredit or disrupt radical political organizations…
Hoover also used COINTELPRO’s operations to conduct his own personal vendettas against political adversaries in the name of national security…
In 1971, COINTELPRO’s tactics were revealed to the public, showing that the agency’s methods included infiltration, burglaries, illegal wiretaps, planted evidence and false rumors leaked on suspected groups and individuals. Despite the harsh criticism Hoover and the Bureau received, he remained its director until his death on May 2, 1972, at the age of 77.
So what’s all this silliness from Politico claiming that the FBI has never been a politicized organization? Anything that Hoover did to “remove politics” from the organization simply gave him all the more power to play politics. He wasn’t making the agency immune to political influence, he was ensuring the agency only responded to his own political influence.
Politico actually recognizes the fact that Hoover abused his power at the FBI, but still, goes on to say the organization has never been political.
The FBI’s power over the life, freedom and liberty of the American people is unparalleled in U.S. government, and at key points in the bureau’s history—from Hoover’s attempts to blackmail Martin Luther King Jr., to its pursuit of political activists in the 1960s, ’70s and ’80s —we have seen the cost of the FBI’s abuse of Americans’ civil liberties…
In the FBI’s entire centurylong history, it has never had an expressly political director. Hoover, for all his machinations as director, had actually spent his career at the Justice Department.
Politico talks about finding a director who is above reproach, who has a stellar record, and who will keep the agency independent, and trustworthy. Their solution is to simply find someone who is non-partisan, and who has always worked in the Justice Department… just like J. Edgar Hoover.
But wait, isn’t J. Edgar Hoover the main example of a guy we don’t want running the FBI? Even while fitting all the criteria Politico lays out for who would be the perfect independent head of the agency?
Perhaps their definition of the term political is different than ours, but in that case, what does it matter if the FBI Director is political or not? What matters is if the FBI can abuse their power, which they clearly can. That is a great reason to abolish the agency altogether, not to simply choose a director who has never been in electoral politics.
As Milton Friedman said, “Is it really true that political self-interest is nobler somehow than economic self-interest? …I think you’re taking a lot of things for granted. Just tell me where in the world you find these angels who are going to organize society for us?”
If a political organization requires the right person in power in order to not be corrupt, then it is a bad organization. It is dangerous, and should not exist because it is impossible to find angels to put into those positions of power.
Perhaps the mainstream media is more concerned over who will be targeted by the FBI. Maybe Politico is not afraid of the FBI targeting innocent Americans. The FBI started as a tool of the government to use against the civilians; it has always been that way.
But what if it turned into a tool of one government faction to be used against another political faction?
Politico’s article could be summed up like this:
The FBI has long been an enemy of the citizens of the United States and abused their authority by suppressing dissent and intimidating political opposition to the government. But now, the FBI risks becoming the exclusive tool of one political party, at which point others in government and politics may be targeted! Can’t we all agree that the proper target of the FBI is the peasantry and not the political classes?
The FBI has always been political, and always will be. Trump’s choice will not be inherently better or worse for the American people than picking someone who is not a politician. But Trump’s choice will be pretty scary for those in the government on the left.