FacebookTwitterRedditEmail

Bye, Bye, FBI? The Case for Disbanding the Federal Frankenstein’s Monster

Photo by André Gustavo Stumpf | CC BY 2.0

The Federal Bureau of Investigation is always under fire for something. As of late January, that something is destruction of evidence. Text messages between agents involved in the Bureau’s investigations of Hillary Clinton and Donald Trump, from a key time frame during the presidential transition,  are missing. Congress, the Bureau, and the US Justice Department are at each other’s throats over the missing messages and what they might say.

It’s far from the first time, as James Bovard points out at The Hill. In 1973, acting FBI director Patrick Gray was forced to resign for destroying evidence in the Watergate investigation. After the 1992 murder of Vicki Weaver by an FBI sniper, an FBI division chief went to prison for destruction of evidence in that case.

The FBI has  had 110 years to prove its worth. A dispassionate look at its history says that it’s far more often served as a center for blackmail, corruption, and political manipulation than as anything resembling a legitimate law enforcement agency.

In fact, it was a bad idea in the first place.

The FBI — then merely the Bureau of Investigation, or BOI — was created during a congressional recess and without congressional approval by the Attorney General in 1908 for purposes of “investigating” (read: Drumming up a scare over) the role of prostitution in “white slavery,” a forerunner of today’s “human trafficking” panic. It’s pretty much gone downhill from there.

The US Constitution defines only three federal crimes: Treason, piracy and counterfeiting. The first two are military matters and the third is handled by the Secret Service. There’s no room for an FBI in a constitutional law enforcement scheme.

One excuse for keeping the FBI going has been to facilitate investigations of crimes with an interstate angle. But given today’s technology, the states could presumably set up their own clearinghouses to exchange information and track down cross-border bank robbers and kidnappers. The FBI is just another bureaucratic layer inserting itself between the commission of a crime and the arrest of those thought to be responsible.

While the FBI has no particularly compelling, or even legitimate, mission, it certainly has its illegitimate uses. It’s probably not going too far to think of J. Edgar Hoover, the FBI’s first director, as having been a sort of shadow president for much of his 48 years of service. He used agents to get the goods on aspiring political leaders, and apparently used that information to get what he wanted from them both for the Bureau itself and in public policy generally.

One big problem with a federal law enforcement agency as big and well-funded as the FBI is that at some points it’s almost certain to stop working for the rest of the government and start running the rest of the government. Election? Who needs an election? Just ask J. Edgar what to do.

Unfortunately, the second big problem with such an agency is that it’s hard to get rid of after more than a century of nearly uncontested power.

But we should try.

More articles by:

Thomas L. Knapp is director and senior news analyst at the William Lloyd Garrison Center for Libertarian Advocacy Journalism (thegarrisoncenter.org). He lives and works in north central Florida.

bernie-the-sandernistas-cover-344x550

April 24, 2019
Susan Babbitt
Disdain and Dignity: An Old (Anti-Imperialist) Story
Adam Jonas Horowitz
Letter to the Emperor
Lawrence Davidson
A Decisive Struggle For Our Future
John Steppling
The Mandate for Israel: Keep the Arabs Down
Victor Grossman
Many Feet
Cira Pascual Marquina
The Commune is the Supreme Expression of Participatory Democracy: a Conversation with Anacaona Marin of El Panal Commune
Binoy Kampmark
Failed States and Militias: General Khalifa Haftar Moves on Tripoli
Dean Baker
Payments to Hospitals Aren’t Going to Hospital Buildings
Alvaro Huerta
Top Ten List in Defense of MEChA
Colin Todhunter
As the 2019 Indian General Election Takes Place, Are the Nation’s Farmers Being Dealt a Knock-Out Blow?
Charlie Gers
Trump’s Transgender Troops Ban is un-American and Inhumane
Barbara Nimri Aziz
Just Another Spring in Progress?
Thomas Knapp
On Obstruction, the Mueller Report is Clintonesque
Elliot Sperber
Every Truck’s a Garbage Truck
April 23, 2019
Peter Bolton
The Monroe Doctrine is Back, and as the Latest US Attack on Cuba Shows, Its Purpose is to Serve the Neoliberal Order
David Schultz
The Mueller Report: Trump Too Inept to Obstruct Justice
Geoff Beckman
Crazy Uncle Joe and the Can’t We All Just Get Along Democrats
Medea Benjamin
Activists Protect DC Venezuelan Embassy from US-supported Coup
Patrick Cockburn
What Revolutionaries in the Middle East Have Learned Since the Arab Spring
Jim Goodman
Don’t Fall for the Hype of Free Trade Agreements
Lance Olsen
Climate and Forests: Land Managers Must Adapt, and Conservationists, Too
William Minter
The Coming Ebola Epidemic
Tony McKenna
Stephen King’s IT: a 2019 Retrospective
David Swanson
Pentagon Claims 1,100 High Schools Bar Recruiters; Peace Activists Offer $1,000 Award If Any Such School Can Be Found
Gary Olson
A Few Comments on the recent PBS Series: Reconstruction: America After the Civil War
April 22, 2019
Melvin Goodman
The NYTs Tries to Rehabilitate Bloody Gina Haspel
Robert Fisk
After ISIS, a Divided Iraq, Wounded and Grief-Stricken
Binoy Kampmark
Julian Assange as Neuroses
John Laforge
Chernobyl’s Deadly Effects Estimates Vary
Kenneth Surin
Mueller Time? Not for Now
Cesar Chelala
Yemen: The Triumph of Barbarism
Kerron Ó Luain
What the “White Irish Slaves” Meme Tells Us About Identity Politics
Andy Piascik
Grocery Store Workers Take on Billion Dollar Multinational
Seiji Yamada – Gregory G. Maskarinec
Health as a Human Right: No Migrants Need Apply
Howard Lisnoff
Loose Bullets and Loose Cannons
Ricardo Alarcón de Quesada
Dreaming in Miami
Graham Peebles
Consuming Stuff: The Polluting World of Fashion
Robert Dodge
Earth Day: Our Planet in Peril
Weekend Edition
April 19, 2019
Friday - Sunday
Andrew Levine
What Will It Take For Trump to Get His Due?
Roy Eidelson
Is the American Psychological Association Addicted to Militarism and War?
Jeffrey St. Clair
Roaming Charges: Time is Blind, Man is Stupid
Joshua Frank
Top 20 Mueller Report “Findings”
Rob Urie
Why Russiagate Will Never Go Away
Paul Street
Stephen Moore Gets Something Right: It’s Capitalism vs. Democracy
Russell Mokhiber
Why Boeing and Its Executives Should be Prosecuted for Manslaughter
FacebookTwitterRedditEmail