News and Commentary

Senior FBI Official Violated Policy, Accepted Dinners And Black-Tie Event Invitations From Media
The J. Edgar Hoover Building of the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) is seen on April 03, 2019 in Washington, DC.
ERIC BARADAT/AFP via Getty Images

A former senior FBI official got too cozy with the media, violating FBI policy at a time when media leaks were common at the Bureau.

The Federalist reported that the Justice Department’s Office of the Inspector General (OIG) found a former senior official, who retired before they could be contacted for an interview, accepted numerous gifts from members of the media without prior authorization.

“The OIG also found that the Senior FBI Official violated federal regulations and FBI policy when the Senior FBI Official accepted tickets from members of the media to two black tie dinner events, one valued at $225 and the other valued at $300, and received transportation to one event from a reporter, all without prior authorization,” the OIG report said.

The report “substantiated the allegation that the Senior FBI Official had numerous unauthorized contacts with the media from 2014 through 2016, in violation of FBI policy.”

The Federalist reported that the investigation into this former senior officer was part of a series of investigations into FBI employees for similar media relations.

“The large number of FBI employees who were in contact with journalists during this time period impacted our ability to identify the sources of leaks,” the report found.

A limited number of FBI officials are authorized to speak to the media; however, the report found that many officials had unauthorized relationships with media outlets. These unauthorized relations, the report concluded, violated the FBI’s ethics policies.

“For example, we identified instances where FBI employees received tickets to sporting events from journalists, went on golfing outings with media representatives, were treated to drinks and meals after work by reporters, and were the guests of journalists at nonpublic social events,” the report said.

The former senior official discussed in the report retired before he or she could be contacted for an interview, and the FBI cannot compel someone to sit down for an interview as part of an investigation.

“When later contacted by the OIG for a voluntary interview, the Senior FBI Official declined to be interviewed. The OIG has the authority to compel testimony from current Department employees upon informing them that their statements will not be used to incriminate them in a criminal proceeding. The OIG does not have the authority to compel or subpoena testimony from former Department employees, including those who retire or resign during the course of an OIG investigation,” the report said.

As many will recall, prior to and following the 2016 election, FBI leaks to the media fueled numerous stories and false narratives. The FBI updated its media policy in November 2017 to restate its strict guidelines for officials speaking to the media. The updated policy, however, did little to nothing to stop FBI officials from leaking stories to the media that played into a larger narrative that then-President Donald Trump colluded with Russia to steal the 2016 election. That narrative was ultimately debunked in a Special Counsel report.

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