CASTELLI: FBI memo displays agency's inadequacy

Opinions Column: Conservative Across the Aisle

On Feb. 2, House Republicans released a controversial memo accusing the Federal Bureau of Investigation and Department of Justice investigations into the alleged collusion between Russian government and then-candidate President Donald J. Trump of bias. The memo raised concerns about the “legitimacy and legality” of proceedings, which suggest that Christopher Steele was paid more than $160,000 by the DNC and Clinton Campaign through the research firm Fusion GPS. According to the memo, initial FISA applications did not disclose “the role the DNC, Clinton campaign or any party/campaign funding” in the dossier even though FBI and DOJ officials were aware of Steele’s political opinions. 

The release of the memo has sparked outrage from both sides. Republicans claim that the Russia investigation exploited intelligence and law enforcement agencies “to target one group on behalf of another” and is “the illegitimate handiwork ... set out to sabotage (Trump.)” Democrats call the memo a “list of GOP talking points” and accuse House Republicans of secretly altering the document after the panel voted to send it to Trump for review. Democrats tried releasing their own memo, but it was denied by Trump. Whether this release would have benefited  Democrats or Republicans is irrelevant, or rather should not be a major concern for Americans. If the information in the memo is true, then it raises serious concerns about the reliability of FBI and DoJ proceedings.

This is not the first time that the government has been shown to be inadequate or untrustworthy. In the midst of a shooting in a rural Texas church, House Representative Vicente Gonzalez told CNN that the gunman's name was Sam Hyde when the man was later identified as Devin Patrick Kelley. Hyde is a comedian who has been attributed with mass shootings dating back to 2015 San Bernardino, California as part of an internet meme. Leaving the depressing hilarity aside, how could such a careless mistake be made on national television? Public trust in the government to do what is right has been on the decline since the 1960s and continues to reach historic lows. If the government wants to regain confidence with the American people, then it should begin by taking accountability for its shortcomings and reform, which starts with its departments and agencies.

The Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) was created in the beginning of the 20th century in a time where law enforcement was often political rather than professional. Former President Theodore Roosevelt, a progressive reformer, sought to create a system that valued merit over political connections in hiring government employees. Following this line of thought, the FBI’s mission statement became “to protect the American people and uphold the Constitution of the United States.” There is no mention of allegiance to a specific political ideology, but puts the interests of the American people above politics. That is how it should work. 

Likewise, the Department of Defense has rigid limitations on how members of the military express their political views. As an example, in the Army, soldiers are allowed to vote, give donations and write to legislators if they are doing so out of uniform. Restrictions apply when soldiers are in uniform and on duty: they cannot actively promote their views as a member of the United States Army. This is in part due to the oath soldiers make before they matriculate to “solemnly swear (or affirm) that (they) will support and defend the Constitution of the United States.” Much like the FBI’s mission statement, the Army branch of the Department of Defense wishes to protect the interests of the American people and not of a political party, or at least they should. 

The idea that the release of the FBI memo did not raise concerns about the ethics of the FBI and DoJ is shocking, to say the least. The real issue has been overshadowed by mudslinging Republicans and Democrats who refuse to examine the issue as one concerning the American people and instead view it as a way for their party to garner points against the other. We live in a culture that loves drama and controversy and takes pleasure in the misfortune of others. Instead of working to create an America where everyone can live peacefully, people choose to point fingers without taking up responsibilities for themselves. This is not the sin of only one party. Both Republicans and Democrats have resorted to mudslinging and slander and continue to become more polarized, which paints a grim future for the country. How is America ever going to address issues like national security if its own Congress cannot stop this petty bickering and come together as representatives of American citizens? 

Giana Castelli is a School of Arts and Sciences sophomore majoring in political science. Her column, "Conservative Across the Aisle," runs on alternate Fridays.


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