In the wake of America’s elections on Nov. 8, its leading law enforcement agency the FBI (along with its national media) face painful scrutiny over the FBI director James Comey’s five months of public decisions in the heat of the election campaign on the issue of the Democratic candidate Hillary Clinton’s careless handling as Secretary of State of official emails through a private server.
In July, he cleared her of criminal charges. Then, on October 28, Comey announced a review of the case in the light of new materials found in the 650,000 emails, discovered on the laptop shared by Clinton’s senior aide Huma Abedin and her estranged husband, former congressman Anthony Wiener.
Then, Sunday, two days before the election, the FBI chief delivered his second bombshell. He announced that he had not changed his original, July, judgment not to prosecute the Democratic candidate.
In the aftermath of the three decisions, a long FBI investigation is ahead into Hillary Clinton’s conduct. However, the FBI itself faces a full-scale congressional probe to find out what went on the Edgar J. Hoover building behind its director’s humiliating twists and turns.
The top law-enforcement agency, which normally holds its investigations in strict secrecy, has for five months become a source of leaks about its internal disputes, which acted as lighter fuel for the most unconventional and unpredictable US presidential campaign in living memory
In the past, scrutiny of America’s secret bodies was carried out by bipartisan committees. However, in today’s corrosively divisive climate, a panel will find it almost impossible to rise above partisan politics to reach agreed conclusions.
DEBKAfile’s intelligence experts recall the solution to another sort of dilemma over another covert organization’s woes in the late 90s. It was put forward by Senator Daniel Patrick Moynihan in the case of Aldrich Ames who served the Russians as a CIA mole for many years before he was caught in 1994.
Moynihan explained that since there is no way to plumb the secrets surrounding a given affair in these clandestine agencies, the only way to cleanse them is to shut them down for good and dismantle them.
That advice is not applicable today. No one is proposing to shut down the FBI and build it anew.
At this point, two things are becoming clear:
1. The federal investigation into Clinton’s past in relation to her emails and her improprieties with regard to the Clinton foundation will not end on Nov. 8.
2. The FBI is driven by bitter internal wars; some, but not all, are related to the Clinton case. This was strongly implicit in Comey’s three public appearances in the past five months.
It would be wrong to accuse him of protecting the Democratic candidate as her rival Donald Trump did after Comey latest decision to exonerate her.(Trump: “Hillary Clinton is guilty, she knows it, the FBI knows it, the people know it and now it’s up to the American people to deliver justice at the ballot box on November 8.”)
What the Comey struggled to do was to cover up the feuds dividing the bureau, while at the same time preserving its reputation as an unbiased apolitical non-player between the rival camps.
Judging from past experience in other covert organizations in America and other democracies, including the Israeli Shin Bet, the FBI Director could not hope for success. He is now criticized by the two rival US political camps for bias. Furthermore, the inside battles in the bureau are no less savage than overt wars. The FBI must therefore brace itself for unwelcome publicity in the months to come, as the case of Clinton’s emails unfolds and emerges as the tip of a highly damaging iceberg.
These battles may also be revealed as touching on unsuspected regions and exposing hitherto unknown scandals..
If Hillary wins the election, she will lose no time in getting rid of James Comey and replacing him with a pawn whom she can trust to work fast to cover up the rifts dividing the bureau’s top staff and shelve her own misdemeanors..
Donald Trump as president is also likely to pick a new FBI chief, whom he can count on to make good on his election promise for a thorough investigation into Clinton’s actions in the email and foundation cases.
Neither candidate has much chance of resolving the FBI’s internal crisis without root canal treatment that could consume years. For now, a radical overhaul of the FBI would be too dangerous, because it would compromise America’s main guardian against the constant threat of Islamic terror. At the same time, its capabilities for combating terror are hobbled by its internal disputes.