The FBI Vs. The People

America’s principal law enforcement agency, the FBI, has declared yet another war. It’s just like the war on drugs, the war on organized crime, and the war on terrorism from decades past—but this time, the bureau’s enemy is average Americans who are not Democrats.

That’s not a mere Republican talking point. Indeed, few Republican officials are talking about the FBI at all, despite the bureau’s repeated use of Stasi tactics to intimidate their constituents. No, this is now a fact of American life.

On Oct. 7, FBI agents executed a shock-and-awe raid at the home of Paul Vaugh, pro-life activist and father of 11, who allegedly obstructed a federally mandated “access zone” at the Tennessee abortion clinic where he was protesting several months ago. A few days earlier, the FBI raided the home of pro-life advocate Chet Gallagher and arrested him for the same offense. And a week before that, agents did the same to another pro-life protester, Mark Houck, who allegedly shoved an assailant to protect his son in an altercation that took place nearly a year ago.

In every case, the FBI terrorized the families and neighbors of these men, threatening to break down the door and enter with guns drawn at their wives and children. The charges are a farce, but if convicted, they and their “co-conspirators” in the abortion clinic protests could face over a decade in prison.

Those of us who watched the FBI’s behavior during the Trump presidency and especially after Jan. 6 were not surprised that the bureau has now turned its sights on the peaceful pro-life movement. Harassment, surveillance, and detention of elderly Americans who were not charged with any crimes formed part of a sweeping “domestic terror” investigation that zeroed in on Republicans. Pre-dawn raids and “flight risk”-style arrests targeted Trump administration officials like Jeff Clark and Peter Navarro. Perhaps most unprecedented was the FBI’s search and seizure raid at Mar-a-Lago, the home of the former president himself.

One FBI special agent, Stephen Friend, recently submitted a formal whistleblowing complaint to Congress alleging misconduct in these domestic terror cases. Though he has since been suspended, Friend has fortunately not yet faced a shock-and-awe raid due to the trumped-up charges. But he isn’t the only person sounding the alarm about the agency.

I spoke with an employee at one of the FBI’s 56 field offices who sympathized with Friend. My source, who asked to remain anonymous for fear of retaliation, said he was concerned about the bureau’s current trajectory. He plans to resign.

“In the time I’ve served, the FBI has made itself the sworn enemy of the average patriotic American,” he said. “The bureau still does important work—stopping child trafficking and sexual abuse, for instance—but I can no longer work for an organization that hates and persecutes my friends and family for their political leanings.”

According to my source, many agents are quietly leaving—and private conversations around the workplace often revolve around the FBI’s recent partisan turn. He shared some anecdotes about the bureau’s recruitment efforts, which seem to be stalling for this reason as well. But there is a silver lining here. The bureau’s troubles provide reformers with an opportunity to press the advantage.

There are three powerful moves the Republican grassroots can make immediately that would greatly weaken the partisan FBI’s capacity to terrorize pro-life protestors and their other political rivals.

First, sap its manpower. A large percentage of FBI staff are task force officers on loan from local law enforcement agencies, such as police departments and county sheriffs. These officers work on location at FBI field offices but do so at the discretion of their own departments. These police departments—who ultimately answer to local residents—should pull their officers from the FBI task forces. Elected law enforcement officials, like sheriffs, should be forced to campaign on this promise.

Left-wing groups regularly call for this “vote of no confidence” action to punish the FBI. The Brennan Center for Justice, for example, does not like the FBI’s surveillance of Islamist radicals who live in the U.S. Brennan-associated activists coordinated successful lobbying campaigns in Portland, Oakland, and San Francisco to force this type of FBI divestment through municipal legislation. If blue state activists can pressure a few blue state cops to remove their staff from FBI task forces, red state grassroots can do even better. Now is the time.

Second, solicit pushback from state and local law enforcement. Civilians complain about corrupt law enforcement all the time, but real impact is made when other law enforcement officers join the chorus. Police chiefs, sheriffs, and attorneys general are responsive to constituent pressure. Importantly, they also have a reputable platform that they can be pushed to use.

For example, when the FBI wrongfully tried to demand that local sheriffs divulge information about concealed carry permits, Missouri state Attorney General Eric Schmitt stated:

I will use the full power of my Office to stop the FBI, which has become relentlessly politicized and has virtually no credibility, from illegally prying around in the personal information of Missouri gun owners.

There is no reason Republicans should support any elected or appointed state or local law enforcement official who is not willing to go on record saying similar.

I recently brought up the FBI issue to Virginia state Attorney General Jason Miyares at a public question and answer session. I asked if he was willing to encourage Virginia’s local law enforcement to pull its officers from FBI task forces. Miyares has done a stellar job since his 2021 election developing tough-on-crime policies, protecting Catholic churches from pro-abortion violence after the Dobbs decision, and investigating public school sexual assault coverups. But when asked his thoughts on the FBI, he said:

The only two groups who would benefit from a weak FBI are kidnappers and foreign spies. The bureau does important work. It does need reform, but weakening it is not the way.

On the contrary, a weak FBI without so much time on its hands would certainly benefit detainees like Paul Vaughn and Jeff Clark. An FBI that serves as Democrats’ attack dog must be weakened at all costs, and Republican law enforcement officials like Miyares should get behind that effort.

Last but certainly not least, we must settle on a Republican plan to reform the FBI. No Republican politician should be able to win a congressional, senatorial, or presidential election without a specific plan to reform the FBI. Should the bureau be dissolved by legislative fiat? Punitively defunded through the budgetary process? How will its necessary functions—assuming there are any that can’t simply be handled by local law enforcement—be redistributed?

Answering these questions may take another electoral cycle, as Republican candidates debate the best approach in the 2024 primaries. But the grassroots can’t put this off—we must get an answer. The FBI’s direct interference in our elections and blatant intimidation of Republican voters and activists make this a top priority if the people hope to ever get their power back.

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