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Wednesday, 02 November 2016 15:45

Comey’s threat to democracy is unprecedented

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Editor’s note: This is a letter former FBI agent Mark Swanger Jr. sent to current FBI Director James Comey. Swanger is the current chairman of the Haywood County Commissioners.

As a retired FBI Agent, I write to express my view of your recent actions regarding the so-called email scandal involving Hillary Clinton.

First, I served the FBI honorably for 32 years, two of which were in FBI headquarters as National Coordinator of Organized Crime related Public Corruption investigations. I testified before Congress and made innumerable decisions that affected investigations in many U.S. cities and states. These were high-profile corruption cases involving officeholders of both parties. As election cycles occur annually, I was acutely aware of the FBI’s solemn responsibility to conduct fair and responsible investigations that did not cross a line that could be perceived as interference in our American voting system. In fact, the Department of Justice (DOJ) policy of non-interference was viewed as sacrosanct.

It is my view that you violated that longstanding policy. I do not know if that was your intent, but it was certainly the result, and it may have an effect on this year’s presidential election. I never thought I would hear those words — that the FBI would likely determine the winner of the election for the most powerful position in the world.  

Worse yet, your action was not based on probable cause or even reasonable suspicion. You acknowledge the FBI has no idea of the significance of these newly discovered emails, have not reviewed them, and have made no allegation of wrongdoing. To compound the problem, you then wrote a vague letter to Congress which may turn this election on its head. This letter was so vague that anyone could “fill in the blanks” with any number of fake assertions, misrepresentations, or conspiracy theories.

This recent event follows the July decision to not recommend charges in this matter. Then, again contrary to policy and practice, you editorialized in a most unprofessional manner. This is something I have never seen an FBI Director or official do, and I have worked for and met almost every FBI Director, including J. Edgar Hoover, except you. Your job in this instance was to investigate and report the facts to the DOJ, make a recommendation, if appropriate, and go on about your business — not to publicly criticize and scorn someone who you announced should not be charged with a crime. A public flogging is not the job of you or the FBI.

I point out that these actions were taken over the objections of your superior, the Attorney General. I don’t know how things in the Bureau work now, but when I was serving there was no tolerance for violations of policies and directives of such magnitude. What would you do if a special agent in charge of a field division ignored your directive and became politically involved as you have? I think I know the answer, and so do you. No one is above the law.

Trust in the FBI and our national institutions are under attack, and some even believe we are at a constitutional crossroads. Your actions exacerbate that belief. Your conduct may someday be viewed as the catalyst that resulted in the decline of a great American institution into just another politically motivated organization. We cannot allow that to happen to the FBI. Too much depends on our reputation of being honest, fair, neutral and non-partisan. Please correct this mistake, or history will likely view it as a corrupt abuse of power and a preemptive coup d’état on your part. 

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