Bye, Bye, FBI? The Case for Disbanding the Federal Frankenstein’s Monster

 

by Thomas L. Knapp

The Federal Bureau of Investigation is always under fire for something. As of late January, that something is destruction of evidence. Text messages between agents involved in the Bureau’s investigations of Hillary Clinton and Donald Trump, from a key time frame during the presidential transition,  are missing. Congress, the Bureau, and the US Justice Department are at each other’s throats over the missing messages and what they might say.

It’s far from the first time, as James Bovard points out at The Hill. In 1973, acting FBI director Patrick Gray was forced to resign for destroying evidence in the Watergate investigation. After the 1992 murder of Vicki Weaver by an FBI sniper, an FBI division chief went to prison for destruction of evidence in that case.

The FBI has  had 110 years to prove its worth. A dispassionate look at its history says that it’s far more often served as a center for blackmail, corruption, and political manipulation than as anything resembling a legitimate law enforcement agency.

In fact, it was a bad idea in the first place.

The FBI — then merely the Bureau of Investigation, or BOI — was created during a congressional recess and without congressional approval by the Attorney General in 1908 for purposes of “investigating” (read: Drumming up a scare over) the role of prostitution in “white slavery,” a forerunner of today’s “human trafficking” panic. It’s pretty much gone downhill from there.

The US Constitution defines only three federal crimes: Treason, piracy and counterfeiting. The first two are military matters and the third is handled by the Secret Service. There’s no room for an FBI in a constitutional law enforcement scheme.

One excuse for keeping the FBI going has been to facilitate investigations of crimes with an interstate angle. But given today’s technology, the states could presumably set up their own clearinghouses to exchange information and track down cross-border bank robbers and kidnappers. The FBI is just another bureaucratic layer inserting itself between the commission of a crime and the arrest of those thought to be responsible.

While the FBI has no particularly compelling, or even legitimate, mission, it certainly has its illegitimate uses. It’s probably not going too far to think of J. Edgar Hoover, the FBI’s first director, as having been a sort of shadow president for much of his 48 years of service. He used agents to get the goods on aspiring political leaders, and apparently used that information to get what he wanted from them both for the Bureau itself and in public policy generally.

One big problem with a federal law enforcement agency as big and well-funded as the FBI is that at some points it’s almost certain to stop working for the rest of the government and start running the rest of the government. Election? Who needs an election? Just ask J. Edgar what to do.

Unfortunately, the second big problem with such an agency is that it’s hard to get rid of after more than a century of nearly uncontested power.

But we should try.


 

Thomas Knapp -- Photo Credit Avens O'Brien

Photo by Avens O’Brien

Thomas L. Knapp (Twitter: @thomaslknapp) is director and senior news analyst at the William Lloyd Garrison Center for Libertarian Advocacy Journalism (thegarrisoncenter.org). He lives and works in north central Florida.


Get Citizensjournal.us Headlines free  SUBSCRIPTION. Keep us publishing – DONATE

2 Responses to Bye, Bye, FBI? The Case for Disbanding the Federal Frankenstein’s Monster

  1. manny traverso February 7, 2018 at 5:19 pm

    The past few months has shown how arrogant the FBI is failing to remember they are not above scrutiny. The administrations disgustingly public bias behavior is not of a premier law enforcement agency that serves the American people but itself, abusing their authority to selectively apply the law as they see fit. The FBI is charged with overseeing corruption in both government and other law enforcement agencies. If anything has come of this recent debacle is that the FBI can not and should not police itself. Complacency breeds corruption and that is exactly what has occurred with the FBI. If these agents are as hardworking and loyal to upholding the law as Director is Christopher A. Wray claims, then they should be the first to stand up and accept that they are an unconstitutional agency and as such answer to the American people who are in agreement that it is time we rid ourselves of this national police force. Their recent actions proved a forefathers correct for not wanting such an agency.

    Reply
  2. William Hicks January 26, 2018 at 9:13 am

    Interesting. But weaponizing agencies is not unique to the FBI.

    Reply

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *