By Scott McPherson*
Former FBI special agent Clint Watts has responded to tweets from President Trump critical of the FBI by branding the president an “enemy of the state.” Watts claims Trump’s tweets will “sow doubt” and “hurt” the abilities of the FBI, “so he is an enemy of the state whenever he is pushing against the FBI in that way,” he concluded.
With the possible exception of the BATFE, it would be hard to imagine an entity within the federal government more out of control and in need of — dare I say it? — abolition. Getting rid of the FBI would be a giant boon for the freedom of the American people. As President Harry S. Truman put it, “We want no Gestapo or secret police. The FBI is tending in that direction.”
For its entire existence the FBI has served as the strong arm of the federal government. Beginning in 1909 as the Bureau of Investigation, no one’s life, liberty, or property has been safe since. Ostensibly created to investigate anarchists, bootleggers, kidnappers, bank robbers, crimes on federal property, and later, the KKK, the FBI would soon find its true calling: political repression, personal destruction, and terror.
Communists, real and imagined, were the first to find themselves under the FBI’s ominous glare. World War II provided an opportunity for the FBI to serve a legitimate role, by investigating acts of espionage, but that would take a backseat to mass arrests of innocent Japanese Americans and warrant-less searches of their property.
J. Edgar Hoover, the first FBI director and its longest serving, then began compiling a list of “sexual deviants” in April 1950 so that homosexuals could be purged from the federal workforce.
Hoover disliked civil rights leaders as well, and the FBI’s COINTELPRO — for “counter intelligence program” — targeted Martin Luther King, Jr. and the Southern Christian Leadership Conference.
The FBI was also linked to political assassinations in the 1960s, including that of Illinois Black Panther Party leader Fred Hampton in Chicago, and the wiretapping of congressional offices.
To protect its Mafia informants, the FBI allowed four innocent men to be imprisoned for life in 1965 (two would die there); forty years later a congressional committee called it “one of the greatest failures in the history of federal law enforcement.”
The Bureau’s record of failure would only continue, and grow more tragic. In the early 1970s the FBI sought to undermine the American Indian Movement (AIM) by supporting a corrupt tribal leader at the Pine Ridge Reservation in South Dakota, Richard Wilson, who formed a private militia to intimidate his political opponents. In the case of Leonard Peltier, an AIM activist and outspoken critic of Wilson’s, allegations were raised that FBI agents threatened a witness in order to secure Peltier’s murder conviction in 1977.
In September 1992, an FBI sniper killed the wife of Randy Weaver as she stood at the door of her family’s cabin in Idaho, unarmed and holding her ten-month-old baby. In April 1993, the FBI used a tank to attack the Davidian complex outside Waco, Texas, after a fifty-one day standoff. All seventy-six people inside died in the resulting fire. The FBI claimed for years that no incendiary devices were used in the assault, but an investigation by William Gazecki proved this to be false. In 1996 the FBI leaked the name of Richard Jewell in connection with the Olympic Park bombing in Atlanta. He was hounded mercilessly by the media. Ultimately he was completely exonerated.
The FBI’s shady deals and shoddy work would ooze into the next century. An internal report in 2003 called into question thirty years of bullet sample evidence collected and analyzed by the Bureau. Yet a full year would pass before the FBI ended its corrupted practice, and not until 2007 would the agency identify the three decades of cases (!) affected and notify prosecutors that potentially flawed testimony was used. In the war on terror, the FBI has become associated with highly questionable tactics, providing encouragement and resources, even bribes, to manufacture “terrorist” suspects who later provide glowing headlines and boost budgets for the FBI.
What place does a FBI have in a free society? No place.
About the author:
*Scott McPherson is a policy adviser at the Future of Freedom Foundation, and author of Freedom and Security: The Second Amendment and the Right to Keep and Bear Arms. An advocate of the Free State Project, he lives in Portsmouth, New Hampshire.
This article was published by the MISES Institute