U.S.

Fire the FBI Chief

FBI director Christopher Wray testifies before the Senate Intelligence Committee, February 13, 2018. (Leah Millis/Reuters)
Did a preventable massacre go unprevented because of bureaucratic failure?

American government is supposed to look and sound like George Washington. What it actually looks and sounds like is Henry Hill from Goodfellas: bad suit, hand out, intoning the eternal mantra: “F*** you, pay me.”

American government mostly works by interposition, standing between us, the free people at whose sufferance it exists, and the things we want to do. Want to drive a car? “F*** you, pay me.” Own a home? “F*** you, pay me.” Want to build an extension on that home? “F*** you, pay me.” Got a job? “F*** you, pay me.” Business good? “F*** you, pay me.” Business bad? “F*** you, pay me.”

The guiding principle of American law enforcement is that it is easiest to enforce the law on law-abiding people, while enforcing the law on outlaws is something that looks terrifyingly close to hard work. That’s why gun control so ensorcels the bureaucratic mind. (Which is to say, the progressive mind: The essence of progressivism is replacing organic institutions with permanent bureaucracies.) If you are a federal law-enforcement agent with a comfy desk chair, you probably cannot imagine a more attractive anticrime program than gun control. Gun dealers have federal licenses, and they have to apply for them: You don’t have to go tracking them down — they come to you. They fill out paperwork. They generally operate from fixed addresses with regular business hours. Convenient! What you have is the power of political interposition, which is a mild form of terrorism. Want to operate a sporting-goods store? “F*** you, pay me.” And — mirabile dictu! — they pay. Sometimes, they even evince gratitude that you’ve done them the great favor of taking their money and allowing them, generous fellow that you are, to dispose of their own property as they see fit.

Chasing down fleet-footed 18-year-old criminals through the rough parts of Chicago on a cold February evening? That’s work. And that’s why we don’t do squat to prosecute actual gun crimes — the U.S. attorney’s office in Chicago won’t even look at a straw-buyer case unless it’s a major organized-crime enterprise — but we twist ourselves into knots to figure out how to create new hoops for federally licensed firearms dealers and their customers to jump through every time some pasty-faced virgin shoots up a school.

Chasing around pasty-faced virgins is work, too. Sometimes, you have to go so far as to pick up the phone.

As was reported on Friday, the FBI had been alerted that a particular pasty-faced virgin down in Florida was probably going to shoot up his old school. He had put up social-media posts to that effect, cleverly shielding his identity from the steely-eyed G-men by signing his legal name to those public threats. The epigones of J. Edgar Hoover may not be Sherlock Holmes, but presumably they can read, and some public-minded citizen took some screen shots and sent them to the FBI.

The FBI of course did what the relevant authorities did in the case of Omar Mateen, the case of Nidal Hasan, the case of Adam Lanza: nothing.

We could replace these guys with trained monkeys, if we could train monkeys to be self-important.

The FBI has ‘protocols’ for handling specific credible threats of that sort, ‘protocol’ here being a way of saying, ‘Pick up the phone and call the local field office or, if we really want to get wild, the local police.’

The Friday press conference on that little oversight was a masterpiece of modern bureaucracy. The FBI has “protocols” for handling specific credible threats of that sort, “protocol” here being a way of saying, “Pick up the phone and call the local field office or, if we really want to get wild, the local police.” “The protocol was not followed,” the FBI bureaucrats explained. Well, no kidding. Why not? No answer — the question wasn’t even asked aloud. Did law enforcement’s ball-dropping mean that a preventable massacre went unprevented because of bureaucratic failure? “I don’t think anybody could say that,” says Broward County Sheriff Scott Israel, who is leading the investigation. His department had over the years received no fewer than 20 calls related to the shooter. What about that? “Make no mistake about it, America, the only one to blame for this incident is the killer himself,” which is exactly the sort of thing a sanctimonious schmuck says when he doesn’t want to consider the institutional failures right in front of his taxpayer-subsidized nose and the culpable negligence — to say nothing of the sand-pounding stupidity — of his own agency.

The FBI has a budget of $3.5 billion, almost all of which goes to salaries, benefits, and other personnel costs. Do you know how many employees the FBI field office in South Florida has? It has more than 1,000. Do you know how many employees the FBI has in total? It has 35,158 employees. It has 13,084 agents and 3,100 intelligence analysts.

And not one of them could pick up the phone to forward vital intelligence gathered by the grueling investigative work of picking up the phone and taking a tip from a tipster. Would the sheriff have taken that call more seriously than his department took the 20 other calls relating to the killer? Impossible to say.

For now, the FBI is in the stocks. Governor Rick Scott wants FBI director Chris Wray to resign. A self-respecting society would have him whipped.

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