Joel Belz: Did the FBI get its man?


MARY REICHARD, HOST: Today is Wednesday, July 4th. Good morning! This is The World and Everything in It from member-supported WORLD Radio. I’m Mary Reichard.

NICK EICHER, HOST: And I’m Nick Eicher. Good governance comes when we root out corruption and hold to account those who abuse power.

WORLD founder Joel Belz says the FBI still has a ways to go.

JOEL BELZ, FOUNDER: Remember the good old days? Remember when the FBI held both your admir­ation and your trust?

No, it’s not just your imagination. I remember visiting the FBI head­quarters when I was still a boy. The lines were long, and the place was crowded. The theme for visitors focused on the list of “The FBI’s Ten Most Wanted Men.”

The point was clear: The FBI always gets its man.

So I checked in again today. More than 60 years later, are there any lines to visit this iconic agency? No, said Jill Barton at the Washington Visitors’ Bureau. She told me that the FBI gets a steady flow—but nothing like it was 30 years ago.

So let’s be honest and admit that the slippage had started under J. Edgar Hoover’s dominance of the agency. Through the ‘50s and ‘60s, he had seemed indom­itable. But a growing bank of darker clouds chiseled away at his reputation.

These days, of course, it’s not so unusual to lose the top man at the FBI. Just a year ago, it was James Comey. Now it’s Christopher Wray.

It’s fair to ask: Are we dealing only with a few occasionally corrupt individuals, or is the whole FBI community rotten to the core?

You can’t help but wonder after reading the recent report by the Justice Department’s Inspector General. He says the FBI’s leadership team was guilty, at a minimum, of unparalleled bad judgment in recent years.

Specifically, the IG report said, that leadership team showed overwhelming bias during the 2016 presidential election. And the political bias was most evident at the FBI’s highest leadership levels.

Both political parties had reason to complain about the agency’s actions. But any fair reading of the IG’s report suggests that Comey and his leadership team were determined to prevent the election of Donald Trump.

Read the IG report, if you have any doubts. We’ll post a link to the blog today.  

Apparently FBI Director Christopher Wray does have doubts. He told the Senate Judiciary Committee everything will be just fine. “Because change starts at the top—including right here with me,” he said with distracting modesty. “We’re going to begin by requiring all our senior executives, from around the world, to convene for in-depth training on the lessons we should learn from today’s report.”

Thanks, Mr. Wray, but that misses the point. It wasn’t the agents from around the world who got it so desperately wrong. It was the team at the very top. As long as they remain, we’re left asking: Did you get your man?

For WORLD Radio, I’m Joel Belz.


(AP Photo/Andrew Harnik) FBI Director Christopher Wray appears before a House Judiciary Committee hearing on Capitol Hill in Washington, Thursday, June 28, 2018, on Justice Department and FBI actions around the 2016 presidential election. 

WORLD Radio transcripts are created on a rush deadline. This text may not be in its final form and may be updated or revised in the future. Accuracy and availability may vary. The authoritative record of WORLD Radio programming is the audio record.

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