FBI agents say the longest government shutdown in U.S. history is compromising security and destroying investigations that agents have worked on for years.
The FBI Agents Association released Tuesday a series of agent accounts about how the ongoing government shutdown has affected their work. The risks they described are startling.
FBIAA President Tom O’Connor told reporters Tuesday the FBI needs funding immediately to protect national security, CBS News reported.
“The failure to fund the FBI is making it more difficult for us to do our jobs, to protect the people of our country from criminals and terrorists,” O’Connor said. “This is not about politics or partisanship. As I have said, special agents are working and are committed to protecting our country, but we need funding to do our work.
The FBIAA said FBI agents could be delayed in securing or renewing security clearances due to missing payments on debts, because agents are subject to routine financial background checks. Pay issues also undermine the agency’s ability to recruit and keep quality employees, they said.
Agents also say the shutdown is interfering with counterintelligence activities and training.
“We have lost several sources who have worked for months, and years, to penetrate groups and target subjects.
Unnamed FBI agent
The bureau isn’t able to pay its national security confidential sources to provide security intelligence to the president or his advisors. And funding for critical training on dealing with pre-blast weapons of mass destruction is also on pause.
One agent said since the shutdown, they have not had access to a Spanish speaker in the division. Many of the informants speak Spanish, so they are behind on investigating gang members accused of murder, extortion, money laundering and weapons offenses.
“The shutdown has also created a safety concern because when employees should be laser focused on an operation they have the distraction of worrying about making ends meet in the back of their minds.”
Unnamed FBI agent
FBI agents are unable to pay confidential sources. One said he couldn’t buy the phone card needed to talk to a valuable source who reports on domestic and international terrorism. Some report they’ve lost sources who have worked foryear to penetrate groups and target subjects.
And sex trafficking investigations are stalled. Victims from domestic minor sex trafficking cases are not receiving the attention they need, such as visits and counseling services. Agents say they also can’t pay for witnesses and victims to travel to testify in sex cases.
To sum it up, one FBI agent said “We cannot protect the United States without proper funding.”