Anyone who has read my book, Don’t Embarrass The Family, or some of my posts over the past year will know that I have criticized the FBI for some of the things that it continually does. In my book I made recommendations for changes in FBI procedures because I suggested the FBI had become an ossified outfit hiding behind the wall of “under investigation.”
The family in the title of my book is the FBI; I arrived at the title when I heard Frank Salemme testify that when he was a king (some of the heads of Mafia families considering themselves kings) he would tell the guys under him they could do anything they wanted as long as they did not embarrass the family; hearing that I realized the trial of FBI Agent John Connolly was all about him having embarrassed the FBI. Actually it was not Connolly who had embarrassed the Bureau, it was the Bureau itself with it Top Echelon Informant program, but to cover up it own idiocy in creating and running that program it hung Connolly out to dry.
The first recommendation I made for the FBI to become a truly modern police force in fact, not in hype, was that “all interviews between FBI agents and others be recorded and preserved.”
I suggested that because the procedure used by the FBI to have its agents interview people and then go back and write a 302 report spelling out what was said during the interview was out of date and ripe for fraud or misunderstanding. I pointed out how Judge Mark Wolf who broke the whole Whitey case open would not let the FBI interview him unless it agreed to let him see what the agents put in their 302 reports. I also noted that Congress required any interceptions made pursuant to Title III wiretap warrants be recorded; it did not let FBI agents listen to them and write out 302s. In fact, the FBI always considered the evidence of a person’s own words recorded on tape as the best evidence. Yet it persisted in refusing to record its agents interactions with others.
Finally I thought things may be changing a little. Attorney General Eric Holder has issued a letter on May 12, 2014, that is just being brought to light which is entitled “Policy Concerning Electronic Recordings of Statements.
It starts by stating that “the policy establishes a presumption that the . . . FBI [and others such as DEA, ATF, and US Marshalls]. . . will electronically record statements made by individuals in their custody . . . “ under circumstances set out. Unfortunately, the circumstances set out pretty much undermine the new policy making Holder’s actions much ado about nothing. .
First the person has to be in a building controlled by the investigative or law enforcement agencies; so you can expect most of the interviews will now be done in automobiles or out in the field or in someone’s home. Don’t the people who make these rules understand this?
Then it is filled with exceptions such as: the person refused to be recorded – something easily manufactured; or getting public safety information which makes the exception broader than the mandate; or if national security information is involved which seems to be where you’d really want the recordings; or if the circumstances make it impracticable which can easily happen; or if the SAC and US Attorney agree” that significant and articulable law enforcement purposes” require it not be done.
Reading the exceptions and seeing the few limited locations where it applies actually defeat the purpose of the stated policy. This shows that the FBI had a significant role in drafting the policy since it made it into, for lack of a better word, a joke. Other agencies might have had some input but the FBI is so bent out of shape with the idea that it must record interviews, a procedure few other law enforcement agencies find difficult, that it conned Holder into thinking he was doing something when he wasn’t; or perhaps Holder just wants to look like he’s doing something right rather than actually doing it right. It’s the old all talk no walk that is a pap for his left leaning friends.
Putting in a policy that recordings must be made and then writing the circumstances under which they are to be done and giving broad exceptions to when they much be done is a huge setback. The FBI will avoid doing recordings but state that there is no need for a policy requiring them to do it because such a policy is already in effect.
As we’ve seen in the Todashev situation, the Massachusetts State Police made recordings of their interview with him behind the FBI’s back; doing this they are able to demonstrate Todashev was involved in the Waltham Triple Homicide; something one would have hard trouble believing without it since the FBI agent killed him.
We need to have all interviews between FBI agents and others recorded even if the person is not in custody. Why isn’t the question asked: Why Is The FBI Afraid Of Recording All Interviews And Interrogations? If the recordings of a person’s words are the best evidence then we should have that and not some FBI agent’s recollections. Eric Holder should be ashamed of himself knowing the problem and then addressing it in such a pusillanimous manner.