The stunning part of all this is the FBI cooperated fully in Connolly’s prosecution knowing that what he had done was part of the job he was supposed to have done. Some agents testified on his behalf but others testified for the prosecution. But overall the FBI and its agents except for a small group (100 out of 15,000) walked away from him. How can it be that so few, and mostly retired, special agents would stand up for a guy they knew was doing his job.
Connolly never seemed to understand he had been left out to hang by the FBI. I never understood that. He was so loyal to it that I guess he could not conceive of it turning against him. He always blamed the prosecutors without realizing had the FBI stood up and said he was doing his job there would have been no prosecution.
After the dust settled I decided to try to understand why so few backed Connolly. I did some reading on the FBI in books by agents who were proud of their careers and some who were disgruntled. All of them mentioned its supreme commandment, “Don’t Embarrass the FBI.” In fact, one book had the title . “Don’t Embarrass The Bureau.” I thought it strange that I had figured it out sitting during Connolly’s trial and later to learn in fact that was the most important thing to the FBI.
The more I read the more it became apparent to me that most special agents tried to get along, do their jobs, and not cross the bosses. To incur the wrath of the director could result in fast and severe punishment. Hoover had the ability to fire an agent “for cause” and prevent the agent from getting another job in the federal government. It didn’t matter how close a guy was to retirement if Hoover turned against him, they were all male agents in his time, he was out of luck.
Hoover maintained his discipline with an iron hand. FBI agents, working stiffs like I was on the state side, had devoted years to the job. The last thing they wanted to find out they were out on the street. So many just sucked it up, did their jobs, and tried to avoid getting put into compromising situations which would reflect badly on the Bureau. It isn’t easy in your mid-forties working from one check to another to suddenly find no more were coming in.
There were many situations which agents were require to engage in that they thought questionable but did it because ordered and kept their mouths shut. One example was the black bag jobs to place listening devices in private areas. One agent wrote of those that if they were caught doing these they were not supposed to disclose their true identities and if they could not work it out and it became public knowledge, the Seat of Government, as agents referred to FBI headquarters would call them rogue agents. They were on their own if it looked like the FBI would be embarrassed. Usually there was little to fear because the FBI could use their IDs to have the local cops give them a pass.
Other bad situations good agents were put in were breaking into private premises and rifling through files. Then there were the opening of private mail, the infamous COINTELPRO, and the like. Agents engaged in these questionable legal programs to keep their jobs and because they were told to by higher-ups.
Now, for the first time in its history, the FBI is being attacked by the president, Republican members of Congress, and the president’s news channel Fox. The other day one person who hosts a Fox show said: “There is a cleansing needed in our FBI and Department of Justice. It needs to be cleansed of individuals who should not just be fired but need to be taken out in handcuffs.” I’ve told how Gregg Jarrett on the Hannity show said: “the FBI has become America’s secret police. . . . It’s like the old KGB . . . “ These follow-up on the president’s lead where he said the FBI’s reputation “was in tatters – worst in history.”
One article had it: ”People are finally tumbling to the realization that this [FBI] has become a proto-KGB. We’re in a Constitutional crisis. These guys are playing out a silent coup against an elected official.” When FBI Director Christopher Wray testified he was told by a chairman of a committee: “The FBI’s reputation has been called into question. You, Director Wray, have a unique opportunity to repair the damage.”