To say that the FBI fails on occasion might qualify as what is called low-balling. It’s the PR projector screening their image never seems to. Translating the North Carolina state slogan “Essam quam videri” – “to be rather than to seem” – is a firing offense at 935 Penn.
What, exactly, did a Hooverite ever do to put so much social distance between himself and Officer Krupke? How does a federal paycheck make a guy with a gun, a badge, body armor and a battering ram so much dreamier to bleeding hearts than a municipal employee with the same gear? J Edgar cashed in his chips in 1972. The man was the ultimate coolicide when alive. Can anyone pinpoint when G-men turned the corner and started getting the hipster nod?
Was it taking on Koresh? Or keeping us all secure with Martha Stewart safely in the federal pen? America’s reigning home-economics monarch is still the trophy head over James Comey’s fireplace mantle. You’ll never have to worry about a crisis of self-esteem among G-men. They walk around proud of things that no ordinary man could ever live down.
On March 12, 2019 no less than 7 FBI agents showed up at the home of Felicity Huffman at 6 A.M. The actress, as you probably know, greased some palms to arrange what amounted to a ringer filling in her daughter’s SAT answers. Sleazy stuff, for sure, celebs deserve public humiliation trying to pull off these kinds of stunts. But can any sane person justify the Feds brandishing their hardware before knocking on the Macy-Huffman door – or at any other time during the arrest? Wasn’t it really more criminal than anything Huffman did? The first rule of firearms training the world over is to never point a weapon at anything you don’t aim to shoot.
Mark and Patricia McCloskey were charged with felonies in St. Louis for pulling out their guns when protesters stormed onto their property – for no discernible reason related to their grievances — in June 2020. How woke would you have to get to say that that mob – after days of rioting had occurred just blocks away – was less threatening than Felicity Huffman? Waving weaponry is always serious no matter who does it. In which case would it seem more necessary? Did the real life profilers in Quantico, portrayed in the unwitting comedy Criminal Minds, predict the actress would go postal?
Should Feds get more leeway unholstering because they’re the “pros”? Consider the Ulises Valladares case from a little over one year earlier than Huffman’s. The FBI was doing a SWAT raid on a house near Houston where a hostage was held for ransom. While breaching a rear window the agent – who remains unnamed by the Bureau — dropped his tool into the dwelling. “Thinking” quickly he decided to finish the job with the business end of his M-4. The story gets weirder. The government claims a blindfolded, bound Valladares grabbed the gun’s barrel and was shot. Does it sound more likely that a gun used as a demolition instrument accidentally went off? Unlike anyone else guilty of malfeasance or incompetence we are expected to believe FBI agents are above deceptive CYA. Valladares, the only one there with an interest in disputing official word, died on the way to the hospital.
The Bureau poses as the world’s finest and most professional law enforcement agency. Where does it get off continuing to employ a man wielding his piece in a way we never saw from Barney Fife? Even if his implausible story is true retail clerks get fired for less daily. Are we at a point where employees of Wal-Mart and Starbucks adhere to more stringent codes of conduct than armed agents of the state?
Did this killing have any impact on FBI training, procedure or protocol? How seriously do the Feds take weapons handling after such an incident? This is far from the only time the wrong person got shot by the A-Team. Later in 2018, agent Chase Bishop did a back flip on a bar’s dance floor while packing. Gravity, to Bishop’s surprise, was maintaining its customary force. The gat went off as it was retrieved from the floor. Thomas Reddington was hit in the leg. Whether that’s worse than using a loaded gun as a mallet is up to the reader.
In April 1934, Feds shot 3 innocent men leaving the Little Bohemia Lodge in 1934 pursuing John Dillinger – who got away. They’ve been covering their tracks in every shooting since.
This is what Fox News heard when they asked about the necessity of an armed take down of Huffman:
“No tactical teams were used but all FBI agents are armed and, depending on the circumstances, may draw their weapons as a precautionary measure during the execution of any warrant. This is done for the safety of the agents, subject/s and any other occupants at a given location,” Laura Eimiller, an FBI spokeswoman, told Fox News.”
In other words, it’s up to the agent. Wouldn’t any housewife look even more desperate with seven federal agents drawing a bead? So, let’s get this straight, the one in charge thought “safety” required lead at 900-feet-per-second had to be at the ready in case of any false moves? And he’s too precious an asset to everyone’s safety to have to explain that? Gee, what kind of fake news bastard thinks he can question the FBI?
Were the two publicized incidents of slapstick incompetence in the previous 18 months the public’s business? Every agent is required to qualify as a weapons expert. One uses his as a wrecking bar and another thinks he can do acrobatics with it – he may have seen too many John Wick’s. We civilians just have to mind our own bees wax. Did media apply sufficient heat in the Huffman incident? Or the preceding ones where one man was killed and another wounded? Later events inform us otherwise.
On September 23, 2022 the FBI arrested Mark Houck. He had already gotten off on the charge in state court and offered to turn himself in on the new federal FACE act charges. But overwhelming force and intimidation are, evidently, perks that come with being a federal agent – public safety is not up to the public. The Houck home had seven children in it when the Feds came calling early Friday morning. They had on body armor and wielded so-called “assault rifles”. Ryan-Marie, Houck’s wife, claims 25 to 30 armed personnel arrived at her home in vehicles you could take into battle. We have yet to receive one word of explanation for any of it.
Attorney General Merrick Garland was questioned about this outrageous display of forceful overkill at a Senate hearing. He answered: “Determinations on how to make arrests under arrest warrants are made by the tactical operators of the district.” Why, on Earth, should that be the protocol? Is anyone at the top actually in charge? How many other “determinations,” that could have been made by Inspector Sledge Hammer, in tactless tactical operations by the Bureau have transpired? Aren’t taxpayers entitled to such an accounting? Are FBI buildings, equipment and records owned by the FBI? Or those who paid for them?
In April of 2018 two men were denied use of a bathroom in a Philadelphia Starbucks and asked to leave after failing to make a purchase. Police were called and the two were arrested upon maintaining refusal to vacate the premises. The furor over what happened at the coffee shop that day was reported worldwide. On May 29 of that year the company closed over 8000 locations nationwide to give employees “unconscious bias training.” They take incidents the public finds disturbing seriously.
Starbucks hires practically anyone off the street. Yet, they are capable of maintaining specific standards for situations and hold baristas accountable. It’s too much to ask of the FBI. They can shoot the hostage, shoot the barfly, pull guns for cheating on a written test and attack like Marines assaulting an enemy beach over a shoving but are still entitled to absolute discretion making unnecessary arrests over trifles. Firings, reprimands and fine tuning the use of force with consequences for violations might hurt feelings in field offices everywhere.
Are people in media and academia really unaware that whatever you call an armed agent of the state he is still essentially a policeman. The word “police,” from the Latin “politia,” from the Greek “politeia,” means no more or less than the state itself. Definitionally the difference between a municipal cop and an FBI agent is statutory and jurisdictional. Their jobs are alike the same way a plumber is similar to a steamfitter or a barber is to a hairstylist. It isn’t an exaggeration to say those four professions have stricter standards.
Is there any connection to what happened to Tyre Nichols and what goes on when the FBI wants to lay hands on Americans? Suppose a weapon had gone off in either the Huffman or Houck arrests. Is there anyone with functioning gray matter that would expect candor from Christopher Wray? Shouldn’t media have asked if any of the five Mesa, Arizona SWATters who assassinated Daniel Shaver attended the FBI’s super-cop school in Quantico, Va.? The “broken windows” crime prevention theory should be applied to LEOs when they proceed with any unnecessary action that would be criminal for laymen.
There is no reasonable excuse for the commanders in the Houck or Huffman arrests keeping their jobs. They had zero expectation of danger in either case and were practically certain each would have turned themselves in without resistance. What motive for the courses taken, other than malice, can any apologist offer? These kinds of “tactical” decisions are clearly pathological. Reigning in police excess must start at the top. Allowing the politics, celebrity or loathing for authority of the governments’ prey to impact the circumstances taking custody should be criminalized by statute.