‘For FBI Agents, financial security is national security’: FBI Agents Association president
Raghu_Ramaswamy/iStock(WASHINGTON) — The FBI needs to be funded, an exasperated FBI Agents Association President Tom O’Connor lamented, there’s nothing political about it.
“For FBI Agents, financial security is national security,” O’Connor said Tuesday morning.
At a press conference, highlighting the release of a report titled, “Voices from the Field,” O’Connor asked those in the room how they would fare with no pay for a month and still have to go to work.
“You try it,” he said.
The report details how agents are being hampered from doing their jobs due to the shutdown.
“On the child exploitation side, as an [undercover employee], I have to put the pervs on standby,” an agent in the southeast region said in the report. “This puts children in jeopardy.”
Although they aren’t getting paid, O’Connor said that “FBI agents will be on the street working doing everything they can.”
He highlighted some of the stories from the report.
An agent in the western region said they are unable to do undercover operations that require using government money to purchase narcotics or firearms from gang members – a method to get drugs and guns off the streets and to prosecute the violent gang and drug traffickers. They are having to borrow money from state and local partners, but only in small amounts because their budgets are not equipped for large scale operations. And partnerships with dedicated state and local officers are also impacted because those who assist FBI investigations beyond their regular shifts cannot be paid overtime.
“The shutdown has eliminated any ability to operate,” according to an agent working on both overt and undercover counter-intelligence matters against a top threat to national security. “It’s bad enough to work without pay, but we can only conduct administrative functions while doing it. The fear is our enemies know they can run freely.”
Another agent expressed frustration that grand jury subpoenas aren’t going through, citing a securities fraud and insider trading case where communication with partners from other government agencies has ceased and staff from the U.S. Attorney’s Office being furloughed.
“Approximately 20+ grand jury subpoenas are not being delivered to involved/assisting entities,” according to the agent. “The case is basically on a paused status until the government reopens.”
John Cohen, an ABC News contributor and former acting undersecretary at the Department of Homeland Security agrees.
“It’s not just FBI agents that are suffering,” he said. “Federal agents across the nation are being prevented from doing their jobs and that places all of us at risk.”
At the news conference, the agents who spoke said they are feeling the hit to their wallets.
Agent Brian O’Hare, whose wife is also his supervisor, said that they went from a two-income household to nothing.
Some benefits will also be disappearing if the shutdown.
“As we go forward, we’re told our medical insurance will continue, but people who haven’t gotten the vision and dental plans, that will cease starting Friday with the next paycheck,” he said at the press conference. “Sadly, those people who retired from the FBI on the 21st of December will not be receiving retirement checks.”
The FBI distanced the agency from the report, calling it a product of the agents association.
“Earlier today, the FBI Agents Association (FBIAA) released a report entitled ‘Voices From the Field: FBI Agent Accounts of the Real Consequences of the Government Shutdown,'” the FBI said in a statement to ABC News. “This report is a product of the FBIAA, a nonprofit professional association, and was not issued by the FBI.”
The Justice Department has not returned ABC News’ request for a comment.
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