Tags: james comey | fbi | leak | trump

Upstanding Comey Tarnished by His Own Leak

Upstanding Comey Tarnished by His Own Leak
Former FBI Director James Comey is sworn-in before testifing before the Senate Intelligence Committee in the Hart Senate Office Building on Capitol Hill June 8, 2017, in Washington, D.C. (Mark Wilson/Getty Images)

By Monday, 10 July 2017 01:37 PM Current | Bio | Archive

I proudly served as an FBI agent for twenty-five years. And throughout that nearly quarter-century as a Special Agent and Executive Manager in inarguably the world’s premier law enforcement agency, I was instructed and repeatedly reminded that the ends should never justify the means in our judicial system.

This adherence to established processes and protocols, particularly in the realm of protecting classified information, was not related to some blind obeisance to tradition or simple token gesture. It was an edict rooted in the FBI’s historical and necessary aversion to shedding its apolitical mien, and an anti-Machiavellian adoption of embracing the harder right as opposed to the simpler wrong — no matter how alluring the desire to apply moral relativism.

And then on June 8, while stiffly seated in front of the Senate Select Committee on Intelligence, recently fired FBI Director James B. Comey, called to testify about the presumptive pressure he had supposedly felt from the Trump administration to shut down the Russian Collusion investigation, made a startling pronouncement. Shocking even the most jaded Beltway cynics, he stated, under oath, that he had purposely leaked a memo he had drafted chronicling an interaction with the president of the United States in the Oval Office to The New York Times:

"…I asked a friend of mine to share the content of the memo with a reporter. Didn’t do it myself for a variety of reasons but I asked him to because I thought that might prompt the appointment of a special counsel."

And with that revelation, former Director Comey, an unquestionably honorable and decent man, immediately ceded back the moral high ground to a president and an administration that had repeatedly questioned his integrity, impugned his character, and derided his judgments.

As for me, my stomach furiously churned — I grew "mildly nauseous," to steal a Comey condition — as I watched the hearing, and heard the FBI Director, himself, when questioned by Sen. Diane Feinstein (D-CA), describe his actions around the 45th POTUS in these sad terms:

"…maybe other people would be stronger in that circumstance."

"…Well, it was kind of a slightly cowardly way of trying to avoid telling him [Trump], we’re not going to do that…"

Reading those words from a transcript take me back to the disappointment I felt when I heard them uttered on live television. He was the FBI Director. He should have been stronger and less cowardly in those instances. I dealt with imposing and intimidating figures at all levels of government during my service in the FBI. I can’t help but think the FBI Director would have always expected me to avoid similar types of cowardice, weakness, or avoidance of my duties.

I have stated repeatedly on CNN, where I currently serve as a Law Enforcement Analyst, that good and decent folks can come down on opposite ends of the continuum regarding the FBI Director’s calculus during the latter stages of the presidential campaign of 2016.

Jim Comey, a man once heralded as that rarest of species in D.C., an apolitical actor who simply followed wherever the evidence led him, and never lost sight of his moral compass, was forced to make decisions then that even his staunchest critics would have to admit, were thrust upon him by a confluence of events that began on a swelteringly hot tarmac in Phoenix last June. Yes, his ultimate demise began the moment that a certain garrulous former president and an Attorney General elected to shed themselves of staff and security teams, and exchange tales of golf and grandkids in the aft end of a parked government jet for the better part of a half hour.

But let’s stipulate that whether arguing for or against Comey’s decision to convene that July 5 press conference about the Hillary Clinton e-mail investigation, he was acting in good faith. Playing the no-win hand he’d been dealt. Hindsight is 20/20. What would any of us have done if faced with the same seemingly horrific binary choice thrust upon him last summer?

He could pretend that the Attorney General wasn’t purposely downplaying the HRC investigation and hope that the poor optics of that tarmac meeting wouldn’t further erode American confidence in the two-party political system.

Or, he could choose to sidestep a White House and a Department of Justice that had seemingly politicized things that shouldn’t have ever been infected by politics.

James B. Comey chose the latter course, the lesser of two evils.

If one was prescient enough to sense this alignment of planets back last summer during the heat of the presidential campaign, maybe one could have predicted that Comey’s term as FBI Director likely wouldn’t have survived either nominee’s assumption of power.

That’s pure and simple conjecture. But it does appear to me that the die was cast, no matter the election’s outcome.

And I could ostensibly spend the length of this column defending Comey’s actions and decision-making, while decrying the reprehensible and repugnant manner in which President Trump dispatched his FBI Director. And while those items make Comey a sympathetic figure to many, they simply can’t blunt the damage done by his decision to share FBI documents with a friend and surrogate, who subsequently leaked them to The New York Times.

With that admittance, the legendary, unimpeachable law man with broad bipartisan appeal was reduced to tragic figure; another victim of the unprecedented political times we exist in now. And as the president’s detractors still struggle to uncover evidence to support their grand investigation expedition, the once giant of man who remained ever above the political fray — the leader I was unabashedly proud and honored to serve under — has simply shrunk to normal human size. Our Twitter-obsessed president fairly leaped at the opportunity to winnow down the proceedings, disclosures, and Comey’s admission into one succinct seven-word soundbite: "No collusion. No obstruction. He’s a leaker."

And sadly, much as the loud and unrelenting criticism of Comey pains me to accept, it’s fair.

Moral relativism has no place in the modern FBI, whose motto is Fidelity, Bravery, and Integrity. Those three core tenets should never be shaped, or abridged, or modified by the application of a 16th century Italian political theorist’s written musings, championing fealty to consequentialism, and ultimately trumping conduct that adheres to doing the right thing.

James A. Gagliano is a 1987 graduate of the United States Military Academy at West Point. Following his service as an Infantry Officer in the U.S. Army, he entered the FBI, serving in a myriad of positions in the investigative, tactical resolution (SWAT), undercover, diplomatic and executive management realms. He was a member of the FBI’s elite Hostage Rescue Team (HRT) and has posted to assignments in Afghanistan, Mexico City, and parts of Europe, Africa, and the Middle East. He retired in December of 2015 from the FBI’s New York City Office. He currently serves as a Law Enforcement Analyst for CNN, provides Leadership consultation for corporate clients of the Thayer Leader Development Group (TLDG) at his alma mater, and instructs undergraduates at St. John’s University in Queens, New York, where he earned an M.P.S. in Homeland Security and Criminal Justice Leadership in 2016. To read more of his reports — Click Here Now.

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Moral relativism has no place in the modern FBI, whose motto is Fidelity, Bravery, and Integrity.
james comey, fbi, leak, trump
Monday, 10 July 2017 01:37 PM
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