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Monday, April 1, 2019

FBI Interviews: A Little Reminisce

All this misuse of the FBI and Russian Collusion Delusion madness has provoked recollections in my aged brain of when I got interviewed by the FBI.

While at State, I worked with the FBI on overseas and domestic assignments on a number of issues. I found the agents, overwhelmingly, to be terrific, patriotic, and very dedicated to catching the bad guys.

In the course of my 33-plus years at State, I got interviewed twice by the FBI: once at my request, once at theirs. Keep doing what you are doing, don't expect anything too exciting.

The first time took place during the Reagan administration. After serving in Pakistan, I worked on the Pakistan desk in the early 1980s. I have to leave out some details, but I became somewhat suspicious of a mid-level political appointee who seemed to ask a lot of questions and get involved in all sorts of things not that person's business. This person had many contacts with Pakistani officials but rarely wrote up those meetings. I knew because people at the Pakistani Embassy would let slip that this person had seen so-and-so. Anyhow, after a bit, I got tired of muttering to myself about this, wrote up a long memo with what I had observed and thought, and passed it to the FBI liaison at State. A couple of days later, an agent came by. He thanked me for the memo, called it very useful, asked for clarification on a couple of points, and said he'd get back in touch. Never heard back. In time, I moved to another assignment. A couple of years later, this person ran afoul of the Department IG for using diplomatic privileges to get parents living overseas duty-free furniture and appliances. Spy?Crook? Crooked spy? I never found out.

The second time I was at my desk writing a boring speech for an address I would make at the OAS that afternoon. The office manager entered and said two FBI agents wanted to see me. This was a very short time after Obama's inauguration, and I thought maybe they were doing an update on security clearances. I wasn't worried.

The two agents, one man and one woman, young and polite, sat down and started by saying that they could not tell me the purpose of this visit, but had questions about people I knew. I, unwisely, said, "OK." The female agent reached into her briefcase and pulled out a large manila folder from which she took a glossy black-and-white picture. She put it on my desk. "Do you know this person?" "Yes," I said, "I worked with him in Guatemala." She nodded, and drew out another picture. Again, I acknowledged that I had worked with this person. Then a third picture, also of somebody with whom I had worked recently. Her male colleague took notes.

Then she asked whether I knew a person called something or another. "No," I said, "never heard of him." I remember her saying, "Really? You've never met him?" That set my "Danger, Will Robinson! Danger!" alarm pinging. I slowly repeated, "That's right. Never heard of him." She pulled out a picture of me shaking hands with somebody at a big reception in DC. She said, "A picture from a few days ago. This is the person you say you never met." I stared at the photo, and suddenly recalled meeting him at a national day event but, "That wasn't the name he gave. In fact, he gave me his card." I furiously rummaged around in my desk drawer, found the card, and passed it to her. "That's the name he used."

She took the card, showed it to her colleague, but before she could speak, I finally wised up, and did what I should have from the start. I stood up and said, "Wait a minute." I walked next door to the office of a Bush political appointee who had still not been replaced. We were friends, and, more important, he was a DC lawyer. I told him about the FBI visit. He said, "Why are you talking to them? I am coming with you." We went to my office; my friend told the agents, "I am his attorney. Unless you tell us exactly what this is about, this interview is over. In the future, you talk to me first." He handed them his card, and glared at them for a few seconds; the agents looked at each other, gathered their stuff, rose, and left. We never heard anything more.

Who knows what that was about? I still got my pension and my house has not been raided at five in the morning . . . yet.

Not very exciting, I know, but that's all I got on this cold Monday morning. I'll have something more interesting later . . . I think.


  1. Thanks for sharing your stories.

    I bet a large majority of FBI contacts are no more exciting than these.

  2. It sounds like you started in a 'cooperative' mode, but that's only appropriate for a 'cooperative' relationship. Once they refuse to explain their purpose, it's an 'interrogative' relationship, not a 'cooperative' one.

    I've gone fishing many times and come back empty handed. I'm betting this expedition didn't come back any more fulfilled.

    - reader #1482

  3. I have had official contact with the FBI only once in my life. A neighbor worked at a National Lab -- pleasant quiet person who never talked about what he did.

    One day, a man in normal office garb showed up at my door. He explained he was with the FBI, doing a routine background check on my neighbor for a renewal of his security permit.

    OK, says I: Before we talk, can you show me your ID? The FBI agent looked a little embarrassed: I forgot to bring my FBI badge, he said. But Look! My car has government plates!

    1. I had a similar encounter with a FBI agent, though not being interviewed, just making chit chat. I asked to see his badge, and he wouldn't show it to me. I knew he worked for the FBI as the field office was in the same building I worked in, and I would see him going in and out of that office.

    2. I don't know if DOE clearances are any different from all of the others but a Periodic Re-Investigation isn't the responsibility of the FBI anywhere I've ever been.
      If the investigator was FBI, then he was probably doing something other than following up on names of neighbors or addresses listed in an SF-86.

      What's really odd is that if you show up to request cooperation from someone that doesn't know you and then refuse to reciprocate, at a minimum you can expect to have the door slammed in your face. Seriously, would you as the investigator ask someone that merely opened a door to answer questions about a subject, such as a neighbor, without asking for an ID? And why would you not show your credentials - right from the start? You should lead with that badge and credentials - that's the way I've always seen it when I'm called to do an interview about someone that has listed me as a contact.

      The sad part is that the FBI has become so tainted by the revelation of their leadership's politicization that they have lost credibility with individuals, organizations, and foreign governments that actually do cooperate with us because the FBI is no longer considered to be professional or even reliable.

    3. That is odd. My background checks have always been a contractor working for OPM, but that's since I got back into Fed work in 2002.

  4. Instance the First: Sounds like someone was protected by someone else. Seen that happen locally. Totally sucks, even when you have the certain someone dead to rights on everything from copy paper theft to outright treason (my case the person was passing info to major drug dealers.)

    Instance the Second: Sounds like you were about 10 seconds away from being 'Flynned.' And I hate ambiguous fishing expeditions. Looks like a certain somebodies were trying to get rid of people who wouldn't go along with the new status quo. Good on you for dodging the bullet and not getting shafted.

    1. Normally I would chalk the behavior of the two "young and polite" agents as a lack of experience (read professionalism) but anymore...I just don't trust them and that's just one aspect to consider when assessing the collateral damage done by Clinton, Obama, and The Party, as they orchestrated what amounts to a failed political hit piece designed to damage an opponent that ultimately turned into a coup attempt.

    2. It sounds like a purge - get the GOP-leaning career folks out and replace them with Democrats who won't be removed by the GOP because, well, stupid party. Democrats have always been ruthless about that kind of stuff, and they are reaping the rewards in this administration.

      I'm sorta surprised the Bush appointee hadn't been sacked, but he was likely higher visibility and thus the Obama administration had to be more circumspect in that situation.

  5. "what I should have done from the start."

    The link says the video is unavailable due to a copyright claim. I'm pretty sure the same video is available here:

  6. Finding out the why is the first question which needs to be answered. When the FBI or any government organization goes "fishing" ,they want it to be a "catching" operation. The real organization you should fear is the IRS. Never cheat on your taxes.

  7. I was an investigator for the NLRB for 25 years, mostly in Alaska. In the mid-80s, I was investigating a couple of firings of building guards by the contractor that guarded the Anchorage federal building. He contractor said that the FBI had investigated some irregularities and had found the employees culpable. I asked for detailed interviews with the FBI agents who backed the contractor. We dismissed the charge, and the employees then appealed with the aid of an attorney. The attorney unearthed some computer records via FOIA which showed that the FBI agents had lied to me. My regional director went on the warpath against the FBI Anchosge office, but his superiors warned him off because of threats of retaliation by FBI headquarters in DC. I have had zero respect for the FBI ever since.

  8. The FBI needs a through cleaning up, if not replacement in full. Hopefully the Trump administration will oblige.

  9. Federal Bureau of Incineraton? That FBI?

    Consider the "who, how and why of its formation and it may make more sense, to someone, somewhere.

  10. https://www.ebaumsworld.com/videos/pot-smoking-lawyers-are-back-with-a-guest-for-another-psa/85868296/

    Sid service announcement