The ranking Republican member of the Senate judiciary committee is pushing new claims from a whistleblower that hundreds of FBI agents and employees have taken retirement or resigned from their position to avoid punishment related to misconduct probes into their time with the agency.
Senator Chuck Grassley (R-IA) alleges that he has documents from a protected source showing that the Department of Justice (DOJ) launched a review of the FBI’s disciplinary records in 2020 after media reports of potential sexual misconduct by senior FBI officials.
An Associated Press investigation at the time revealed at least six instances where a senior official at the FBI was under investigation for workplace sexual misconduct and avoided discipline through transfer or retirement.
Those who took retirement kept “their full pensions and benefits even when probes substantiated the sexual misconduct claims against them,” according to the Associated Press’s findings.
Alarmingly, federal law enforcement officials are protected legally and afforded high levels of anonymity during their time in service, which means even after probes into their misconduct conclude, they can easily find work in the private sector or even with other law enforcement agencies.
A woman only to be referred to as Becky told to the Associated Press, “As the premier law enforcement organization that the FBI holds itself out to be, it’s very disheartening when they allow people they know are criminals to retire and pursue careers in law enforcement-related fields.”
This reporting spurred the DOJ into action, and in its review of the FBI’s disciplinary records, it found 665 FBI employees, including 45 designated as senior-level, who had resigned or taken retirement between 2004 and 2020 following initiation of a probe into potential sexual misconduct but before a final determination had been made.
In a memo outlining these latest whistleblower allegations, Grassley opined that these DOJ findings do not include resignations or retirements made prior to the official launch of a sexual misconduct probe or resignations or retirements made in the midst of an ongoing probe. He concluded that this means the number of FBI employees effectively escaping accountability for workplace sexual misconduct could be much higher than the DOJ’s findings.
In a letter to FBI Director Christopher Wray and Attorney General Merrick Garland, Grassley chided the two, stating that the whistleblower documents “show a systemic failure within the Justice Department and FBI to protect female employees from sexual harassment and sexual misconduct in the workplace and a failure to sufficiently punish employees for that same misconduct.”
Outlining Congress’ obligation and authority to investigate the matter, Grassley emphasized, “FBI employees should not have to suffer under daily abuse and misconduct by their colleagues and supervisors.”
The senator concluded his letter with a lengthy demand for additional records and information from both federal agencies, requesting compliance no later than October 14.
When asked for a statement, the FBI stated it intended to first respond to the congressional oversight committee. While declining to comment specifically on the whistleblower’s allegations or to provide its own tally of disciplinary cases involving sexual misconduct, the FBI issued a statement saying it has a zero-tolerance policy toward sexual harassment:
“The FBI looks critically at ourselves and will continue to make improvements. The bottom line is, employees who commit gross misconduct and sexual harassment have no place in the FBI.”