In 2016, the world was shocked by reports of the largest case of sexual abuse in the history of American sports. USA Gymnastics’ team physician, Dr. Larry Nassar, had sexually abused hundreds of young girls under his care. Nassar is currently serving a 175-year prison sentence for his crimes. However, just as shocking is how the FBI allowed this abuse to continue. In July 2021, the Office of the Inspector General released a damning report, demonstrating that the FBI’s Indianapolis Field Office took no action for a full eight months after it was informed by USA Gymnastics of Nassar’s abuse.
Former U.S. gymnast McKayla Maroney testified before the Senate Judiciary Committee, “After telling my entire story of abuse to the FBI in the summer of 2015, not only did the FBI not report my abuse, but when they eventually documented my report 17 months later, they made entirely false claims about what I said.” Similarly, the OIG’s report showed that the FBI not only “failed to respond to the Nassar allegations with the utmost seriousness and urgency that they deserved and required,” but also “made numerous and fundamental errors when they did respond to them, and violated multiple FBI policies.” As seems typical, the Justice Department never pursued charges against the agents who refused to investigate Nassar.
There may be a reason that the FBI turned a blind eye to these sex crimes. The ranks of the FBI appear to have been riddled with hundreds of employees with their own records of sexual abuse. And, making it even worse, the FBI as an institution has a practice of covering up sexual misconduct within its own ranks.
On October 5, 2022, Senator Charles Grassley, as ranking member of the Senate Judiciary Committee, released excerpts from FBI documents obtained from a whistleblower. These documents reveal that between 2004 and 2022, fully 665 FBI employees, including 45 Senior Executive Service-level employees, retired or resigned following OIG investigations into sexual misconduct. Grassley wrote a letter to Attorney General Merrick Garland and FBI Director Christopher Wray, shredding the “systemic failure within the Justice Department and FBI to protect female employees from sexual harassment and sexual misconduct….” Fed up, Grassley has demanded an OIG investigation of the FBI’s failure to clean up its own house of sexual harassment and assault.
The list of abuses is extensive and longstanding. The following illustrations were all drawn from published sources.
- In 2008, former agent Lt. Colonel John Parkinson tried to blow the whistle on two fellow agents who engaged in illicit sexual activities in FBI offices, and even used taxpayer-funded FBI aircraft to fly from Sacramento to Las Vegas to meet prostitutes. When this agent exposed the sexual activities, his fellow agents made counter-allegations against him. Parkinson was fired, while the offending agents were not.
- A decade before the most recent expose by Senator Grassley, on September 27, 2012, he sent another letter detailing other sex offenses to then-FBI Director Robert Mueller. Grassley demanded answers to substantiated allegations that an FBI agent on assignment in the Philippines had submitted expense reports for over $14,000 in expenses apparently related to payments he and “cooperating individuals” had paid prostitutes at Manila brothels. Some of the prostitutes were believed to be minors. The allegations were corroborated by an investigator with the federal public defender’s office.
- In 2018, Roger C. Stanton, the FBI’s assistant director of the Insider Threat Office, abruptly retired after an investigation found he sexually harassed a female agent.
- In 2020, an investigation determined that James Hendricks, the special agent in charge of the Albany, New York, office, had sexually harassed eight female subordinates. “[C]olleagues labeled him a ‘skilled predator’ and the Justice Department’s internal watchdog found that his behavior marked one of the FBI’s most egregious known cases of sexual misconduct.” Even after Hendricks committed some of those crimes, he was promoted to lead the FBI’s Albany field office. When he finally retired after the facts came out, he was among “several senior FBI officials” who avoided discipline and retired with full taxpayer-funded benefits, despite substantiated sexual abuse allegations against them.
- In 2021, FBI special agent David Harris faced charges in Florida, Louisiana, and Texas for child sexual abuse. Harris, the very agent who headed up “a regional division of the FBI that investigates online crimes against children,” was charged with aggravated crimes against nature and indecent behavior with children under the age of 13, and rape. Talk about the fox guarding the hen house.
- In August 2022, another FBI employee, Robert Smith, was arrested and charged with sexually abusing several young girls in Utah. Smith was charged with “four 1st-degree felony counts of aggravated sexual abuse of a child, four class-A misdemeanor counts of lewdness involving a child, and two class-B misdemeanor counts of lewdness.”
Sometime charges are brought, but often the FBI lets these matters slide. “Director Wray [has] not aggressively moved to solve the sexual misconduct problems at the FBI,” Grassley wrote in his October 5, 2022 letter. “[H]igher-graded employees, especially supervisors, are more likely to [be] subjected to lesser penalties; whereas, lower-graded employees are seemingly more likely to be…dismissed for their sexual misconduct. This may give the appearance the FBI is not holding its supervisors accountable for unwelcome sexual conduct,” Grassley added.
Rather than the FBI cleaning up its own ranks, its recent actions show how low of a priority sex crimes are. In September 2022, House Judiciary Committee Republicans sent their own letter to FBI Director Wray, detailing an FBI whistleblower’s allegation that “FBI agents were moved off child sex abuse cases to work on political investigations,” perpetuating the FBI’s big lie that the greatest threat faced by the nation is “domestic violent extremism.”
The FBI has had multiple chances to fix the sexual abuse and corruption that exists within it, but it is beyond repair. The FBI cannot be fixed; it must be closed down.