This week, the DOJ’s Office of the Inspector General (OIG) released a report entitled “Assessing the National Response to the September 11, 2001, Terrorist Attacks,” detailing the government’s response to whistleblowers within the FBI, CIA, and Defense Intelligence Agency (DIA).
The report detailed the FBI’s extensive efforts to “silence” or silence the individuals who had exposed wrongdoing within the agencies.
The OIG’s report noted that many of these efforts included “requests for dismissal, intimidation, and threats of criminal prosecution for those who speak out, including the whistleblowers.”
The report also documented how the FBI routinely “faked” records requests from journalists and whistleblowers who requested information on the 9/11 attacks, using information that was not related to the attacks to suppress their stories.
In other cases, OIG investigators documented instances where FBI agents “actively suppressed” a journalist’s records requests and/or threatened the journalist with arrest if he did not comply with their demands.
The report also revealed that the DOJ, in conjunction with the FBI itself, has “actively sought to undermine” whistleblowers and others who report wrongdoing within their agencies.
For example, OIR found that the FBI in 2011 threatened to use the same legal tools the DOJ used to shut down whistleblower website WikiLeaks and shut down an independent video production company, Project PMI, for allegedly violating a gag order it had on the identities of sources.
The report noted how the DOJ “threatened to prosecute or otherwise interfere with journalists who publicly criticized or criticized the FBI or the FBI agents who conduct the investigations.”
According to the report, the FBI “threatens to take disciplinary action against anyone who speaks out against them, including any journalist who reports on misconduct within the agency.”
The OIG report was the culmination of a year-long investigation into the FBI targeting of whistleblowers and journalists who have published sensitive documents about the 9-11 attacks.
The DOJ’s IG report is a significant victory for the people of the United States who have fought to expose wrongdoing within our government, including at the FBI.
In an interview with The Intercept, OID Inspector General Sarah Bair stated, “Our findings reveal a chilling pattern of government harassment of whistleblowers, which undermines our efforts to hold those responsible for crimes in our government to account.”
In addition to its chilling effect on freedom of the press, the OIG findings also show that the “hateful rhetoric” of the DOJ and the FBI has created a chilling effect against those who have exposed wrongdoing in our agencies.
While the DOJ has made numerous statements regarding whistleblowers in its investigations into the 9.11 attacks and other high-profile government misconduct, such as the use of “red flags” and “blacklists” to intimidate whistleblowers, the government continues to stifle these whistleblowers and the press.
The FBI and OIG have used the same tactics to silence whistleblowers who have spoken out about the abuse of power and corruption within our governments.
As part of the investigation into WikiLeaks and other whistleblowers, OIC investigators have examined the FBI Investigations Division (IJD) records and obtained copies of the FBI internal documents detailing their internal “blacklisting” and targeting of journalists and other sources.
OIJD records show that an IJD investigator contacted the DOJ on July 31, 2016, about an email from a journalist regarding “red flag” and/ or “blacklisted” sources within the OIJ.
In another case, OIJ investigators visited the offices of former DIA Director Mike Rogers and obtained a document titled “Information Retention System.”
The document states that Rogers told investigators that the IJD “has an investigative function to protect the integrity of the government” and that “if a source is ‘red flagged,’ he is to be kept away from any and all government resources.”
When OIJ inspectors visited Rogers’ office, they were told that Rogers had told them that he believed the “blackmail” of being “red flagged” was “in fact the FBI.”
Rogers told the inspectors that “black-lists” were used “to keep sources from leaking information that would damage our agency’s integrity and reputation.”
OIJ investigators also learned that OID investigators were told to avoid contacting whistleblowers “who are ‘black-listed’ or ‘red-flags.'”
Rogers said in a separate interview that the information “is to protect our agency, and it’s to protect whistleblowers and to protect them from retaliation.”
The DOJ and FBI have consistently failed to fully comply with the protections of the Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) and the Freedom to Marry Act (FFMA).
The OIJ’s investigation also uncovered that OIC and the OIC’s IG office were not properly trained on FOIA, and OIJ has been “subjected to inappropriate retaliation for its efforts to protect whistleblowing sources.”
In addition, ODI investigators were repeatedly told that the OID was “unlikely to be able to