FBI Gone Wild: Internal memos chronicle years of drunk driving, lost weapons and other misconduct

Internal disciplinary reports show agents often not fired for serious infractions as FBI also deals with allegations of rampant political bias, abuses of power.

Published: February 21, 2023 4:29pm

Updated: February 23, 2023 6:18am

Scores of FBI employees have been caught over the last five years engaging in unethical and illegal conduct such as driving drunk, stealing property, assaulting a child, mishandling classified documents, and losing their service weapons — but they often escaped being fired, according to internal disciplinary files provided to Just The News. 

One agent left a highly lethal M4 carbine unsecured in his government car during a Starbucks run and had the weapon stolen, but even he received only a two-week suspension despite violating the bureau's protocols for weapons storage, the records show.

"Although there was a lockbox in the trunk for storage of weapons and sensitive items," the agent chose to store the rifle bag behind the car's front passenger seat, one report shows. "While Employee was in the Starbucks, the Bucar was burglarized. The rear passenger, rear driver, and tailgate windows were broken, and the rifle bag containing the M4 was stolen." 

Sexual misconduct was also rampant in the reports dating to 2017, including inappropriate affairs with felons in prison, confidential sources and subordinate employees. The sexual transgressions, however, often resulted in firings, unlike the drunk driving and lost weapons offenses.

Typically emailed to all Bureau employees each calendar quarter, the FBI Office of Professional Responsibility (OPR) reports provided to Just the News by a whistleblower afford an unprecedented look into the breadth of misconduct among the FBI's workforce of 35,000, including agents, intel analysts, lab scientists and crime scene technicians.

You can read all of the reports here.

The reports emerge at a sensitive time for the FBI as it deals with a sprawling congressional probe into allegations by two dozen whistleblowers of political bias, misconduct and weaponization of law enforcement powers.

The extensive reports were in fact so impactful that the FBI suspended distributing them for seven months in 2021-2022, due to complaints that the "employees harmed by misconduct" might feel shamed. But in the end, the bureau resumed publishing them because of the belief it might sensitize workers in the future to avoid committing crimes or violations of conduct policies,

"OPR suspended sending our quarterly email that details employee misconduct and its consequences," the April 2022 email noted, explaining: "We wanted to weigh the value of publishing this information with the discomfort employees harmed by misconduct may feel at its having been published."

The bureau concluded most agents wanted the memo to continue as a reminder of the professional and ethical standards they are sworn to uphold.

"In the seven months since, we’ve spoken extensively with affected employees and consulted with several divisions, including the Victim Services Division," the email related. "After a great deal of deliberation, we have decided to resume the quarterly email. We made this decision as the vast majority of employees we spoke with indicated they wanted publication to resume."

The reports show there were at least 23 cases of agents and Bureau staff driving under the influence (DUI) but only five resulted in termination, while the others received suspensions or retired. There were several other incidents involving alcohol unrelated to driving that also drew short-term suspensions.

At least three dozen agents reported guns being lost, stolen or handled unsafely, including one agent who accidentally discharged his weapon and shot a hole through the floor of his hotel room.

A former senior FBI executive told Just the News that the OPR reports have been published privately inside the FBI for decades and are "always distressing, because you can't believe some of the behaviors that you're reading about."

He said the batch obtained by Just the News suggested the bureau was getting more serious about firing employees for some offenses, but he was concerned by the low penalties, especially for alcohol offenses, and believed the FBI might be "backsliding" on some punishments.

"I was seeing that in a lot of cases, particularly in the DUIs, there was not many dismissals," retired Assistant Director Kevin Brock said. "They were getting, you know, 20, 30, 40 days of suspension without pay. And that struck me as something a little bit of a divergence from the past. Louis Freeh, when he was director, drew a bright line. He said anybody who misuses alcohol and gets in a bureau car is going to be dismissed. And that stopped a lot of bad behavior."

Steve Friend, an FBI special agent who recently left the bureau after blowing the whistle on alleged civil liberty abuses in the Jan. 6 Capitol riot probe, provided the OPR reports to Just the News. He said the growth in alcohol abuse and sexual misconduct cases was a strong signal of a cultural problem inside the bureau.

"There's definitely a sense of entitlement that has seeped into the agency, and too many people are just content to have a gold badge and gun on their hip and not actually do the work that's required," Friend said in an interview Wednesday night on the "Just the News, No Noise" television show. "They're sitting on the shoulders of giants, people that investigated Bonnie and Clyde, Al Capone, terrorist networks, organized crime, and they need to uphold that reputation as opposed to just living on the exhaust fumes."

Friend said he decided to make the disciplinary reports public in hopes public pressure can encourage reform inside the bureau. 

"I'm a believer in radical transparency," he said. "You get credentials in the FBI. You're not a secret agent. You're supposed to present those credentials to anybody upon request. So I think everybody should be held accountable."

The FBI said it believes the reports published by Just the News show the disciplinary system works even as it seeks to improve from outside advice, including from the Justice Department inspector general.

"The FBI has a well-established and effective disciplinary process, and we remain committed to ensuring it remains fair, transparent, and is consistent with FBI Policy," the bureau said. "In 2021, The Department of Justice, Office of Inspector General released a report on the FBI's adjudication process for misconduct investigations and found the FBI generally adjudicated employee misconduct matters consistent with FBI policy.  

"The FBI concurred with the OIG's recommendations for improving transparency and effectiveness and has resolved those issues, as noted in the report."

One report from April 2017 listed general examples of past FBI misconduct, including one agent dismissed for admitting to having sexually molested his daughter and granddaughter for years. Another acted "as an agent of a foreign government." One stole drug evidence to feed a heroin addiction, while another employee pulled a gun on a private citizen during an incident of road rage. The female bystander in question was thrown up "against a concrete lane divider, causing temporary loss of consciousness and large contusion." 

Other reports detail an employee who shot and killed his neighbor's dog and another who was driving drunk — with a blood alcohol level three times the legal limit — and killed an 18-year-old in the process. Yet not all of these subjects were said to have served prison time, and some even kept their jobs. 

One employee failed to safeguard their weapon by leaving it in their car, where it was later stolen. In addition to violating various rules about how the firearm should have been secured, the agent was supposed to have gotten written approval to store a gun in a vehicle overnight. The punishment: a 3-day suspension and loss of the weapon. Two others who failed to safeguard their weapons in similar ways also received only brief suspensions. 

A supervisory employee "hit his minor child" and was caught only after the child's school "noticed bruises and contacted Child Protective Services." After OPR discovered the child had "been coached to minimize what happened" and the agent took parenting classes mandated by the bureau, the employee received only a 40-day suspension for "Assault and Battery." 

One employee "seized two thumb drives and notebook from a fugitive during an arrest." That employee then imaged the thumb drives "without a warrant" and removed a page from the notebook that contained information about another government agent. This resulted in a 5-day suspension. 

After sending "a threatening and vile email to his girlfriend's ex-husband," one agent faced a temporary protective order. When a process server attempted to serve the subpoena, the employee threatened to shoot him, then failed to report the incident to his supervisor. Punishment: 25-day suspension. 

The following year, the punishments seemed to get lighter as two agents who had separately engaged in an "improper relationship with [a] source," were hit with 2 and 3-day suspensions respectively. The first employee engaged in "sexual banter" with the source, who later suggested they could use the sexually charged text messages between them to extort the Bureau for money or special favors. The second employee invited sources to their home for dinner while their family was present. 

An employee "admitted engaging in a romantic relationship with an incarcerated felon and sending him money," according to the report. The employee "failed to report contact with the felon," yet only received a suspension of 15 days.

A similar situation from the fallout of a failed "romantic relationship" caused an employee to remove "certain jointly-owned property from the apartment of Employee's former significant other and damaged other property," the email reported. "Although no criminal charges were filed, Employee was arrested for vandalism and theft." Final verdict: 14-day suspension. 

Fourteen days was also the price another agent paid for misfiring their gun "in the middle of the night while in a hotel room" before going to sleep and taking no further action. The agent was later charged with a misdemeanor, yet suspended from duty for only two weeks. 

In the smallest, yet possibly most surprising, disciplinary decision handed down, an agent was suspended for only one day after sitting for a virtual test about evidence handling that the agent's colleague was supposed to take. 

Another government worker "stopped at a grocery store in a Bureau vehicle to purchase beer" and was later pulled over by highway patrol, who discovered he was driving under the influence. The disciplinary action taken against him, however, was a mere 60-day suspension. A similar DUI incident gained one of his colleagues a 42-day suspension. 

A 40-day suspension was handed down to an employee who used the Bureau's official databases to look up information on relatives and friends. 

Internally, relationships among coworkers within the FBI are also apparently taken lightly, as one employee engaged in an affair with a "new agent trainee" but received a suspension of only two weeks. The Bureau took a similarly soft stance against the misuse and abuse of credentials, after an off-duty agent flashed their badge to local police when pulled over for driving while intoxicated. The agent was still arrested and pled guilty to DUI and put on leave for 60 days. 

Another 60-day suspension was handed down after an employee used their credentials "to intimidate" workers at "a child's day care center and, in a separate matter, to obtain law enforcement information from the local police regarding a friend's suicide." The person in question also "engaged in an office romance that resulted in unprofessional conduct on duty and the misuse of a Bureau vehicle." 

One worker was allowed to retire instead of being removed, after driving a Bureau car "without authorization, to two strip clubs and a casino," while another received only a three-day suspension for losing their weapon.

After sideswiping a police car while driving a Bureau vehicle following the consumption of several alcoholic drinks, yet another agent was arrested for a DUI and received only a two-month suspension. 

The quarterly report for October 2019 began with a quote from Niccolo Machiavelli which read, "Whoever wishes to foresee the future must consult the past; for human events ever resemble those of preceding times."  

That month's report went on the outline instances of failure to secure weapons, improper relationships with subordinates, and failure to report foreign travel — yet many of these cases were settled with similar suspensions that were less than a week, with the longest being 60 days. 

In 2021, an employee "engaged in intimate activity with another Bureau employee by 'kissing/making out' in a Bureau vehicle, on and off duty, approximately 50-60 times." The result was a 12-day suspension. 

One agent leaned on a contractor who was doing business with one of the agent's family members to get a better business deal. 

"According to the contractor, Employee claimed the FBI had an open investigation into the contract dispute between the contractor and Employee's family member," the report read. "Employee attempted to hide Employee's personal relationship with the family member. By utilizing Employee's position with the FBI, Employee put additional pressure on the contractor to resolve the contract dispute with Employee's family member in his favor." This gained the subject a two-week suspension. 

Citing someone who "began dating a foreign national that Employee met online," the April 2022 report recounted, "Employee failed to report the foreign contact for approximately two years, despite multiple in person meetings with the foreign national." The employee received a 40-day suspension for false and misleading information and compromising security documents. 

For taking classified materials home without permission or notice, another agent was taken off the job for only two weeks. 

You can follow John and Nick on Twitter @JSolomonReports and @NGivasDC

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