The FBI in their appeal to end the government shutdown is expressing concerns about counterterrorism and national security. Drug and sex trafficking, street gangs, and international terrorism investigations are being hampered due to the shutdown. The reason stated is lack of resources in the form of personnel and funding. The FBI Agents Association president Thomas O’Connor warned of the threat a shutdown would pose earlier this month, and now the threat to domestic and international investigations is a reality.
Of the 35,000 FBI agents, lawyers, and other personnel, 5,000 have been furloughed. This has capped agency support for lab operations, surveillance, and even the paying of informants which garners valuable intelligence. Also at risk according to O’Connor, is the ability for “agents who are required to meet their financial obligations to maintain security clearances necessary for their work.” In order to maintain security clearances FBI agents are subject to financial background checks which are meant to ensure the financial stability of the agents. This makes sense because a financially stable agent is far less likely to be bribed or coerced into nefarious actions against the country.
Also at risk is the agents ability to keep current agents, as well as to recruit new agents. In short, the shutdown may leave current agents questioning the financial stability of working for the government leading them to seek other career opportunities that are more stable. The shutdown is also very unattractive to would be agents.
A number of agents combined to create a 71 page document that lists problems that are a byproduct of the government being shutdown. On a national security level, agents are not able to pay informants which leads to the inability to maintain sources. Many of these sources play a role in counter-intelligence and counter-terrorism investigations.
An unnamed agent on an international sex trafficking case said there are delays in their investigations due to no money for travel. Another agent expressed that lack of funds created the inability to purchase a telephone card needed to connect with a source concerning a domestic and international terrorism case. Assets that can’t be replaced that have worked with the agency for months and even years have been lost. A worrisome fact about that is, said assets could potentially ave information that is vital to national security. It has to be considered that many informants rely on funding from agents to support them and their families, and quite possibly are the types to work for the highest bidder.
On the home front, interpreters needed to fight MS-13 have also been lost due to a lack of funding that agents use to pay them. FBI agents are having to rely on food banks in order to feed their families. A situation that no government worker should face, but especially those in law enforcement. As if that’s not enough, some alleged sex traffickers are operating freely due to the inability to investigate, which leaves children and women at risk. One agent is quoted as saying, “It’s hard enough to work without pay, but we can only conduct administration functions while doing it. The fear is our enemies know they can run freely.”
Yes, the border wall is needed for our security and a right as a sovereign nation. But, isn’t ensuring that our federal workers are able to feed their families and keep our nation secure just as important?