For the FBI, merely catching bad guys is too mundane. As one can tell from the sanctimonious James Comey, the culture at the Bureau holds grander aspirations. Comey’s book is titled A Higher Loyalty, as if the FBI reports only to the Almighty. They see themselves as progressive guardians of the American Way, intervening whenever and wherever they see democracy in danger. No healthy republic should have a national police force with this kind of culture. There are no doubt many brave and patriotic FBI agents, but there is also no doubt they have been very badly led.
This savior complex led them to aggressively pursue the Russiagate hoax. Their chasing of ghosts should make it clear that the FBI does not stay in their lane. While the nation’s elite colleges and tech companies are crawling with Chinese spies who are literally stealing our best ideas, the chief of the FBI’s Counterintelligence Section, Peter Strzok, spent his days trying to frame junior aides in the Trump campaign.
Some conservatives have called for FBI Director Christopher Wray to be fired. This would accomplish nothing, as the problem is not one man but an entire culture.
One possible solution is to break up the FBI into four or five agencies, with one responsible for counterintelligence, one for counterterrorism, one for complex white-collar crime, one for cybercrimes, and so on. Smaller agencies with more distinctive missions would not see themselves as national saviors and could be held accountable for their effectiveness at very specific jobs. It would also allow federal agents to develop genuine expertise rather than, as the FBI regularly does, shifting agents constantly from terrorism cases to the war on drugs to cybercrime to whatever the political class’s latest crime du jour might be.
Such a reform would not end every abuse of federal law enforcement, and all these agencies would need to be kept on a short leash for the sake of civil liberties. It would, however, diminish the ostentatious pretension of the current FBI that they are the existential guardians of the republic. In a republic, the people and their elected leaders are the protectors of their liberties. No one else.