A former senior FBI official had numerous unauthorized contacts with the media and accepted gifts from reporters in violation of FBI policy, according to a Department of Justice Office of the Inspector General report. The misconduct occurred in the years leading up to the November 2016 presidential election.
“The OIG investigation substantiated the allegation that the Senior FBI Official had numerous unauthorized contacts with the media from 2014 through 2016, in violation of FBI policy,” according to the report. “In addition to substantive communications with reporters, this media contact included unauthorized social engagements outside of FBI Headquarters involving drinks, lunches, and dinners.”
Among the gifts the unnamed official accepted were black-tie dinner tickets and transportation without FBI approval.
“The OIG also found that the Senior FBI Official violated federal regulations and FBI policy when the Senior FBI Official accepted tickets from members of the media to two black tie dinner events, one valued at $225 and the other valued at $300, and received transportation to one event from a reporter, all without prior authorization,” the report states.
The inspector general’s office does not have the authority to compel testimony from the official, who retired before being contacted for an interview.
The investigation into the senior-level official was part of a series of investigations that found many FBI employees had similar inappropriate relations with the media. According to the report, although the FBI limits who can speak to reporters, numerous unauthorized employees had contact with the media, harming efforts to track confidential information leaks.
“The large number of FBI employees who were in contact with journalists during this time period impacted our ability to identify the sources of leaks,” the report concluded.
The investigation concluded the interactions between FBI employees and the media violated department ethics rules.
“For example, we identified instances where FBI employees received tickets to sporting events from journalists, went on golfing outings with media representatives, were treated to drinks and meals after work by reporters, and were the guests of journalists at nonpublic social events.”