The FBI is allowing senior agency officials accused of sexual impropriety to face lighter penalties than line employees for similar misconduct, according to records provided to Iowa GOP Sen. Chuck Grassley’s office by agency whistleblowers. The same records also show that FBI employees under investigation for sexual misconduct quit their jobs before they could face any form of disciplinary action over a period of nearly two decades.
In a letter addressed to Attorney General Merrick Garland and FBI Director Christopher Wray, Grassley claims that protected whistleblower disclosures provided to his office reveal that from 2004-2020, “hundreds of FBI employees have retired or resigned because of sexual misconduct allegations against them and that they did so in order to avoid accountability.”
“For example, according to an internal unclassified Justice Department document from the Office of Disciplinary Appeals titled ‘Retirements and Resignations During Unwelcome Sexual Conduct Adjudications,’ as of December 23, 2020, the Justice Department reviewed the FBI’s disciplinary case database, Javelin, ‘to observe patterns and offer recommendations,'” the letter reads.
“The Justice Department reviewed 8,686 summaries in Javelin and found that from 2004 to December 23, 2020, ‘665 FBI employees, including 45 [Senior Executive Service (SES)]-level employees have retired or resigned following an FBI or [Justice Department Office of Inspector General (OIG)] investigation into alleged misconduct, but prior to [the Office of Professional
Responsibility’s (OPR)] issuance of a final disciplinary letter,'” it added.
The document allegedly goes on to note that “[o]f those 45 SES-level employees, there is only one instance where an SES-level employee retired or resigned after the FBI or DOJ-OIG completed an investigation into an alleged violation … but before OPR issued a final decision letter.”
“To make matters worse, some of the SES-level employees could have received bonuses before retirement,” Grassley wrote. “Importantly, the document also notes, ‘[t]his dataset does not include retirements or resignations which occurred during an ongoing misconduct investigation or prior to the initiation of a formal investigation.’ In other words, it appears that the number of retirements and resignations could be much higher than 665 individuals.”
Among the more stunning revelations found in the purported memos provided to Grassley’s office is a second unclassified Justice Department document showing that the FBI offers disparate treatment for sexual misconduct depending on the seniority of the official in question.
According to Grassley, the document shows that in recent instances of sexual misconduct, employees have received what appear to be random consequences without much explanation, from week-long suspensions to termination. This “disparate treatment” could “compromis[e] the consistency, fairness, and due process of the FBI’s disciplinary system.”
“The only discernable pattern appears to be that higher-graded employees, especially supervisors, are more likely to have their sexual misconduct case adjudicated under Offense Code 5.22, and therefore subjected to lesser penalties; whereas, lower-graded employees are seemingly more likely to be adjudicated under Offense Code 5.20, and have a statistically greater likelihood of being dismissed for their sexual misconduct,” it added.
“If the Justice Department and FBI can’t ensure the equal application of the law within its own ranks, how can they be trusted to apply the law equally against the American people?” Grassley wrote. “Congress and the American people would like to know what Director Wray and Deputy Director Abbate have done to solve this issue.”