The corruption of senior intelligence and law enforcement officials, current or former, is a serious allegation. The systematic corruption of such officials for politics is more dangerous. That has happened – and it has implications for the future.
At the tail end of the 2020 election, several things transpired at once, and may have turned the election. Whether they did or did not, they were ethically wrong – cast a long shadow on the law enforcement and intelligence communities.
First, the FBI – by multiple, credible accounts – had in their possession a laptop computer, verified to be the property of the son of the Democratic presidential nominee, Joe Biden.
Public accounts indicate that the laptop had been in FBI possession for at least ten months. On the computer of Joe Biden’s son Hunter was explosive information, for security and in political context.
Beyond data – including photographs and emails suggesting personal crimes – information on the laptop linked the son and father to possible sale of the vice presidential office to a foreign country, triggering a scramble within the Biden campaign to rebut and suppress the facts.
Second, the FBI, and those at Justice who presumably knew this, did nothing to bring it to light. Worse, they appear to have had the motive and means to suppress it, may have done that, whether encouraged to do so by the Biden campaign or not.
Third, whatever arguments can be made for protecting an ongoing investigation, and whatever counter arguments for release pre-election, one thing is for sure: Intentionally misleading the public is dead wrong, ethically wrong.
What we are learning with revelations by the US House oversight committees is disturbing. What appears to have happened, yet to be proved, is as follows.
Not only did the FBI and DOJ fail to tell the public what they knew in 2020 about the Bidens’ potential foreign bribery scheme, but the campaign sought out former US intelligence officers to mislead the American people, and may even have enlisted current intelligence officials to coordinate the effort.
An interim report by the House Judiciary and Intelligence Committees assesses that “51 former top intelligence officials signed a letter saying that the alleged contents of Biden’s laptop had ‘all the classic earmarks of a Russian information operation’ … allegedly to aid Joe Biden’s presidential candidacy” and “dissemination was coordinated through the Biden campaign.”
How these officials were reached, what they were told, whether they were promised consideration in the future Biden Administration, whether they were overtly Democrat, anti-Trump, or agnostic, the reality is hard to miss.
Those respected for circumspection and good judgement about the veracity of information relating to national security – trained to be thoughtful – punted. They either did not do their due diligence or worse, just signed a letter that helped the Democrat win.
So, what are the implications of this reputation-tanking move, now that we all know what is on the Biden computer – evidence of potentially serious Biden family corruption, never any Russian disinformation, credible information about the Democrat that might have turned the election?
Implications are straightforward. The trust reposed in senior intelligence officials was broken, their political fortunes put above professional ethics. The level of confidence Americans will have in what they hear from these officials is low. Concern that intelligence and law enforcement has become highly politicized is real, and hurts these institutions.
Finally, the sad reality – with trust is in short supply – is that these 51 individuals punted, undermining the very institutions, critical missions, and professionals with whom they served.
To some of those who betrayed their past, the gambit may have seemed worth the loss of personal reputation, since they got their man elected, prevented the Republican from retaining office – a Republican who had questioned the ethics and non-partisanship of both communities. But in the long run, what the Republic for political gain is always a total loss.
In short, the whole thing stinks. Whenever ethics are breached in the name of politics, whenever the integrity of institutions and individuals is sacrificed for some “more important” cause, the foundations of the Republic shake. This did not need to happen, but it did.
“I tremble for my country when I reflect that God is just, that his justice cannot sleep forever …” wrote Thomas Jefferson. We should now. If we fall away from who we should be, fail to show integrity, cannot keep this Constitutional Republic whole, we may lose it all.
Corruption of senior intelligence and law enforcement officials is a serious allegation. Systematic corruption of such officials for politics is devastating. It happened, and has implications.
They should cause us all to tremble – then step up and defend what we know is right, a time-tested Constitutional process that, if simply and honestly followed, will bear us out.
Robert Charles is a former Assistant Secretary of State under Colin Powell, former Reagan and Bush 41 White House staffer, attorney, and naval intelligence officer (USNR). He wrote “Narcotics and Terrorism” (2003), “Eagles and Evergreens” (2018), and is National Spokesman2 for AMAC.