Even as President Trump asks for border wall money to stop MS-13, one FBI agent says the partial government shutdown the wall fight caused has undercut an MS-13 gang investigation because they can’t find anyone who speaks Spanish and can communicate with informants.
Other agents say they don’t have money to pay informants or to make undercover drug buys, and with bureau lawyers on furlough there’s nobody to file grand jury subpoenas.
The claims were part of a new report, “Voices from the Field,” released Tuesday by the FBI Agents Association, which represents 14,000 active and retired G-men, and which said the shutdown’s effects are devastating the bureau’s mission.
Agents working without pay have no support staff, SWAT teams can’t afford tactical gear and training operations have been canceled all because of the shutdown, according to the report.
The shutdown has even affected the FBI lab in Quantico, Virginia, where low staffing levels have created a case backlog, the report said.
Some indictments have had to be postponed and confidential sources who had infiltrated gangs and terror groups have walked away because of a lack of pay, the report says.
“Without money to pay sources and conduct controlled narcotics purchases, our task force is unable to continue these critical investigations,” an unnamed FBI agent who conducts gang investigations said in the report. “This task force is the only task force in this region specifically targeting interstate street gang criminal activities.”
Jacqueline Maguire, a spokeswoman for the FBI, declined to comment on the report.
The FBI is part of the Justice Department, which is one of nine departments whose funding expired Dec. 22, after Congress and Mr. Trump were unable to come to an agreement.
Essential employees are still working — generally law enforcement personnel — but other employees have been furloughed, and many expenses cannot be paid.
“The failure to fund the FBI is making it more difficult to do our job and protect the people of this country from criminals and terrorists,” association President Tom O’Connor told reporters Tuesday. “Special agents are working and committed to protecting the country, but we need funding to do our work.”
Of the 36,594 FBI employees, 31,839 are deemed essential and are working during the shutdown, the Justice Department’s contingency plan says.
Mr. O’Connor said complicated multistate investigations involving terrorism, gangs, crimes against children and sex trafficking have been hit the hardest by the shutdown, but all of the FBI’s work has been affected.
“The lack of funding is showing up in all investigations,” he said. “It doesn’t delineate from one type of investigation or another. You need funds to run the FBI.”
Mr. O’Connor said the shutdown has hurt federal agents’ morale, noting FBI offices across the country have established a food bank as agents prepare to miss their second paycheck this week.
“We are a motivated, professional and patriotic lot, as you know, but we do have to make our bills like every other American — red, blue, green or otherwise,” one 22-year FBI veteran said in the report. “Notwithstanding the obvious … financial duress, there is also a very real impact on morale for us all.”
Last week, the FBIAA sent a letter to the White House and lawmakers outlining agents’ concerns. Mr. O’Connor said politicians have been “receptive.”
• Jeff Mordock can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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