It can be hard, in these complex times, to figure out who is Good and who is Bad. Case in point: Yesterday, Stephen Colbert broke the news of James Comey’s firing to his audience. They cheered and cheered.
Comey was Bad, right? The whole Hillary thing? Get that guy outta there! Colbert was clearly befuddled. This time, he seemed to be saying, Comey was Good! This was a huge power grab! Donald Trump was being a Stalin and a Nixon and a Napoleon rolled into one!
What is a person to think??? This one is indeed a little complicated. Comey’s firing is clearly shady and disturbing, and whoever Trump gets to replace him will be terrible. But what he did with Hillary Clinton’s emails was bad, and he probably should have been canned a while ago.
But while we’re sifting through these puzzling issues, let’s not lose sight of something that is not nuanced or complicated, which is that the FBI is not some bastion of integrity that’s been soiled by Donald Trump. In fact, it is evil, and it’s evil no matter who runs it and what happens to it.
This has always been the case. Evil is baked into the FBI’s very core, thanks to J. Edgar Hoover, its founder and guiding tyrant for decades. Hoover was evil personified. When he wasn’t leading a decades-long war to destroy the Civil Rights Movement and all other dissenting voices from American soil, he was terrorizing queer people and compiling a huge dossier of blackmail material that he could use whenever he wanted. As I said, evil! The man led an agency that tried to get Martin Luther King to kill himself, for god’s sake.
“But,” you might be saying, “Hoover hasn’t been around since the ‘70s!” Sorry, the FBI didn’t suddenly stop being evil then. In 2013, the ACLU compiled a handy list of FBI abuses that had taken place since 9/11. The list included spying on Muslims, vast data mining, and abusing the Patriot Act—and that’s just for starters.
In recent years, the FBI has taken to surveilling Black Lives Matter protesters, in a fun throwback to its old ways. And, thanks to an investigation by The Intercept, we know that the bipartisan craze for the national security state has vested the FBI with vast, unaccountable secret powers that allow it to commit all sorts of abuses. And what about the FBI’s love of inventing its own terrorist plots so it can entrap easy marks and tout its own crime-fighting skills? Oh, and there was the whole thing where the agency threw the election to Donald Trump because it liked him more than Hillary Clinton. Anyone recall that?
And lest we forget what our current hero, James Comey, did before going to the FBI: he signed off on rules allowing the U.S. to waterboard prisoners and conduct mass warrantless surveillance. (He did object to aspects of both programs, but that didn’t stop him giving them the ultimate green light.) This is the guy we’re pining for?
So, when you’re bemoaning the death of our democracy, just remember that—whatever the implications of Trump’s actions towards Comey—the FBI is not actually worth defending. Because it’s evil.