The biggest organization currently under fire for NOT doing its job, and in fact standing accused of being an obstruction to true justice, has been the FBI. The majority of which are true patriots doing their job but being hampered or allowed, or led, by their leaders into committing their own crimes. But partisan rancor has wormed its way into the leadership and their unwarranted disdain for the president is prominently displayed in virtually every action, investigation, misleading testimony and email.
There’s no better place to find truthful, rational, relevant inside information and opinion on today’s DOJ environment than going to the top. I had the privilege to speak with a former Assistance Director of the FBI, Mr. Ron Hosko. His candor and valued thoughts help to give perspective to our daily exposure on current events. There aren’t a lot of individuals with a more diverse and in-depth law enforcement background. I never ask political affiliation as I too am interested in facts, and those don’t change with the party. Straight forward input is paramount to keeping people informed and prepared.
Ronald T. Hosko, retiring from a thirty year career in the FBI, began his work as a Special Agent in Jackson, Mississippi. In the late 1980s, he transferred to Chicago, working undercover and in assignments focused on complex financial crimes and violent crimes. He worked closely with other federal, state, and local law enforcement partners in multiple joint task forces and served on both the Jackson and Chicago SWAT teams targeting the most dangerous subjects of FBI investigations. He went on to lead the FBI’s Crisis Management Unit in Quantico, Virginia before serving as an assistant special agent in charge in Philadelphia from 2003-2007. During that time, Mr. Hosko was awarded the FBI’s Shield of Bravery for his actions during a violent ransom kidnapping.
Promoted to the Senior Executive Service and serving as an inspector, Mr. Hosko conducted multiple serious and fatal shooting investigations involving FBI and associated law enforcement personnel and led a seminal 20 year review of FBI shooting incidents. Ron was promoted to serve as special agent in charge of the Washington Field Office’s Criminal Division, overseeing all criminal and cyber cases in the FBI’s second largest field office.
In 2012, he was asked to serve as assistant director of the FBI’s Criminal Investigative Division, responsible for oversight of the organization’s largest program, worldwide. He has served in important roles at the Salt Lake City and Torino, Italy Olympics, World Cup, national political conventions, and events including the Oakdale Prison siege, 9/11, Hurricane Katrina, and many others.
This is part 2 of our look into today’s FBI where we continue our talk about everything from Ron’s time working under Mueller and Comey, to 9/11 incompetence and the Obama influences. Part 1, with more great insight, can be found HERE.
RB – And when we talked about 9/11 and all the questions and theories, you expressed that you’d rather be on the side of incompetence than conspiracy – but aren’t both dangerous these days? And after 17 years no one has opened their mouths about anything but is there a limited possibility that 9/11 was combination of the two; given such warnings that were known and presented in advance (like those of Coleen Rowley) with little or no action taken by Mueller, Bush and others?
RH – I give zero credence to a 9/11 conspiracy that suggests the US government was involved in planning or executing those attacks. None. However, there’s plenty of evidence that we could have been far better as a government and as individual intel agencies to prevent them. I believe that most government employees are dedicated and hard working (with exceptions, of course), and that they are simply trying to fulfill the public’s expectations of them and their agency. But, all agencies are full of people who are flawed, who make mistakes, sometimes use poor judgment, or are motivated by ego, greed or something other than God and country. My hope is that those are few and they are marginalized before they’re sent out of government. Yes, incompetence plus conspiracy would be very bad, but I’m not signing on to any “deep state” theories where whole agencies or components (the intel community) are a part of it. I’ve never seen it in the FBI, nor in the government agencies I worked with.
RB – Are agents caught up in, and a bit dismayed or disappointed, working more “social” crimes (violence at political rallies and the like) than major crimes that would challenge them and also be more important in their outcomes?
RH – The FBI is very serious about its process for understanding, prioritizing, and actioning the top threats it identifies. I do not think Congress understands nor cares about that process, if FBI funding is any reflection, so there’s a big disconnect. However, we dedicated lots of effort to documenting what we thought we knew, what we thought we needed to know better, how we assessed those threats, and how we pushed resources to mitigate them. We were serious about it. Some activities demand FBI attention, even though they might have seemed social – i.e., we sent hundreds of personnel to secure the Salt Lake Olympics and now the FBI will send resources to major special events. But they are concerned about what could happen. Major crimes are always a focus, particularly those where there’s federal jurisdiction, so you might see a big FBI response to an active shooter incident, even some leadership, but at the end of the day, most of those are local homicide investigations and the FBI is there to support local partners, not take the lead. That’s jurisdictional, not just a random judgment.
RB – While the majority of Americans highly respect the rank and file agents and officers, and would be proud in the many accomplishments, interventions and successes we’ve never heard of, is the agency falling short in their mandate to fully protect us and what can bring it back to the status it once had?
RH – The 2016 election and FBI’s involvement in the HRC emails put them in the midst of American politics, as does their current work to uncover Russian influence and possible “collusion” with the Trump campaign. The FBI’s work is guided by the DIOG I mentioned above and I hope they follow it closely and that there are clear justifications for their decisions. Day to day, they are guided by the DIOG, by the Constitution, by case law, by other DOJ expectations, by the rule of law. The folks who worked with and for me avoided discussing politics in conjunction with our investigative work. We were guided by the facts and the law, that’s all, and I’m confident that’s ongoing today.
RB – As with any company, group or government organization, the leadership bears the final responsibility for its successes or failures. You’ve worked under Directors Mueller and Comey. Are you surprised at the partisanship displayed and evidently affecting the position’s ability to do a fair and adequate job?
RH – Like many, I’m waiting to see the IG report on the HRC investigation. I know others who were involved and believe they thought at the time they were making the best decisions based on what they knew (including judgments about the statute/intent, etc.) As you know, the FBI can’t just work in a vacuum. They typically need the support of prosecutors to provide subpoenas, to guide court orders and search warrants. Many things they do and need, require a federal judge to sign off on, including search warrants, FISAs, Title IIIs so there’s an independent review even after review by agents, FBI attorneys, and DOJ attorneys. There’s no room for partisanship and I never saw an inkling of partisanship from Bob Mueller or Jim Comey, ever. My expectation is that any findings by Mueller, particularly any charges, will be fully exposed to the light of day in court and we’ll all be able to judge for ourselves. And I think Mueller is fully capable of reporting that he found no “collusion”. His mission is to look for it, not just to find it regardless of the facts. He’s mission driven, a patriot.
RB – Having interviewed other highly placed operatives in various alphabet intelligence agencies, and knowing that Comey, Clapper, Brennan, McCabe and others in high positions have betrayed the public trust and openly lied to the public or to congress, is this the influential breakdown of controlling authority that affects the day to day agent trying to do the best job possible but loses respect and motivation?
RH ~ I don’t necessarily agree with your premise that “knowing that Comey, Clapper, Brennan, McCabe and others in high positions have betrayed the public trust and openly lied to the public or to congress..” but there can be little doubt that attacks on the leadership, even if unfounded, can have a deleterious effect on the morale of the workforce. It can end up in a loss of respect for the agents and the organization, trust can be lost. I fear that has been happening and will continue to happen. It’s not good for the institutions, it’s not good for America.
What I saw in Jim Comey as a boss was a smart, ethical, apolitical, experienced former U.S. Attorney, Deputy Attorney General, prosecutor who was well equipped to run the FBI. McCabe was very experienced, dedicated, smart. Both have
fallen from grace for an array of reasons but I’m not ready to agree they betrayed the public trust or openly lied to the public or congress. McCabe does appear to have misled FBI and IG investigators and has paid a dear price for it. Time will tell if that’s the extent of his sins. On Clapper and Brennan, again, I’ll hold commentary until I’m better informed but I think as a general proposition, there’s been almost no case, other than a political one, suggesting either willfully misled Congress. If that proof was there, there’d be a referral for contempt or another crime to the DOJ and there’s not been.
“The lies of leadership” can be incredibly damaging but in our divided country, we need more than one side saying “liar”. We need reasonable people in the middle saying “that’s a lie” along with the proof of a lie. What we are living though is a massive political divide that’s corrosive to the nation and hopefully true leaders will take us out the other side to some sort of rapprochement.
RB – And you having seen the inner working of the DOJ for so long, do you think those who have betrayed their trust will ever be brought to justice?
RH – I have disagreed with some of the politics at DOJ under Holder yet I have no expectation he’ll ever be “brought to justice.” We’re seeing different politics there now and expect that there’s wide latitude for an AG and their staff, thought certainly many who disagree with AG Sessions’ politics would love to “bring him to justice.” If there’s evidence of a crime by any of these folks, there ought to be a thorough investigation, public transparency, and then the right result. We need trust in agencies like DOJ but politics is a very erosive force and both sides of the aisle want to impugn the other so as to limit its effectiveness and the effectiveness of the government by the opponent. Again, we’re living through very polarized times so we need reasoned, rational, trusted leaders, particularly in DOJ and the FBI.
RB – With not having a former agent promoted to director since Louis Freeh left in 2001, are we better served in not having lawyers running the bureau as we did with Mueller and Comey? It seems there would be a better understanding of the operation, duties, problems and responsibilities of agents having been one.
RH – Because of the FBI’s jurisdiction and involvement in legal issues of great magnitude, I think it’s quite reasonable for a very experienced federal prosecutor or judge to be considered as FBI Director. The job and expectations is immense, so you need someone with great intellect, an understanding of politics and political dynamics yet decidedly apolitical, someone with federal legal experience, right out of the gate. There’s much for any new Director to learn, the law shouldn’t be one of those things. I don’t think it should be a prerequisite that the director be a former agent or come up “through the ranks.”
RB – With so many agents asking congress to be subpoenaed in order to testify about agency abuses, what will it take to bring the FBI back into a position of efficiency, respectfulness and with the statue it held for so many years?
RH – I think that number will be far fewer than some are predicting. Any agent or employee can become a “whistleblower” if they’re inclined. Chuck Grassley would welcome them to his office. I suspect some will disagree with how the HRC investigation was run (I have my own questions), and certainly the outcome, and certainly the notion of the Director saying what he did on July 5… Perhaps the IG report will answer some of our questions and concerns, but I have little doubt that some voices will never be quieted, they’ll always see conspiracy, their politics will color everything in view so some folks will never find complete satisfaction short of the disbanding of the opposing party.
RB – Growing up my dad used to teach me, “son, right or wrong, never argue with a guy that has a badge and a gun. Say yes sir, no sir and work it out later.” Today it’s more complicated than teenage drinking or speeding. The one problem we all see more and more is the role that politics plays in non-partisan activities and agencies. The insertion of one’s political views and social agendas into situations which have nothing to do with those personal views and becomes the pivot point for aggressive action and misunderstandings. Many feel the election of BHO was such a climacteric junction as race and social issues played more of a part in his actions than the truthful elements of particular situations.
You so correctly and succinctly detailed this social and law enforcement phenomenon in your treatise for the Berkeley Journal of Criminal Law, laying out the groundwork done to establish and perpetrate the “Ferguson Effect.” The incorrect intervention of race into non-racial, factual law enforcement activities is a dangerous arena. The St. Louis suburb saw more lies, misreporting, conjecture, DOJ personnel, activists, lawyers and even the Attorney General of the United States than one could imagine in light of the facts to be revealed over time.
You outlined those national media headlines with Eric Garner, Freddie Gray and others indicating a spreading caner of bad societal and media behavior stirred up with false accusations. How can our leaders and especially those in positions with the topic agencies counter these false movements and promote a truer sense of law enforcement rather than lawless encroachment?
RH – I like the Trump/Sessions approach – regular expressions of support for law enforcement generally and then when a questioned incident becomes a viral video, withhold comment pending investigation. That’s the opposite of the BHO approach which I believe did great damage to trust in law enforcement and damaged him as well, as he was proven wrong repeatedly (Harvard buddy, Ferguson, Baltimore). There’s a time and utility to discussing issues that tend to divide us. That time is not when you simply don’t have the details, the facts. It was, I believe, part of BHO’s social agenda. There’s all kind of opportunity for a president to address such concerns, particularly on policing. Police groups and associations would welcome his involvement in such discussions. Just not with ill-informed and -advised comments meant for the evening news. All that did was embolden criminals to push and test the police.
RB – We saw Officer Darren Wilson’s career smashed and his life sidetracked then derailed for doing his job; protecting society (and himself) while enforcing the law. And here in the Southwest we see the same circumstance that leads to a similar outcome from the Ferguson event – “Declining Police Engagement” For officers here and even our county sheriff have found more and more unjust criticism of “profiling” and “racism” leading more and more officers to be inclined to walk away or turn a blind eye than to get involved with career ending threats, lawsuits and worse.
How much will society need to change in order to bring back the confidence that law enforcement needs to do their job?
RH – It’s important that society have a clear understanding of the importance of law enforcement in a civil society, of what law enforcement is up against, and it’s equally important that law enforcement personnel understand what constitutional policing is, what the public expects of them, what boundaries they have on their work. In short, an effective and lawful balance must be struck, day to day, to ensure expectations are constantly met by all. From time to time, there’s an imbalance and we can see it playing out with police heavy-handedness or someone from the public expecting/demanding the police to accomplish something that they shouldn’t or that would be unreasonably dangerous to them.
Education is required on all sides. Police and community relationships are multi-lateral, where all involved parties should learn from the other, where all must commit to learning and understanding and to action. When that happens, and when there’s the right investment in our law enforcement leadership and training and equipping, and staffing, and recruiting and retention, and pay, and community outreach, and accountability and transparency, then I think confidence will return. These are some of the critical components of professionalism. With professionalism and accountability there tends to be trust and confidence.
RB – Since leaving the bureau, you’ve taken up the mantle of increasing support of law enforcement across the country. You serve as President of the Law Enforcement Action Network as well as the Law Enforcement Legal Defense Fund; two great organizations who stand with and behind our country’s law enforcement professionals. What drew you to these two groups in particular?
RH – I wanted to retire from a job but continue to be connected with the law enforcement profession and continue to support both the FBI and the larger law enforcement community. I was approached by a LELDF board member about running the two organizations, which had recently suffered the death of my predecessor, David Martin. The boards had a number of former, senior DOJ and FBI officials including former Attorney General Ed Meese and Assistant Attorney General for Civil Rights, Brad Reynolds, whom I had great regard for. After meeting Mr. Meese, I agreed to take the position. The LELDF has been extremely successful in my four years here. We’re careful in our case selection and the officers have prevailed in every case but one, where the officer had been indicted for murder and ended up taking a misdemeanor plea to another charge and was sentenced to home confinement. That doesn’t sound like complete vindication, which we believe should have happened, but it was far better than a murder conviction. We supported that officer through two jury trials, and mistrials, and he was threatened with a third before the plea. We’ve raised funds to help dozens of officers, including the six Baltimore officers wrongly charged by prosecutor Marilyn Mosby in the death of Freddie Gray. We attended some of the trials in that case and watched as the judge, a former DOJ civil rights attorney, shot down every shifting and misleading prosecution theory and tactic. At the end of the day, Mosby’s trial attorneys could prove not a single count of any indictment. It was exactly what criminal charges against police should never be – allegations of guilt without proof. That’s the type of case that generated the formation of LELDF 25 years ago and keeps us going today.
On the LE Action Network side, we’ve joined forces with and amplify the voices of those who want strong U.S. borders that are effectively policed and those who reject the politicized madness of “sanctuary cities” that would rather stealthily free criminal illegal aliens from local jails rather than hand them off to federal immigration authorities. We’ve seen too many tragedies, like the horrible fate of Kate Steinle in San Francisco, and push for policies and coordination that would prevent them in the future. LE Action Network supports the professional and sacrificial work of hundreds of thousands of law enforcement officers and we stand behind legislation that will keep them, and the public, safer, more informed, and better trained, equipped, and led.
RB – Are the current mores of society leading to more and more law enforcement being caught up in bad decisions or even worse situations, wrongful accusations, and legal entanglements – victims of the very system they have sworn to defend? And requiring the support of your organizations?
RH – We live in very litigious times. Offenders with guns can and do engage in terrible crimes yet are willing to sue individual officers, their departments, and their municipalities for any conceivable reason. Our court system will listen to even ridiculous allegations, often requiring officers who simply did their job to go out and hire expensive legal counsel while cases with zero merit wind through the system. In many communities, police are seriously underpaid and can ill afford liability insurance so if a mistake is made, the officer is left on the hook financially and professionally. We’ve seen time and again where completely bogus allegations are made against police, sometimes where race is a factor. We’re proponents of police body cameras for that very reason, among others. These can be great tools to demonstrate that police acted professionally and the person making the allegations was a liar. So, there are many good reasons for the existence of LELDF and LEAN.
RB – With the election of Trump and his support, a growing awareness of wrongful political interventions and the crimes of our leaders coming into the light of day, do you see a shift in the support of the public for law enforcement?
RH – We were all delighted to hear Trump, both during the campaign and post-election, speak so regularly and positively about law enforcement. It was a wonderful change from the pre-judged negativity of Obama. Too often, the mainstream media was willing to jump right into the criticisms of police without looking at or questioning the details of an encounter. We all need to be smart consumers of information – whether that information comes from BHO, DJT, or the media. We all need to be good listeners, active readers, critical in our thinking to ask why we’re being told what we’re being told and to examine whether there are facts behind it. We have to understand the difference between journalism, editorial commentary, and opinion. Today’s media is far from what we heard and saw 30 years ago. Today, the media is loaded with panels of people with opinion but no actual news or hard facts. It’s important we all know the difference, regardless of the direction it comes from. That applies to policing and many other aspects of our lives.
RB – With such strong and continual tweeting about AG Sessions, is Trump’s dismay with his performance leading to a change or is he just venting frustrations and playing a media game? And would he be fair and justified in making a change to a more active AG?
RH ~ I think his tweets are demeaning, are wrong, are thinning out his support, are beneath the dignity of the office he holds. Jeff Sessions has been a champion for the Trump immigration and crime agenda, quietly but steadily. He’s taken a virtual beating but wakes up and goes to work. Our organizations are fully with him and his team, which has to fight uphill battles because of so much that the president said as candidate, especially on immigration. Sessions did what he should have – he was a campaign insider and of course had to recuse himself when the investigation became known. So, the question is, ‘what does Trump really want?’. Who knows. He may be working toward another round of the disaster that’s been the Comey firing. Does he want Sessions to quit? Will he fire him? Does he think that this congress, or any, would confirm the nomination of someone who would be a Trump ‘rubber stamp’ for anything he wants to do, regardless of legality? I think he’s way down the wrong path with how he’s treating his AG and one that won’t serve him going forward. The president’s term has been mired in scandal, including among cabinet officials. Except Jeff Sessions. Frankly, another one is Kirstjen Nielsen, who seems to be doing the best she (DHS) can with what resources and law she’s got but is still beat up on by the president. These are two folks executing the mission, the vision, not creating their own scandals for the media to feed on. He ought to be thanking them and singing their praises
RB – What can the public do to better support law enforcement, even the FBI and other agencies?
RH – Be smart consumers. Understand the mission, understand the guidelines, understand the training, leadership and ethos of an organization. We badly need the police in a civil society and we need them to be the best they can be. They need us too. They need our support so we should participate! Go to a police citizens academy, learn more about them and how to support them. Encourage youth to get involved, to see police as a friendly force. Thank a cop for what they do or write a letter commending them for a service or an encounter. We tend to hear too little of their sacrifice of their professionalism and get to see (repeatedly) a questionable encounter. Law enforcement saves thousands of folks a year, they’re violently attacked more than 50,000 times a year, and occasionally, they take someone’s life. Police have tremendous power and authority so they SHOULD be scrutinized and controlled. Part of that scrutiny and control should be by an informed citizenry so involvement and information are important to the balance.
RB – Are there any other important thoughts we need to consider or would help advance the cause of your organizations?
RH – We’re at www.policedefense.org and www.leaction.org We have lots of information (and a way to donate) on our website. Folks can see about us, our mission, our issues, our officers. I encourage the support.
The United States without quality, efficient, dedicated law enforcement; it’s a hard thing to comprehend. Our front line of defense, the men and women of named and unnamed agencies, do a valued community service while placing themselves in harm’s way every day. They protect us from domestic as well as foreign enemies so that we may live our safe and guarded lives.
I greatly appreciate Mr Hosko’s service to our country, as well as his time in helping me to write this article outlining his thoughts and input to our current state of the union and law enforcement. I invite you to visit his organizations to keep abreast of their efforts to support our local law enforcement.