October 28, 2016, less than two weeks before the presidential election, FBI Director Comey announced in a letter to Congress that additional emails related to the Clinton email controversy had been found and that the FBI will need to further investigate.
About a week ago, well before the Electoral College votes for President of the United States on December 19, a CIA employee leaked the results of an assessment ordered by President Obama investigating whether Russia attempted to influence the presidential election. The result, yes, Russia wanted a Trump victory and did intervene in the election.
Are we now seeing a clear manifestation of a decades old culture clash between the FBI and the CIA?
These two top intelligence agencies have been culturally at odds for decades. In reality, the FBI isn’t an intelligence agency at all. The FBI is a federal law enforcement agency with a mandate to conduct intelligence surveillance and operations within American borders. The FBI has the power to arrest criminals and hold them for prosecution by the US Department of Justice. On the other hand, the CIA has no arrest powers in the United States, or anywhere else in the world. The CIA, though, has the mandate to collect (primarily) human intelligence and conduct covert action outside of the United States.
The FBI was founded in 1908 by President Roosevelt to monitor anarchist groups that the US government feared were attempting to topple the federal government and who were responsible for the assassination of President McKinley. The FBI quickly turned its attention to fighting prostitution, illegal interstate commerce, and then enforcing prohibition. The FBI has a long history of victories and embarrassments, just like the CIA. However, they’ve often been at odds. The CIA was created in 1947 out of the Office of Strategic Services, who was responsible for coordinating espionage activities behind enemy lines in WWII. After the attack on Pearl Harbor, the need for greater foreign intelligence was clear and the OSS’s innovative and gung-ho style was exactly what the US needed. The FBI wasn’t happy about this.
Think of the FBI as the older, responsible, mature, down to earth brother who was the only child for a long time. Now, think of the CIA as the younger, more charming, for worldly, more educated, better looking but highly reckless, younger brother who came along much later as an accident and who grew up when the parents had significantly more resources.
At a glance, the CIA is made up of pretentious, ivy league educated idealists wanting to change the world. The CIA is also used to seeing the world in shades of gray. They’re comfortable in bribing dictators, working with traffickers, setting up warlords with prostitutes, and other unsavory things of that nature. They deal with them not for the purpose of gathering evidence for use in a court of law, they deal with them for the purpose collecting intelligence or for access to greater intelligence. For the CIA, no one is inherently good or bad, anyone can be turned under the right circumstances.
At a glance, the FBI is made up of down to earth cops who investigate crimes, gather evidence and build cases. They’re used to black and white scenarios. There are good guys and there are bad guys. If the FBI infiltrates a criminal organization, it’s purpose is to gather evidence for use in a court of law, with the ultimate goal of seeing the bad guys go to prison. So much so, that the FBI has even indicted CIA Officers for doing their jobs overseas, thereby undermining activities that the CIA engages in. Seeing bad guys go to prison isn’t even on the radar of CIA Officers.
These two systems are, by nature, opposed to each other and their inability to work together has hampered American safety from the CIA’s beginning to the Boston Bomber.
Trump’s overwhelming support for law enforcement and Obama’s overwhelming lack of concern for law enforcement places the FBI (and law enforcement in general) squarely in Trump’s corner. Could this be the reason FBI Director James Comey decided to release a statement concerning Hillary Clinton just two weeks before the election?
Concerning the CIA, its leaker last week was in a uniquely powerful situation. The leaker knows the Hamilton Elector movement, he or she sees Trump decline intelligence briefings, sees Trump’s Cabinet fill with Military Generals, and sees Trump talk about intelligence failures while placing law enforcement on a pedestal. How could the leaker pass up the opportunity to alter history? Or perhaps it was an act of conscience? Either way, the fact that it was a secret leak and not an vetted, letter to Congress, makes it uniquely CIA.