When the FBI Attacks Critics as “Conspiracy Theorists,” It’s Time to Reform the Bureau

Below is my column in the Hill on the need for a new “Church Committee” to investigate and reform the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) after years of scandals involving alleged political bias. In response to criticism over its role in Twitter’s censorship system, the FBI lashed out against critics as “conspiracy theorists” spreading disinformation. However, it still refuses to supply new information on other companies, beyond Twitter, that it has paid to engage in censorship.

Here is the column:

“Conspiracy theorists … feeding the American public misinformation” is a familiar attack line for anyone raising free-speech concerns over the FBI’s role in social media censorship. What is different is that this attack came from the country’s largest law enforcement agency, the FBI — and, since the FBI has made combatting “disinformation” a major focus of its work, the labeling of its critics is particularly menacing.

Fifty years ago, the Watergate scandal provoked a series of events that transformed not only the presidency but federal agencies like the FBI. Americans demanded answers about the involvement of the FBI and other federal agencies in domestic politics. Ultimately, Congress not only investigated the FBI but later impanelled the Church Committee to investigate a host of other abuses by intelligence agencies.

A quick review of recent disclosures and controversies shows ample need for a new Church Committee:

The Russian investigations

The FBI previously was at the center of controversies over documented political bias. Without repeating the long history from the Russian influence scandal, FBI officials like Peter Strzok were fired after emails showed open bias against presidential candidate Donald Trump. The FBI ignored warnings that the so-called Steele dossier, largely funded by the Clinton campaign, was likely used by Russian intelligence to spread disinformation. It continued its investigation despite early refutations of key allegations or discrediting of sources.

Biden family business

The FBI has taken on the character of a Praetorian Guard when the Biden family has found itself in scandals.

For example, there was Hunter Biden’s handgun, acquired by apparently lying on federal forms. In 2018, the gun allegedly was tossed into a trash bin in Wilmington, Del., by Hallie Biden, the widow of Hunter’s deceased brother and with whom Hunter had a relationship at the time. Secret Service agents reportedly appeared at the gun shop with no apparent reason, and Hunter later said the matter would be handled by the FBI. Nothing was done despite the apparent violation of federal law.

Later, the diary of Hunter’s sister, Ashley, went missing. While the alleged theft normally would be handled as a relatively minor local criminal matter, the FBI launched a major investigation that continued for months to pursue those who acquired the diary, which reportedly contains embarrassing entries involving President Biden. Such a massive FBI deployment shocked many of us, but the FBI built a federal case against those who took possession of the diary.

Targeting Republicans and conservatives

Recently the FBI was flagged for targeting two senior House Intelligence Committee staffers in grand jury subpoenas sent to Google. It has been criticized for using the Jan. 6 Capitol riot investigations to target conservative groups and GOP members of Congress, including seizing the phone of one GOP member.

The FBI also has been criticized for targeting pro-life violence while not showing the same vigor toward pro-choice violence.

Hunter’s laptop

While the FBI was eager to continue the Russian investigations with no clear evidence of collusion, it showed the opposite inclination when given Hunter Biden’s infamous laptop. The laptop would seem to be a target-rich environment for criminal investigators, with photos and emails detailing an array of potential crimes involving foreign transactions, guns, drugs and prostitutes. However, reports indicate that FBI officials moved to quash or slow any investigation.

The computer repairman who acquired the laptop, John Paul Mac Isaac, said he struggled to get the FBI to respond and that agents made thinly veiled threats regarding any disclosures of material related to the Biden family; he said one agent told him that “in their experience, nothing ever happens to people that don’t talk about these things.”

The ‘Twitter Files’

The “Twitter Files” released by Twitter’s new owner, Elon Musk, show as many as 80 agents targeting social-media posters for censorship on the site. This included alleged briefings that Twitter officials said were the reason they spiked the New York Post’s Hunter Biden laptop story before the 2020 election.

The FBI sent 150 messages on back channels to just one Twitter official to flag accounts. One Twitter executive expressed unease over the FBI’s pressure, declaring: “They are probing & pushing everywhere they can (including by whispering to congressional staff).”

We also have learned that Twitter hired a number of retired FBI agents, including former FBI general counsel James Baker, who was a critical and controversial figure in past bureau scandals over political bias.

Attacking critics

It is not clear what is more chilling — the menacing role played by the FBI in Twitter’s censorship program, or its mendacious response to the disclosure of that role. The FBI has issued a series of “nothing-to-see-here” statements regarding the Twitter Files.

In its latest statement, the FBI insists it did not command Twitter to take any specific action when flagging accounts to be censored. Of course, it didn’t have to threaten the company — because we now have an effective state media by consent rather than coercion. Moreover, an FBI warning tends to concentrate the minds of most people without the need for a specific threat.

Finally, the files show that the FBI paid Twitter millions as part of this censorship system — a windfall favorably reported to Baker before he was fired from Twitter by Musk.

Criticizing the FBI is now ‘disinformation’

Responding to the disclosures and criticism, an FBI spokesperson declared: “The men and women of the FBI work every day to protect the American public. It is unfortunate that conspiracy theorists and others are feeding the American public misinformation with the sole purpose of attempting to discredit the agency.”

Arguably, “working every day to protect the American public” need not include censoring the public to protect it from errant or misleading ideas.

However, it is the attack on its critics that is most striking. While the FBI denounced critics of an earlier era as communists and “fellow travelers,” it now uses the same attack narrative to label its critics as “conspiracy theorists.”

After Watergate, there was bipartisan support for reforming the FBI and intelligence agencies. Today, that cacophony of voices has been replaced by crickets, as much of the media imposes another effective blackout on coverage of the Twitter Files. This media silence suggests that the FBI found the “sweet spot” on censorship, supporting the views of the political and media establishment.

As for the rest of us, the FBI now declares us to be part of a disinformation danger which it is committed to stamping out — “conspiracy theorists” misleading the public simply by criticizing the bureau.

Clearly, this is the time for a new Church Committee — and time to reform the FBI.

Jonathan Turley is the Shapiro Professor of Public Interest Law at George Washington University. You can find his updates online @JonathanTurley.

515 thoughts on “When the FBI Attacks Critics as “Conspiracy Theorists,” It’s Time to Reform the Bureau”

  1. Jonathan Turley should read “Disrupt, Discredit and Divide” by former FBI Field Agent Mike German.

    Reading German’s book, there seems to be a real likelihood (with public evidence) that the “leadership” of the FBI rigged and stole the 2016 Election from Hillary Clinton.

    Most Americans would probably support this if they read this book.

    Remember Hillary Clinton won almost 3 million more votes than Trump – Hillary won the popular vote. If FBI official James Comey hadn’t violated several DOJ/FBI rules pertaining to elections and leaking evidence without a conviction – is there anyone that thinks Trump would have won without Comey violating his own agency’s rules?

    Hillary almost certainly would have won the electoral college without Comey “disrupting and discrediting” her so close to an election.

    Maybe Congress needs an official investigation into the 2016 Election?

    Context: the FBI has never in it’s entire history been led by a Democrat – only Republicans. Comey violated election rules by his timing of his public comments.

  2. Calling you a “conspiracy theorist” gives you too much credit. You’re not crazy, you’re mendacious. You’re simply a liar.

    1. What is it that you think who is lying about ?

      Rather than lob ad hominem grenades, how about arguments ?

      We have spent thousands of years developing logic as a means to get to answers.

      Pointing a finger and yelling “your a liar” does not get us anywhere.

  3. Anonymous (12/28/22 @4:15 pm) You state: “In shadow banning, you are the only person who can read your own tweets.” What would be the point of permitting someone to post a comment that nobody but the poster can read?

  4. If there is a “church” committee…Will they talk literally about chasing the wind? Because that’s what these wind mill and solar ppl are doing🗼 and no models actually take into account China’s Damn changing the earth axis…And how that changes climate. Just asking! Lajes86 545499a.

    1. Because there are two things this new church committee must addess… that change climate….And both are out of human control…first is the sun. Totally out of our control! And second is geography…to totally out of our controll. The church committee must realize no action we take on earth makes a much co2 difference on our planet. Zikch. The only thing we do on our planet .that impacts our weather patterns is changing our tilt!….which China did with their damn. That’s it and all we can’t change…is our tilt. Anything else we ..the people…do is miniscule… Yet hy’tdro is green….whatever. China’s damn tilted us……it is planetary war. Who can predict what happens since they changed our axis…..that’s right – one country changed our planet’s axis. A lot of countries used fossil fuels…but only one changed our planet’s axis. China thereby is responsible for climate change. Purely.it’s China’s fault aLone.

  5. There is no covering it up. The DOJ and the FBI have abandoned the rule of law in exchange for hard Left Marxist political agendas. There is no way the Hoover dynasty at the FBI with all of its excesses ever approached the debauchery of the FBI today. Hoover went after the Communists. Today they have saturated every leadership level of the federal government. Pure TREASON!

    1. Worse they want to shove climate change mitigation upon us who are alive now.. The problem with that is where to build the wind farms?. Where oh where? To put solar or wind? You can’t simultaneously believe in climate change and wind energy or solar energy as a solution. It’s at odds. .If you believe there is climate change….you must necessarily belive weather patterns are changing. Hence winds are changing paths. And cloud cover is changing. Yet the wind ppl are only putting turbines where it’s historically windy. And the solar people where it’s sunny….so they…ipso facto…do not believe the weather patterns are changing. And hence can not logically believe in climate change. It’s something else….that motivates them!

      1. Then again I flew over a stalled wind system last year…investors wait….maybe investors hoping for a breeze. But when that breeze came it was too much wind…for their turbines….too fast.
        …it’s ecclesiastical chasing the wind! It’s going to take millions of years to decoupled the rocky mountains from the pna …..Pacific North American pattern…even in zonal flow. And even then the sunspots every eleven years that feeds an elitist to el nino….we are going to have decadal perturbations that make wind or solar untenable. But for some reason they think….wind and solar are the answer. Worse the think hydro is an answer…when China’s big hydro damn actually tilted our axis….And we have no …zilch modeling on that. We should stop trying to think we are god….build better and smarter and adapt. Not profit..but the pole in charge must think they’ll profit. Hogwash! Their shenanigans will get us all dead. drrill baby drill!

    2. This is disinformation, J Edgar Hoover primarily went after non-communists but used the “communist label” to justify his law breaking and betrayal of his own Oath of Office.

      If you supported women’s rights, the federal security agencies labeled them “communists”. If you supported equal rights for African-Americans, federal security agencies labeled them communists.

      This was a well thought out fraud by J. Edgar Hoover. By falsely labeling someone “communist”, federal security agencies could also fabricate a foreign nexus (foreign communism) thereby bypassing constitutional due process. Many judges simply looked the other way, choosing not do their top duty of “constitutional judicial review”.

      Due to declassification, we now know Hoover and federal security agencies simply made it up and they knew it was exaggerated and untrue when they said it.

      [source: article “Prelude to McCarthyism…the making of a blacklist” by Robert Justin Goldstein published by http://www.archives.org]

    3. January 1, 2023. OBSTRUCTION OBSTRUCTION OBSTRUCTION. We enter the New Year with hopes transparency and accountability will begin to triumph. But days before we open to a new calendar page the word comes that the DOJ has told the House they will not provide requested documents because the people requesting had not been sworn in yet. This restarts the clock. It will take months of delay. Congress has every right to these documents in its oversight role. Is there any legal remedy for this that won’t take years or another Presidential election?

  6. There is no such thing as a “federal police power.” The police power resides in the the states exclusively. The FIB never had any constitutional reason to exist.

    1. But yet this political praetorian guard exists…and like a pig virus is killing its host , by design of it’s current manipulating handlers. Agreed the FBLIE has no constitutional reason to be…neither does the ATF , CIA and a myriad of other apparatchik job programs. The system has learned to expand its cancerous reach….. and abuse those it feeds off.

    2. Except the “commerce”clause…..a never ending fountain….but at root no one could mint coin but gold or silver…..so I’m going to ask Abbott to do a Texas coin..And may obey to do a good silver coin. Have states coin money like the constitution envisioned. ..then there will be competitiveness with the use fiat. That keeps screwing pole over world wide all it takes is abott….to mint a few coins….constitutionally of coyrse……for that to get traction…And they let bitcoin be? Whilst at the same time fried that guy from georgia….for counterfeieting….not the same case if Texas does it’s own coin and cuurrency. But they are chicken! But if one state did…. they’d change the world. Instead they hope for windmils! They think are backed by us…sorry. Giv e a currency….in america and it will take. Just like bitcoin but on steroids.v but no state seems ready to give currency. Probably because their state makes so much bank….housing illegals. Screw you all and what my Mike till died for….against communism….Screw you…marxists.

      1. Id like that other guy still up to challenge me on climate change! Because in fact the only people causing climate change is China by their damns that cause the tilt of our planet to change.

        1. God eu…China must be stopped…..stop letting your religion. On human climate change…from stopping you and yours leting china.
          Your letting them do a feed back loop we can’t stop… green in (hydro) get us all killed…off with an axis tilt. They are changing our tilt. with their “green” damns. Then what? What’s the models say happens with an axis tilt? It won’t be beneficial zonal….it will be more miridianal….probably why all China is building green houses. Ketchup!

          1. Ketchup! Heretofore only Minnesota and illionois…forbid “corporations” owning farm land..now dasentis is catching on! No matter either can still horizontal drill…And process enough film to protect America’s food source. Thank God for Minnesota and illinoise! Not because our did knew any of that! They are still selling us to big pharmacy ….but Minnesota and Illinois never sold out. Probably got our backs i if Joe doesn’t invade them!

  7. how about waco? Boston Bomber? Parkland shooter? Hey what happened in vegas? hillary’s emails? Parents at school boards are domestic terrorists? Jeff epstein didnt kill himself. Set up Mike Flynn? ETC, ETC. if the fbi werent working everyday to cover the crimes of the establishment criminals they’d have no jobs.

  8. The FBLIE has no shame. A bureau filled with apparatchiks virtually working against the people. All the main lame media are beholden to their manipulation and they have been exposed for this. All the carnival barking this federal morass of apparatchiks does further cements the peoples ascending view of FBLIE’s absolute political corruption by the dems and their beloved DC uniparty cogs. Every alphabet agency in the swamp has a foot in this swamp stew of censorship and narratives pushing. ALL OF THEM. The people/world are only beginning to see the tip of this thorough corruption by state actors on behalf of the big govt swamps and their allied henchmen worldwide.

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