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Weaponization committee spotlights whistleblowers

Ousted FBI agents say their bosses retaliated against them for being conservative

Left to right: Garret O’Boyle, Steve Friend, and Marcus Allen testify before the Select Subcommittee on the Weaponization of the Federal Government Getty Images/Photo by Alex Wong

Weaponization committee spotlights whistleblowers

Since winning a majority in the midterms, House Republicans have been working to ferret out anti-conservative bias in government agencies. A subcommittee led by Rep. Jim Jordan, R-Ohio, says the Biden administration weaponizes security clearances to “purge” conservatives from the federal government.

“I’ve become a charity case,” FBI agent Garret O’Boyle told the House subcommittee on the weaponization of the federal government last month. He has spent roughly eight months without pay or work after the FBI revoked his top secret security clearance.

Every FBI staffer is required to have the clearance as a condition of employment. Without it, employees cannot access anything under the FBI scope: base housing, the office, computers, and other equipment. If a staffer loses clearance, he or she is automatically suspended without pay and cannot seek another job without getting permission from the FBI or voluntarily resigning.

O’Boyle said he reported to supervisors that he believed the FBI was conflating investigation numbers related to the Jan. 6, 2021, U.S. Capitol riot and labeling them all as domestic terrorism. According to O’Boyle, the FBI has offered monetary bonuses to people who can meet a Jan. 6 investigation quota, which he says could violate the Constitution.

Staff operations specialist Marcus Allen worked in the FBI’s Charlotte, N.C., field office. He also had his security clearance revoked. In a letter submitted to Jordan the day before the hearing, the FBI claimed Allen “espoused alternative theories” in articles sent to colleagues and attempted to hinder investigations. The FBI also said that Allen claimed not to have found any public information about the subject of a Jan. 6 investigation. But when a special agent later reopened the case, they found the subject had been at the U.S. Capitol and assaulted police officers.

Stephen Friend was a special agent from the Jacksonville office with more than eight years of experience investigating violent crimes. But when his superiors told him to lead a SWAT team to bring in a suspected Jan. 6 defendant, Friend said the use of force was not merited. He then failed to show up to disciplinary hearings, and the ones he did attend, the FBI says he unlawfully recorded. Friend admitted to recording some meetings but said it is legal in Florida. He resigned from the FBI and is now an author and a senior fellow with the Center for Renewing America.

All three men denied the allegations against them. All three are veterans who completed overseas tours. They, and the Republicans on the panel, said it is unheard of for the FBI to call former service members disloyal to the country.

During the hearing, House Democrats on the panel raised doubts about whether the witnesses could be accurately called whistleblowers or if they were simply aggrieved employees who let personal politics interfere with their mandate. The FBI says each man allowed personal politics to interfere with his work.

Jackie Garrick founded Whistleblowers of America in 2017 to advocate for federal employees who report on their bosses. She said the testimony of the three FBI agents gave her traumatic flashbacks of her own retaliation. She listed the toxic traits she sees in most whistleblower cases: deny, attack, reverse victim, offender, or DARVO.

“The toxic traits of retaliation have psychosocial impacts,” Garrick told WORLD. “I saw lots of comparisons between veterans I’ve worked with who’ve been through combat to whistleblowers who have survived this hostile work environment, and they were using very similar languages in a battle and being held hostage.”

Cathryne Watson, a senior fellow at the Washington-based Alan Lescht & Associates, has worked on many FBI disciplinary and security clearance revocation cases, and she says this situation is not quite so simple. The FBI has its own code regarding whistleblowing and is not subject to the same Whistleblower Protection Act of 1989 that governs companies. The FBI also prohibits “actual or threatened adverse personnel action” for employees who make disclosures.

“Some of the things they said could validly be called whistleblowing,” Watson said. “But then it looks like they committed fireable misconduct, whether you’re a whistleblower or not.”

Garrick, a former whistleblower herself, said the timeline is important in determining whistleblower status.

“Whistleblowers don’t start out to be this,” she said. “They think they're just doing their job. So were they acting with due diligence, in accordance with rules of law? And then did the agency's actions come after the whistleblowing? If so, this was probably retaliation.”

Because the men were suspended without pay, some have received financial help from conservative organizations and former Trump administration officials. Democrats said after the hearing that O’Boyle lied about receiving financial help from those sources despite previous interviews with the committee showing that one is paying his legal fees. Tristan Leavitt, an FBI whistleblower lawyer with Empower Oversight, said these objections are part of the left’s attempts to distract from the FBI’s misconduct against conservatives.

Watson said the men have the chance to appeal the clearance revocation, but the process has taken up to 14 years for past clients she has represented.

Carolina Lumetta

Carolina is a WORLD reporter and a graduate of the World Journalism Institute and Wheaton College. She resides in Washington, D.C.


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