In the wake of the FBI raid on Mar-a-Lago last week, many people have spoken out against the public criticism of the FBI’s actions against a former President. Attorney General Merrick Garland said, "I will not stand by silently when their [the FBI agents’] integrity is unfairly attacked." FBI Director Christopher Wray issued a statement saying, “Unfounded attacks on the integrity of the FBI erode respect for the rule of law and are a grave disservice to the men and women who sacrifice so much to protect others.” Senator Amy Klobuchar said the agents were “simply doing their jobs.”
If the FBI agents at Mar-a-Lago were just “doing their jobs” and thus free from criticism, then why did they ask Trump’s lawyer, Christina Bobb, to shut off the security cameras? If they are professionals, doing a professional job, within the law, they should want the cameras to be rolling so their professionalism would be on display for the world to see. The one reason why they would want the security cameras to be shut off was because the 30 agents raiding Trump’s house were planning on acting illegally or at least unethically. If you want the benefit of the doubt, then don’t give a reason for anyone to doubt you.
In fact, the FBI agents cannot hide behind the defense that they were merely following orders. If they were ordered to do something that is either illegal or unethical, and they did it, they still made the choice to perform an illegal or unethical act. They had full dominion over their faculties and their body, and they decided to act anyway. We will find out sooner or later whether the FBI’s raid of Mar-a-Lago was justified, ethical, and legal, and if it wasn’t, those involved must be held accountable for their actions.
It’s not like the FBI’s history in dealing with Donald Trump is beyond reproach. In 2016, FBI agent Peter Strzok admitted he was committed to stopping Trump from winning the Presidency, when he texted, “No he won’t. We’ll stop it [Trump winning].” He was later exposed for using the power of the FBI to sway the election and torpedo Trump’s administration. Around the same time, an FBI lawyer, Kevin Clinesmith, falsified information on a FISA warrant to spy on Trump’s campaign and his transition team. While Head of the FBI, James Comey ordered his agents to entrap Trump’s pick of National Security Advisor, Michael Flynn, during Trump’s transition into the White House.
“Doing your job” does not mean you are automatically exonerated from your actions and behavior. What if what you are asked to do is a violation of the Constitution, the law, professional ethics, or human morality? Are you still supposed to just “do your job” and be above criticism? Not necessarily. If what you’re being ordered to do is wrong, then you must be willing to step aside, you must be willing to resign.
On June 28, 2022, Josef Schütz, A 101-year-old former Nazi concentration camp guard was convicted and sentenced to prison in Germany on more than 3,500 counts of accessory to murder for being a guard at a concentration camp during the Holocaust. He argued that he was simply doing his job, obeying orders, but 77 years later, he is being held accountable for his actions of following orders.
Were the FBI agents who were ordered to target Martin Luther King, Jr in the 1960’s, with illegal surveillance, wiretaps and fabrication of evidence, simply “doing their jobs”? Are the FBI agents who are targeting parents who object to the teaching of Critical Race Theory and Radical Gender Theory, merely “doing their jobs”? Or should they be held accountable?
When General Mark Milley disagreed with Donald Trump, the Commander in Chief, he disobeyed orders and worked against the administration. He told his staff, “I’ll just fight him,” and then added, “If they want to court-martial me, or put me in prison, have at it. … But I will fight from the inside.” Many of the people defending the FBI agents for “doing their job”, applauded General Milley for not “doing his job”.
Some are trying to tie criticism of the FBI to violence in order to silence them. Liz Cheney called criticism of the FBI “sickening comments that put the lives of patriotic public servants at risk.” Representative Eric Swalwell tried to directly connect criticism of the FBI to violence against an FBI field office in Ohio. He said, “you can draw directly from what Kevin McCarthy, Steve Scalise, Marjorie Taylor Greene, Lindsey Graham have all said, the threats against law enforcement, the lies that they told about law enforcement and what this individual posted online before he took up arms against the FBI.” I don’t condone violence in any way, shape or form against the FBI or anybody, but I do reserve the right to criticize the people that we have entrusted with power. So, if I believe the FBI agents acted inappropriately, I’m going to say it.
Those who tied criticism of the FBI to violence are some of the most outspoken critics of people they don’t like. Liz Cheney has called Donald Trump, “dangerous” and “irrational”. Eric Swalwell has tweeted that Donald Trump was responsible for 90,000 deaths. If someone tried to assassinate Trump, would Swalwell and Cheney be held responsible? Should they be prevented from criticizing Trump or any of our leaders for fear of inciting violence against them? Of course not.
Were the people criticizing the police of systemic racism, putting police officers’ lives in danger. On July 8, 2016, the day after Barack Obama said that police shootings of black people “are not isolated incidents. They’re symptomatic of a broader set of racial disparities that exist in our criminal justice system,” a black supremacist, Micah Johnson shot and killed 5 police officers in Dallas, Texas. Even though I completely disagree with Barack Obama’s charge against police, he is not responsible for the shooting in Dallas of police officers. The only person responsible for those shootings is the person who actually pulled the trigger.
Many of the people who are denouncing criticism of the FBI for fear of inciting violence, were vocal critics of the Supreme Court after the Dobbs decision. Did their criticism lead to the violent threats that some of the Justices endured, and the assassination attempt against Brett Kavanaugh? We are living in a day and age where it is okay to criticize police officers and Supreme Court Justices, but not okay to criticize FBI agents. Throughout 2016, Bernie Sanders verbally attacked Republicans, and then in 2017, one of his supporters shot up a Republican congressional baseball practice. Was Bernie Sanders responsible for that violence? Should he be prevented from criticizing Republicans? Of course not.
This is all about controlling your speech. They will tell us that “silence is violence”, and then they will claim that “words are violence.” And they are wrong on both counts, violence is violence; silence is silence; and words are words. That’s it. And anyone telling you different is either trying to silence you or compel your speech. The moment we conflate words with violence, which is what the left continually tries to do, is the moment that we give law enforcement and politicians the power to silence us, preventing us from criticizing the powerful. One person’s words are not responsible for another person’s actions. If you don’t like the criticism of the FBI’s actions, then defend what they did. Put together a rational argument based on facts to defend their actions. That’s what reasonable people do.
The January 6 committee is trying to tie Donald Trump’s words to the riot at the Capitol. The concept of inciting a riot does not make sense. A person is either responsible for his actions or not responsible for his actions. Nobody is ever incited to violence; nobody is ever incited to riot. They choose to commit violence. They choose to riot. Claiming that one person incited another person to violence or to riot is to remove the responsibility of the riot from the person who rioted to a person who did not riot. It is claiming that the one person has complete dominion over another person. And if that is the case then the person committing the violence, the person who is rioting should therefore be exonerated, not much different than a person who pleads not guilty by virtue of insanity. If we go down this road to incitement to violence, then it’s not a far step to censorship of movies, TV shows, video games and Internet. We must expect and demand more from our citizens. We must expect that they are in control of their actions and their decisions. It does not matter what anyone says, we are all responsible for the decisions we make and the acts we commit.
Last week, the CDC came out with new guidelines concerning Covid-19, and many of these “new” guidelines had previously been grounds used by social media companies to censor critics of the Biden administration. So that which was being silenced on social media in 2020 and 2021 for being “disinformation”, is now accepted as the truth by the CDC in 2022. This is why silencing people is so damaging to a country. If the voices that were silence had been allowed to speak maybe the CDC would have concluded a lot sooner that their protocols needed to be changed, and maybe lives and livelihoods would have been saved.
How do you know when you are very close to the truth? When there are people who want to silence you. Not refute what you’re saying but silence you. The guy who believes 2+2 = 4 never tries to silence the guy who believes the 2+2 = 5, he just uses his freedom of speech to prove that 2+2 does not equal five. It is only the “2+2 = 5” guy who tries to silence the “2+2 = 4 guy” because he cannot refute him any other way. Twitter is re-implementing its censorship of so-called “misinformation” in the run up to the midterm elections. And most of what will be censored will be the truth that is damaging to the current administration, like the Hunter Biden laptop story was censored in 2020, because 99% of Twitter employees are ideologically allied with the Democrats.
When a person or an organization is not allowed to be criticized, they eventually become too powerful and corrupt. Criticism is one of the mechanisms that roots out corruption, that exposes abuse of power. If anyone is above criticism, then that is a greenlight for them to do whatever they want. In an open and free society, criticism is a vital tool for keeping the powerful in check. And the more powerful they are, the more open they should be to criticism. This is the reason why the Democrats are emboldened to coordinate and execute all this corrupt abuse of power because they know they have a complicit media who will never criticize them, never hold their feet to the fire for their corruption.
Judd Garrett is a graduate from Princeton University, and a former NFL player, coach, and executive. He has been a contributor to the website Real Clear Politics. He has recently published his first novel, No Wind.