FBI agents say shutdown hinders fight against gangs and terrorism

The FBI Agents Association (FBIAA) repeated its call for the partial government shutdown to end, arguing that it is undermining the bureau’s ability to protect the nation.

On Tuesday, FBIAA released a report of first-person accounts from special agents in the field on how the shutdown is compromising their work on a host of issues, including terrorism, drugs, gangs and child trafficking.

“Victims from domestic minor-sex-trafficking cases are not receiving the attention they need and/or visits and counseling services,” one agent said.

“The shutdown has eliminated any ability to operate…. It’s bad enough to work without pay, but we can only conduct administrative functions while doing it,” another said. “The fear is our enemies know they can run freely.”

Founded in 1981, the FBIAA represents more than 14,000 active and retired FBI special agents. The organization sent a letter to Congress on Jan. 10 — a day before furloughed government workers missed their first paycheck — requesting immediate funding for the bureau and outlining how the shutdown could disrupt operations.

With Jan. 25 (the date of their likely second missed paycheck) approaching, FBIAA President Tom O’Connor held a news conference to repeat his plea for funding. He said the new report demonstrates that the concerns voiced in their letter two weeks ago are becoming a reality.

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Furloughed workers protest amid government shutdown
Union workers demonstrate in front of the White House against the government shutdown on January 10, 2019, in Washington, DC. - US President Donald Trump headed Thursday to the US-Mexico border to push his demand for a wall, a day after he walked out of negotiations with Democrats in a political crisis paralyzing the government. (Photo by NICHOLAS KAMM / AFP) (Photo credit should read NICHOLAS KAMM/AFP/Getty Images)
Union members and Internal Revenue Service workers rally outside an IRS Service Center to call for an end to the partial government shutdown, Thursday, Jan. 10, 2019, in Covington, Ky. (AP Photo/John Minchillo)
IRS worker Christine Helquist joins a federal workers protest rally outside the Federal Building, Thursday, Jan., 10, 2019, in Ogden, Utah. Payday will come Friday without any checks for about 800,000 federal employees affected by the government shutdown, forcing workers to scale back spending, cancel trips, apply for unemployment benefits and take out loans to stay afloat. (AP Photo/Rick Bowmer)
IRS worker Angela Gran, center, and others participate in a federal workers protest rally outside the Federal Building, Thursday, Jan., 10, 2019, in Ogden, Utah. Payday will come Friday without any checks for about 800,000 federal employees affected by the government shutdown, forcing workers to scale back spending, cancel trips, apply for unemployment benefits and take out loans to stay afloat. (AP Photo/Rick Bowmer)
Cheryl Monroe, right, a Food and Drug Administration employee, and Bertrice Sanders, a Social Security Administration employee, rally to call for an end to the partial government shutdown in Detroit, Thursday, Jan. 10, 2019. (AP Photo/Paul Sancya)
Government workers rally against the partial government shutdown at Federal Plaza, Thursday, Jan. 10, 2019, in Chicago. The partial government shutdown continues to drag on with hundreds of thousands of federal workers off the job or working without pay as the border wall fight persists. (AP Photo/Kiichiro Sato)
People gather during a federal workers protest rally at the Federal Building Thursday, Jan., 10, 2019, in Ogden, Utah. (AP Photo/Rick Bowmer)
People gather during a federal workers protest rally at the Federal Building Thursday, Jan., 10, 2019, in Ogden, Utah. (AP Photo/Rick Bowmer)
Furloughed TSA worker Marae Persson shows participates in a federal workers protest rally at the Federal Building Thursday, Jan., 10, 2019, in Ogden, Utah. (AP Photo/Rick Bowmer)
Furloughed National Park Service ranger Kathryn Gilson, center, listens as fellow furloughed ranger Sean Ghazala, left, speaks to the media, Thursday, Jan. 10, 2019, during a press conference and rally at Staten Island's La Colmena Center in New York. Ghazala is based at Manhattan's African Burial Ground, and Gilson works at Gateway National Recreation Area, a national park encompassing wetlands surrounding New York city and parts of New Jersey's coastline. Gilson says she is home "bouncing off the walls" and worrying about paying her bills and student loan. Staten Island is a largely Republican borough of New York city, but Democrat Max Rose recently defeated his Republican opponent in the 2018 congressional elections. (AP Photo/Kathy Willens)
People rally to call for an end to the partial government shutdown in Detroit, Thursday, Jan. 10, 2019. (AP Photo/Paul Sancya)
Union members and other federal employees protest the government shutdown on Capitol Hill in Washington, Thursday, Jan. 10, 2019. (AP Photo/Andrew Harnik)
Union members protest the government shutdown on Capitol Hill in Washington, Thursday, Jan. 10, 2019. (AP Photo/Andrew Harnik)
Union members and other federal employees stop in front of the White House in Washington during a rally to call for an end to the partial government shutdown, Thursday, Jan. 10, 2019. . (AP Photo/Pablo Martinez Monsivais)
A demonstrator holds a 'Stop The Shutdown' sign during a rally with union members and federal employees to end the partial government shutdown outside the White House in Washington, D.C., U.S., on Thursday, Jan. 10, 2019. The partial government shutdown entered its 20th day today as its impact is more widely felt with about 800,000 federal workers who will miss their paychecks on Friday. Photographer: Andrew Harrer/Bloomberg via Getty Images
Union workers demonstrate in front of the White House against the government shutdown on January 10, 2019, in Washington, DC. - US President Donald Trump headed Thursday to the US-Mexico border to push his demand for a wall, a day after he walked out of negotiations with Democrats in a political crisis paralyzing the government. (Photo by NICHOLAS KAMM / AFP) (Photo credit should read NICHOLAS KAMM/AFP/Getty Images)
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“While special agents remain on the job and will continue on the job, to be effective the operations of the FBI require funding,” O’Connor told the press.

According to the report, the lack of funding is preventing FBI agents (most of whom are still working) from paying for their basic operational needs, such as booking flights, filling official FBI vehicles with gas or purchasing pre-paid phone cards. The agents also said they haven’t gotten the same support from their respective offices because many staffers are furloughed. The report outlines many other ways the lack of funding impedes training and investigations.

He said politicians in Washington need to listen to the voices of the men and women in the FBI who have committed to protecting the American people. He said some agents are struggling to provide for their families and that this precarity may prompt good workers to find employment elsewhere or make it difficult to attract qualified candidates.

When asked whether he thinks airing their grievances risks damaging the FBI’s relationship with President Trump, O’Connor said neither the bureau nor the agent’s association are political and that his statement has “no politics in it.”

Trump already has a strained relationship with the intelligence community. The FBI is part of the investigation into Russian interference with the 2016 presidential election, which has resulted in a stream of indictments and guilty pleas from the president’s associates.

The FBIAA’s appeal to funding the bureau on the grounds of national security detracts from Trump’s explanation for continuing the shutdown — insisting that a wall along the U.S.-Mexico border to reduce illegal immigration and drug trafficking.

“I want to make one point clear. Agents were working cases yesterday, they are working cases today, and they will be working cases tomorrow,” O’Connor said. “They are doing so without pay and under conditions that grow more challenging every day.”

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