Why the FBI Ignores White Supremacist Violence (ep. 73)

November 13, 2019
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The FBI is supposed to keep us safe, protect our rights, and defend the rule of law. Yet for more than a century, the FBI has aggressively targeted dissidents, gone after minorities, and overstepped its authority in ways that have defined American policing. Mike German, a former FBI agent, discusses his new book and how a post-9/11 FBI has exacerbated divisions in American society even as it has ignored the rise of white supremacist violence.

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MIKE GERMAN:
[00:00:01] The FBI can't tell you how many people white supremacists killed in the United States last year because they don't even collect the data.

EMERSON SYKES:
[00:00:10] From the ACLU, this is At Liberty. I'm Emerson Sykes, a staff attorney here at the ACLU and your host.

The FBI is an agency that looms large in the American imagination and popular culture. It's our nation's top law enforcement organization. It's supposedly there to keep us safe, protect our rights, and defend the rule of law. Yet its history has been rife with abuse. For more than a century, the FBI has aggressively targeted dissidents, gone after minorities and overstepped its authority in ways that have defined American policing.

Today, we're speaking with Mike German, an ex-FBI agent, a fellow at the Brennan Center for Justice, and a former ACLU lobbyist. Mike recently published a book called Disrupt, Discredit and Divide: How the New FBI Damages Democracy. We'll discuss how a post-9/11 FBI has exacerbated divisions in American society by targeting minority groups, even as it ignored the rise of white supremacist violence. Mike German, thanks very much for coming into the studio.

MIKE:
[00:01:16] Thanks for having me here. Really, my pleasure.

EMERSON:
So I have to start by asking you a basic question. Why on earth did you join the FBI?

MIKE:
It was actually the realization of a childhood dream. When I was about 5 years old, my parents asked me what I was going to do with my life, and I said I would go to law school and join the FBI. And my mother heard law school and said, That's it, you're going to do it.

And my dad, who was an army officer, heard the FBI and they were like, That's it. And so I never thought about any other kind of career path.

And it turned out, luckily, that law school was one of the more direct routes to go into the FBI at that time. It later changed. So I went to Northwestern Law School and managed to get in during the time that the FBI was in a hiring phase and and realized that dream.

EMERSON:
And some part of you really deeply believed in the mission of the organization.

MIKE:
Absolutely.
And in many ways, I still deeply believe in the mission. I mean, if I didn't care about the FBI, obviously I wouldn't still be writing about it and talking about it.

I think it does have a critical mission in defending the rule of law in the United States. And unfortunately, when the law enforcer becomes a law breaker, it doesn't just damage the rights of individuals who are caught up in that illegal activity or abusive activity, but it damages the rule of law. And that creates a cycle of reaction among the public that I think leads to greater authoritarianism. When you lose trust in institutions, lose trust in the law as protector, people tend to want to put their trust in some strong figure of authority.

And the last couple of years, we've had a lot of people put their trust in Donald Trump.

And, you know, interestingly, for me, as I was writing the book, there was another group of people who put their faith in Robert Mueller, that he somehow was part of the resistance and with —

EMERSON:
The liberal icon Robert Mueller.

MIKE:
[00:03:10] Right. And but it was that same sort of ignoring his history and saying we're just going to put our hundred percent trust that he's going to save us and and talk about him as if he is some saint that that is going to come down and protect us. And part of the reason that I wanted to write the book is to reveal what is actually wrong inside the FBI, what has been wrong for quite some time, but in a form where it's not just they did this bad thing and they did this bad thing and they did this bad thing, but showing how it's actually affecting our democracy.

EMERSON:
Well, it's really a fascinating perspective that you present, because there are a lot of critics of the FBI. But you have a very nuanced understanding of the roots of those criticism, but also what it's done right. And I want to come back to the points you made about trust and trust in institutions and trust in individuals.

But let's start with your own experience as an FBI agent. One of the main assignments that you had was actually infiltrating white supremacist groups. And in your retelling, this was sort of the FBI at its best. Can you tell us why you think that this was a positive example of what the FBI can do?

MIKE:
Sure. I was very fortunate in my career for the first 14 years. I got to work cases that that that were fundamental to my understanding of what the role of the FBI is as a protector of the public from the most powerful forces.

So initially when I was hired in 1988 is when the savings and loan crisis was going on. So there were these wealthy financiers who twisted the system in a way to take advantage of people across the country and cost the government billions of dollars. So being able to work those types of cases from the beginning of my career, you know, again, was reinforcing that this agency protects the public.

And then one of the great things about an FBI career was I went from working the biggest financial crime of the era to going undercover in neo-Nazi skinhead groups. So, you know, it was quite a transition, but allowed that use of different skills. I had never worked undercover before. So that was the first undercover opportunity that I had and found that I was surprised somewhat that I was actually very good at that.

[00:05:26] And those weren't easy cases. I grew up in the military, so I didn't I don't think I was naive about the limits of government -- that it's highly bureaucratic and and there are problems. So I didn't expect it to be easy to do and felt that my role was to use all the skills and training from law school through how I grew up to to to do my job, to do what was expected of me by the public and take risks that were appropriate to do that, to target serious crime.

And certainly the kind of violence that white supremacists and other militant groups on the far right engage in is continues to be a persistent problem. So I saw it as a way to, again, protect the public from powerful threats.

EMERSON:
And you highlight the fact that your focus was actually pursuing crime and violence, right? You weren't chasing after an ideology, you weren't chasing after white supremacist ideology, but rather criminals within these organizations.

MIKE:
Right. I felt that I was really lucky when I joined the FBI. And growing up wanting to be an FBI agent, I read everything I could find about the FBI. So I knew about all of the bad stories of the FBI during the Hoover era, the COINTELPRO program.

EMERSON:
COINTELPRO is the FBI program that targeted dissidents and civil rights leaders in the 1950s and 60s.

MIKE:
Right, exactly.

I understood how the Church Committee, the Senate committee that investigated those abuses, worked, and how the reforms were implemented. So I felt really lucky that we had learned those those lessons, that we should maintain a focus on law enforcement.

And in working particularly in working undercover, I found that to be very helpful, because when I'm in a roomful of neo-Nazis, everybody is saying something that scares the dickens out of me.

EMERSON:
Right.

MIKE:
[00:07:19] Everybody's saying something that that is totally abhorrent to me. But the rules required me to sit down with a piece of paper and write what was the objective evidence that suggested they were involved in criminal activity rather than just venting their spleen with some really horrible language. And that discipline assisted the investigation.

You know, there's so often we hear about trading privacy and civil liberties for greater security. But what I found is by focusing on the criminals, I'm improving security and protecting civil liberties by not paying attention to the people who were who were just exercising their First Amendment rights. So when I saw the reforms that were put in post-Church Committee being eroded after 9/11, I knew that was going to be very dangerous.

EMERSON:
You sort of position yourself as coming in at least during almost a golden era for the FBI, you know, post all of these horrible abuses in the early years, and post the reckoning of the Church Committee. But before 9/11 reset the game. And I want to come back to some of the 9/11 related issues.

But this is fundamental sort of dichotomy that you point out between law enforcement and national security. And you seem to say that the FBI, when it's doing law enforcement, chasing down crimes does honorable work. But when they start getting into intelligence and national security, that's when a lot of the abuses occur. You know, the ACLU, we spend a lot of time actually fighting against law enforcement. So I want to just ask you to pull out why you think that distinction is important. It's a little bit jarring to hear that law enforcement is actually the better side of the coin.

MIKE:
Right. I think from the origin of our country, there was a recognition that government is most dangerous to liberty when it's exercising its police power. So if you look at the Bill of Rights, for instance, half of them have to do with limiting police power.

EMERSON:
Right.

MIKE:
[00:09:17] So our criminal justice system is set up in a way to challenge those government powers. But when a law enforcement agency claims authorities beyond those law enforcement powers, whether they're referred to as national security authorities or domestic intelligence authorities, you lose many of those protections. What J. Edgar Hoover was famous for was not improperly charging people and somehow ramming those cases with false evidence through the courts. Not that that doesn't happen. There are abuses in law enforcement.

But what he's infamous for is using the tools that we give law enforcement to go after real criminals against people whose politics he didn't like or whose personal lives or social lives he didn't like, and using the tools in a way that suppressed their activities. And that was the conclusion of the Church Committee, was that these were used specifically to suppress First Amendment activity, to target First Amendment activity and suppress it.

So the taping Martin Luther King and sending those tapes to his wife. That kind of conduct has nothing to do with law enforcement. And most of it's done in secret.

So it's not that the law enforcement authorities can't be abused: they are too easily abused, which is why we have the system that we have to try to protect against that abuse. But when law enforcement claims this extra authority there, and particularly when it's no longer based on a reasonable suspicion of criminal activity. Right?

That's a very low standard. Most law enforcement officers wake up suspicious. It's not hard to meet that standard. But at least it requires that discipline that I had to go through. What is the actual factual basis to believe this person is doing wrong? Because oftentimes doing that, I would find that, from the conversation, I'm really worried about person number one. But when I sit down with a piece of paper and there's this quiet person there. But boy, they have the evidence against that person is stronger. So I'm going to quit hanging out with this loudmouth and start trying to get closer to this person who who I actually have evidence is doing something wrong.

EMERSON:
[00:11:28] Well, you said that there are all sorts of, imperfect as they may be, constitutional and statutory constraints on police. But as you point out, the FBI as an agency has been, since its inception, essentially unconstrained under the constitution or under any statute.

MIKE:
Right. I have a chapter called The Lawless Law Enforcement Agency. And it's because it's actually true, that the FBI was created in a fit of executive pique, where the Justice Department had asked for an investigative force and Congress said no.

So when Congress went out of session, the Justice Department under Charles Bonaparte, attorney general, and Teddy Roosevelt just did it on their own. And by the time Congress came back, it was kind of a fait accompli, particularly because they were leaks of information about corruption investigations involving members of Congress, including some of the members of Congress who were opposing the creation of a new force. The administration spun it as, Oh, the reason these members of Congress don't want this force is because they don't want to be investigated.

So it operated for 50 years without any rules, no rules limiting rules created by Congress and basically with a a the wink and a nod from different presidents about how they should do their work. And J. Edgar Hoover was very good at asking for an inch and taking a mile. And so particularly because he was in charge for almost 50 years.

[00:13:06] I talk about how in the 1920s there were particular ideas about what groups should be enfranchised, and which ones shouldn't. And that changed over that period. But J. Edgar Hoover didn't change much in his attitudes. So the FBI was still almost entirely white, still entirely male, and deconstructing that institution that he created has proven to be very difficult, even though the Church Committee investigation led to many serious reforms that did create a legal structure. And unfortunately, that legal structure was dismantled significantly since 9/11.

EMERSON:
Well, that history that you trace is really fascinating where the FBI started out by investigating radicals and communists and then socialists and then socialist-adjacent civil rights groups. And then you have the reckoning of the Church Committee refocusing on law enforcement. And then, as you say, the game changed again around 9/11.

And a lot of what you talk about in terms of 9/11 goes back to this sort of idea that the FBI stopped focusing on law enforcement and now went more to an intelligence model, in large part trying to prevent crime rather than investigate crime.

MIKEL
Right. And that's very problematic because it's a very different process from using evidence of criminal activity, right? And I'm always fascinated when when I hear proponents of intelligence authorities talk about the difference between evidence and intelligence, because they suggest, Well, there are all these crazy rules around evidence and, you know, we need information, not information that we can get through this crazy process of getting it admitted into court.

Except that those rules aren't just obscure things lawyers came up with that

EMERSON:
They’re not just hurdles

MIKE:
-- In order to make it hard to be a lawyer. Right? That they're actually designed to to get to the truth. Right? To challenge things that shouldn't be trustworthy. And we don't have that on the intelligence side. And in this debate, we rarely discuss what exactly intelligence is. You know, it's this idea that there's this font of knowledge that, of course, we should go to the font of knowledge. But if you call it fragmented pieces of information, rumors, innuendo and disinformation by people who are who are just, you know, exercising some kind of grudge, who wants that information? Ehh, not really.

[00:15:30] But when you empower that side, what you do is you untether the agency from facts. And that's where a lot of bias can creep in. So if I'm looking for who might be threatening in the future, I'm not going to necessarily look at people who share my background, my values. You know, I'm going to realize that, Oh, you know, this FBI applicant who got arrested in college for being drunk and stupid and it was a misdemeanor. That's no big deal. I know that experience. That's okay.

But if that young person lived in a community that I'm unfamiliar with and maybe was drunk and stupid, but it was in some environment that I'm not comfortable with, I might see that as scary. So I'm not going to let that person into the FBI. And I think that's why we see every FBI director had said diversifying the FBI was important, that the FBI is a national law enforcement agency should reflect the society that it's supposed to protect.

And every year there was there was growth. It improved a little bit — until 2001. And then it reversed. And the number of Black in the number of Latino agents, increasingly started going down until 2016 when the FBI actually stopped publishing the data because it was looking so bad.

And the same with women. Under Hoover, there were no female agents and it got up to about 20 percent. And it's been stagnant there ever since. But the number of women in management of the FBI has actually gone down. So I think that's part of this process of determining who is a threat based on not on facts, but on some other feelings about what's going on.

EMERSON:
[00:17:13] I want to come back to sort of the institutional biases within the FBI that reflect in large part the biases within our culture.

But focusing in again on the post 9/11 period, it's understandable, I think, for people to say, you know, we can't, in the same way we might wait for a drug deal to happen before we arrest the drug dealer. It's more problematic to wait for a terrorist attack to happen before we go after the terrorists. But at the same time, a lot of this is rooted - some of the predictive policing is something you point out is called the “radicalization theory,” which basically says that there is a path, a somewhat predictable path with clear indicators where someone is marching towards radicalization and terrorism, and that all you have to do is pick up on these indicators. And that's how you can nip these things in the bud before the terrorist act happens. It makes sense on first blush. Tell me why that's unfounded and wrong.

MIKE:
Sure. So that is sort of the explanation that that was put out by people who wanted to make that change to an intelligence agency, that we can't wait for a criminal event to happen.

My whole career as an undercover agent was very proactive. We weren't waiting for things to happen. We were getting involved in the organization and gathering evidence of the plots as they were happening.

So it was sort of a false premise from the beginning. You know criminal intelligence has been part of law enforcement since there has been law enforcement. But again, it's based on this reasonable suspicion of criminal activity. You have to have an objective basis to believe that crime is occurring.

But again, when you take away the facts, what you end up with is conjecture and theory. And that's really what intelligence is. And part of what really frightened me right after 9/11 is that this language that J. Edgar Hoover used going back to the 1910s -- radicalization --was all of a sudden re-adopted.

[00:19:09] Terrorism was around forever. Right? It's one of the oldest forms of violence that a weaker party uses against a stronger party.

I was working with terrorist groups and as an undercover agent, seeing that this language of radicalization coming back, that the idea that, Oh, the terrorism is a product of an ideology, of an extreme ideology, rather than recognizing in my cases that I there were tons of Nazis who didn't ever commit a crime. Right? They had their belief system. And as long as they weren't violating the crime as an FBI agent, I didn't care. And God bless them. Go out there and write your newsletters and do your marches, and that's fine, as long as you're not engaged in violence.

And what I found interesting was that there were many people who when I would meet them and talk about the people I was hanging out with, they would try to stop me. They would say, Oh, those people are idiots and they're gonna get you arrested and they're gonna get you in trouble. And the types of things they do — engaging in violence — actually makes us as a movement look bad. What we need to do is put a suit on you, run you for office. You can help us write these newsletters. You can write op-eds. You can do all this political work that will move our movement forward much more effectively than the violence.

So the concept of radicalization suggests that the violence is a product of the ideology. And knowing that that wasn't factually true was problematic enough for an FBI agent. Right? I should be based on my my investigations on evidence. But more problematically, just like back in the 1910s when it was labor movement and civil rights movements that were being targeted --

EMERSON:
And immigrants.

MIKE:
And immigrants, the the indicators are First Amendment activity. So it's this strange way of criminalizing First Amendment activity by framing it as a precursor to violence.

[00:21:06] You know, one of the problems I think we had after 9/11 is that Bush administration presented terrorism as a new threat. This is a new kind of warfare. And what that meant is that nothing previous to this is worth studying. So we had all these people come into the terrorism program who who had all these ideas based on nothing: “This is what we should do moving forward.”

And I think that's how the torture program started, was that, they completely ignored that the FBI has been interrogating people using legitimate techniques for decades. So those are the experts on interrogation. But instead, they went to people who really had no training

The FBI, they recognized that that obtaining a a truthful statement required voluntariness and that if you coerced a subject, even with tactics that were not in anything remotely near torture, the chances of getting a false confession were much higher. So rather than turning to these agents and saying, Bring us your expertise, they shut those agents out and brought in very odd actors that came up with stuff that you might see on TV, but it actually doesn't work in real life.

EMERSON:
You said as an FBI agent, these First Amendment protected activities are totally fine with you and not your problem. I would just have to add that confronting these ideologies is our problem, as a as a society. It's our job to try to confront these hateful ideologies, but we actually don't want law enforcement trying to do that. And I think --

MIKE:
Right. And I think it's important to recognize that that suppressing the ideology doesn't make it go away. Right? I mean, I'm always fascinated when people talk about the increase in white supremacy in the United States, as if the United States hasn't always had a white supremacy problem. It was founded on white supremacy.

So, you know, those ideas through the civil rights movement were were suppressed somewhat, but that didn't prevent violence. The violence actually increased in many ways. So decoupling the criminality from the ideology, I think is critical. And particularly because if I was to create a program where I want to convince white supremacists not to engage in violence, coming from an FBI agent or from the ACLU is not going to be convincing.

[00:23:24] Another white supremacist telling them that that's not effective for our movement is far more powerful. And so that was part of the problem was how ineffective this methodology would be. But also recognizing that it's also going to lead to civil rights abuses and again, this return to targeting people for their First Amendment activities, for their speech, for their associations. And that's what the radicalization model basically compels.

EMERSON:
And it's not just ineffective, as you say, for law enforcement to go after ideology, but it also leads to torture. It leads to mass surveillance. It's led to entrapment of especially Muslims.

MIKE:
Right. If you believe that somebody who has these ideas is on the pathway to becoming a terrorist, then it only makes sense to entrap them. Right? Let's move them along that radicalization pathway much quicker, when there are actually bad people out there.

I mean, that's that's one thing that I learned in law enforcement. There are people out there doing harm against other people. And we should focus on that. And one of the fascinating things since 9/11, you know, we're very lucky. We live in a very safe society. Terrorism is much more rare than it was in the 1970s. People forget that.

EMERSON:
I want to turn back to your earlier experience dealing with these white supremacist groups, because as you and many others have highlighted, actually the greatest threat to our nation in terms of domestic terrorist acts are these white supremacist groups. One of the things that I think is challenging with the phrasing of white supremacists, as you said, white supremacy is baked into our country.

MIKE:
Right.

EMERSON:
We all learn it of every race. We understand that there is a hierarchy and white is on top. And that's something that is a part of the air that we breathe.

But it also refers to these tattoo-wearing, hooded, extremists who may or may not be violent. So I wonder if you have any thoughts about how we sort of disentangle these structural issues, which are aptly called white supremacy, with this white supremacist threat, which is particular. I mean, I think a lot of times people feel like, Oh, you're just crying wolf. You're - you're saying that I'm a white supremacist. I'm not a white supremacist. I'm I'm just a normal American, when the point is that normal America is ingrained with this ideology as well.

MIKE:
[00:25:38] Right. And I think that's the part that's hardest, is that it's easy for the government to present white supremacist violence — the guys with the tattoos and the skinheads — as this extreme fringe of our society, not recognizing how white supremacy actually infects all of our society.

If you look down here in the Financial District of New York and you go to all these corporate boardrooms, they're going to be disproportionately white. And if you go to the jails and prisons, they're disproportionately black and brown. I don't think that's an accident. That’s set up in our system. If you look at our immigration system, it has always been based on race and ethnicity.

So these these policies still have that lingering effect from the founding of our nation as a nation where white people were were legally dominant in this society. And so it's a whole-of-society approach to understanding how that still infects us. You know, the groups that white supremacists most often attack are the same groups that are disproportionately victims of police violence. Right? The FBI routinely warns its agents that there are white supremacists in law enforcement, so you should be careful with your investigations of white supremacist groups and who you share them with.

But just recently in some House Oversight meetings the Counterterrorism Assistant Director of the FBI was asked about those FBI memos and he said he wasn't familiar with them. And asked whether he had a strategy for dealing with the fact that we have white supremacists and law enforcement in protecting the community, not just protecting FBI investigations and their integrity, but actually protecting the community from these police officers. There's no response.

[00:27:22] So think it takes our educational system. It takes a broader conversation. And obviously, the ACLU and the Brennan Center are all part of that. But I think the way that that most Americans look at our system, we tend to ignore what is demonstrable, in fact. And as a trained investigator, I tend to be focused on where there's actually evidence. And these persistent problems in our criminal justice system and persistent disparities are because this system is not fair.

EMERSON:
And I mean the way that these biases and institutional and cultural issues manifest in the FBI. You talked about the diversity within the force. The fact that the FBI knows that there are white supremacists within law enforcement is — was a shocking detail.

But also the fact that they in many ways underplayed the threat of white supremacist violence while also focusing on other, much lesser threats, including black identity extremists. This is something that the ACLU has been trying to get additional information about through a FOIA litigation. But the societal problems are sort of reflected in the Bureau in a way that's sort of understandable, but also in ways that are quite frightening.

MIKE:
Right. Right. Like the lack of diversity within the FBI. And obviously, when you have an organization that's dominated by white male and you look at the demographics and political opinions, you know, you have a monoculture basically that you're building in that organization. So how it looks at threats and how it prioritizes threats is influenced by that.

And it's fascinating that, you know, there's talk right now about — because there is more concern and more attention being paid to white supremacist violence — that you know, why isn't the FBI more focused on this? They must need new laws. That's when the FBI is arguing we need new powers, or some in FBI, the FBI Agents Association, some of the Department of Justice — where I wrote a report called Wrong Priorities on Fighting Terrorism that showed that there are 52 federal laws of terrorism that apply to domestic terrorism, there are five federal hate crimes that apply to a lot of the white supremacist violence. There are organized crime statutes that prevent these terrorist organizations from operating. So there's plenty of law, too.

[00:29:31] It's a choice, a policy choice not to prioritize these investigations. In fact, today the FBI can't tell you how many people white supremacists killed in the United States last year because they don't even collect the data.

The Justice Department does victim surveys regularly. And those indicate there are about 230,000 violent hate crimes per year. The Justice Department prosecutes 25 cases a year. So it shows that they are completely ignoring this more impactful type of violence to the extent that we don't even know it. So when people talk about an increase in violence, we don't know if it's increasing because we don't know the scope of it.

EMERSON:
Well, you have a lot of suggestions for how the FBI can do a better job. I think one of the primary ones is, you know, the need for public engagement and public oversight. We need to keep our eye on these folks, even if we have better rules, even if we have clearer rules. We can never fully trust our government to do its best without keeping an eye on them and making sure that they're staying in line.

And one of the key players in the public oversight, especially of law enforcement, is the whistleblower. And you yourself were a whistleblower. And I wonder if you can just talk about what it means to have those folks within these organizations willing and able to speak out and how you realized that that was what you needed to do.

MIKE:
So I don't think anybody joins any organization to be a whistleblower. That certainly was far from my mind. But post-9/11, when I saw a terrorism case being mishandled, I thought it was my duty, as an FBI agent, as a law enforcement officer, to point out that there was illegal activity taking place within the FBI and really didn't think about it as being a whistleblower. I mean, I did look up what are the rules of how I do this, which are very complex and I think intentionally designed to serve more as a trap than a shield for whistleblowers.

[00:31:32] The FBI and the other intelligence agencies were able to convince Congress to exempt them from the Whistleblower Protection Act of 1989. And instead, they created internal systems that were supposed to mirror the protections that other federal employees have. But number one, it's an internal process, so it's hard to imagine that that could ever be a hundred percent fair. But number two, it created this very narrow pathway. So I would have to go not to my supervisor, not to his supervisor, but to this special agent in charge of the office in order to do it.

But the FBI has very paramilitary sort of a chain-of-command. And in reality, if I had called my special agent in charge or sat in front of his office waiting for the door to open, the first thing he would have done is call the assistant special agent in charge and say, Why, why is Mike German sitting outside my office? And the assistant special agent in charge would have called my supervisor and said, Why is Mike German sitting outside the office?

So it creates a system that was designed to fail. Number one. But number two, to identify the whistleblower. So it makes it impossible for the right that any other citizen or federal employee has to go to a member of Congress with it with an important matter. It pulls that right away. At least I believe the rights still exist, but the protections that disappear if you go through that avenue.

EMERSON:
Well, you showed exceptional courage and it's a system designed to really test that courage. So we appreciate your bravery and also all the work that you've done since. And I just want to ask in closing, what can an average citizen, a listener, and ACLU supporter do to help build accountability and reform within the FBI?

MIKE:
[00:33:17] Great. So in the last part of the book, I do talk about reform options and do explain how it's important for members of the public to work in solidarity with the people who are who are being targeted by the FBI. Throwing around the terrorist label is very debilitating, particularly for political groups -- right? — if they’re trying to go out there and organize and convince people to their opinion if the government is calling them a terrorist. That makes it very difficult.

So understanding that your political opinions might not be falling under the microscope right now, if you don't protect everyone's ability to express themselves, your own rights are being lessened. So to work in solidarity is very important and to make sure that you're reaching out to these groups that are being unfairly targeted.

The second is that it's almost the reverse of the civil rights period where you had state governments that weren't following the law and the federal government coming in to ensure that they did. We're seeing state and local governments now challenging FBI policy, specifically in Portland, Oregon, in San Francisco, California, where the states have looked at their own state and local rules, or that the local governments have looked at their own state and local rules that limit police intelligence activity and understanding that they're now more protective than the FBI guidelines.

So when state and local police go over to the federal task force, they often have to agree to work under the federal rules. And so Portland has chosen to pull their officers out of the task force. San Francisco has chosen to pull their officers out of the Joint Terrorism Task Force. Atlanta has pulled out of all federal task forces based on body cam policy, which requires them to wear body cams. But the federal task force won't let local officers wear body cams when they engage in that federal work. So this is, I think, an important development that we're hoping will will spread, and local governments will take a look at their own what their own police officers are doing on these federal task forces.

EMERSON:
[00:35:16] So we have to protect our neighbors and we gotta invest in our local governments.

MIKE:
Exactly.

EMERSON:
Mike German, thanks very much for joining us and thanks for all your great work. We really appreciate it.

MIKE:
Thank you.

EMERSON:
Thanks very much for listening.

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