IT IS hard to know how to respond to the outrageousness that the Trump administration in the United States has become. This foolish president continues to insult the leaders of the nations who have stood beside America for nearly 75 years and assault the foundations of an American foreign policy that has made major contributions to world peace and prosperity for most of that same period. His rudeness and haughty behaviour on his recent trip to Europe cannot be excused.
Trump’s bizarre, childish and offensive conduct is frankly incomprehensible. Perhaps only the Robert Mueller investigation can provide an eventual explanation. We must wait for that, and hope that it brings clarity to a presidency that increasingly makes no sense.
The Mueller investigation has already had one profoundly deleterious effect for the United States. Its persistence and success has prompted Trump to declare war on the Department of Justice, headed by his own hand picked servant, Jeff Sessions, and on the nation’s national police force, the Federal Bureau of Investigation.
The FBI has generally served the US and its national interest with distinction since its founding in 1908. The exceptions to this stellar record have mostly come when the bureau has become ensnared in the nation’s political intrigue. Until the past couple of years, the FBI’s biggest problems occurred during the tenure of its first and longest serving director, J Edgar Hoover, who died in 1972.
Now, though, Trump and his craven acolytes in Congress are attempting to dilute the effects of whatever Mueller reveals by besmirching the FBI and some of its most decorated agents. Last week, FBI deputy assistant director Peter Strzok was put on trial by a Congressional committee whose objectivity and concern for the national interest were not apparent to any observer.
It must be assumed that there will be some lasting damage to the FBI, at least internally in the US, from this virulent barrage from Trump and Congressional Republicans. It is reasonable to wonder what will be the effects overseas.
The FBI has been authorised to operate overseas since 1940 as the US entry into World War II loomed. To counter the growing Nazi threat, the FBI began to station undercover agents in Central and Latin America. The first overseas FBI post was established in Bogota, Colombia in 1941.
The FBI now has 63 offices (called legal attaché offices) and 27 sub-offices around the world. These FBI offices cover over 200 nations and territories. The FBI maintains a regional Caribbean office in Bridgetown, Barbados and one of its 27 sub-offices is in Nassau.
It was perhaps part of an effort to reassure overseas partners when the FBI’s assistant director for international operations, George Piro, recently appeared before foreign reporters in Washington DC. He addressed an audience that included journalists from Brazil, Russia, Pakistan, Turkey, China, Finland, Kurdistan and France, among others. There was no discussion of Strzok or the FBI’s political difficulties in Washington.
Piro noted that the FBI role overseas is to build collaborative relationships with “foreign law enforcement, security and intelligence partners to combat crime and mitigate threats both nationally and internationally. Years ago,” he said, “the law enforcement focus was really on crimes that were affected or that were occurring within each country’s borders. That mindset is no longer conceivable”.
While Prio mentioned numerous crimes the FBI is fighting overseas such as human trafficking, cross-border organised crime and fraudulent business enterprises, the FBI’s number one target area remains terrorism. Since the attacks on New York City and Washington, DC on September 11, 2001, American law enforcement and intelligence agencies have focused on terrorism.
In response to a query from a Chinese reporter, Piro differentiated between the roles of the FBI and the CIA. “Domestically,” he said, “the FBI is the domestic intelligence agency. Overseas, our primary function is to fulfill both our law enforcement and national security responsibilities. The FBI works openly. Our agents are fully declared under diplomatic missions and we are engaged with our law enforcement, security and intelligence partners. Our roles and the CIA’s roles are very different.”
It all sounded like business as usual. But it isn’t business as usual at the FBI or in the US government.