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FBI Says the Shutdown Is Hurting Its Ability to Fight MS-13 and Terrorism

“We have lost several sources who have worked for months, and years, to penetrate groups and target subjects,” wrote an agent in a report released Tuesday. “These assets cannot be replaced.”

FBI Agents Association member Thomas O'Connor holds up an FBI report "Voices From the Field" giving examples of how the government shutdown is undermining their work on drug and gang enforcement, security, and counter-terrorism, as he speaks during a press conference in Washington, DC, on January 22, 2019. (Photo by Jim WATSON / AFP)        (Photo credit should read JIM WATSON/AFP/Getty Images)

FBI Agents Association member Thomas O'Connor holds up an FBI report "Voices From the Field" giving examples of how the government shutdown is undermining their work on drug and gang enforcement, security, and counter-terrorism, as he speaks during a press conference in Washington, DC, on January 22, 2019.

Jim Watson/AFP/Getty Images

Though Democrats swiftly rejected President Trump’s latest “compromise” to re-open the government, Senate leaders have agreed to bring it to a vote this week, along with a Democrat-backed continuing resolution that passed through the House of Representatives earlier this year. The deal between Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY) and Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-NY) is a faint sign of a pulse regarding a bipartisan compromise since the shutdown began on December 21st. The government would open immediately if either bill were to pass, but there doesn’t seem to be any chance of this happening.

It’s getting hard to keep track of all of the different gears of the United States government that have been clogged by the shutdown. The latest breakdown to make news comes from within the FBI. On Tuesday, the FBI Agents Association released a 72-page report filled with accounts from agents explaining how the shutdown has impaired their work. The lack of funding has complicated operations across several different divisions, including sex trafficking, drug and gang crime and counterterrorism, which is losing informants because of the shutdown.

“Recently, we were scheduled for training [during the shutdown] regarding child abductions in our area,” wrote one agent from the central region. “We have had two stranger abductions in the past year, and … we were told we had to cancel.”

“I have been working a long-term MS-13 investigation for over three years,” wrote another. “We have indicted 23 MS-13 gang members for racketeering, murder in aid of racketeering, extortion, money laundering and weapons offenses … Since the shutdown, I have not had a Spanish speaker in the Division. We have several Spanish speaking informants. We are only able to communicate using a three way call with a linguist in another division.”

“As a Joint Terrorism Task Force Coordinator, the inability to pay Confidential Human Sources has had a detrimental effect on our counter-terrorism investigations and operations,” wrote an agent from the western region. “We have lost several sources who have worked for months, and years, to penetrate groups and target subjects. These assets cannot be replaced … Serving my country has always been a privilege, but it has never been so hard or thankless.”

According to the New Yorker, 5,000 of the FBI’s 35,000 employees have been furloughed, and the rest are working without pay. Vacations have been canceled and retirements have been delayed. Food banks have been set up, and agents are scrounging from bags of canned food. “It’s discouraging that this is the way people who put their lives at risk are being treated by the federal government,” FBIAA chief Tom O’Connor told the New Yorker. “To be treated this way is wrong.”

Not surprisingly, the FBI’s ability to recruit and retain agents has suffered, especially considering the money available in the private sector. One agent wrote in the FBIAA’s report that younger employees have been discussing finding work elsewhere if the shutdown persists for much longer. This would be particularly damaging for the FBI considering how many resources are expended thoroughly vetting candidates before they are hired. “I can’t imagine attracting new qualified applicants to the FBI as a result of this shutdown,” the agent wrote, “those folks will go elsewhere too and we will get stuck with subpar applicants.”

The FBI may soon be forced to accept some of these subpar applicants. Despite the Senate voting this week on both the Trump-backed bill to fund the wall and the resolution to re-open the government that the House approved early this year, there is little-to-no chance that either will pass.

As of Tuesday, the government has been operating under a partial shutdown for a record 32 days.

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