FBI agent Peter Strzok held one of the most important national security positions in the entire bloated federal government. Strzok was the chief of the counterespionage section of the FBI. While working in that capacity, Strzok oversaw the FBI’s much-maligned investigation into Hillary Clinton’s personal email server. Strzok’s fingers were in several other major investigations, as well: most of those related to Russia, the Trump campaign, and Hillary Clinton. After 2016, Strzok was promoted to deputy director of the FBI’s Counterintelligence Division.
Watching Strzok’s recent, explosive, testimony one might get the impression that the Republicans are on a witch hunt against a “dedicated” civil servant. But this impression would be quickly dispelled after combing through the more than 60,000 text messages between Peter Strzok and his alleged lover, FBI lawyer Lisa Page. It is clear that Strzok was not acting as the objective investigator he was trained to be.
Strzok is Everything We Hate About the Administrative State
Everything about Strzok’s conduct shows that he represents the worst excesses of the administrative state. FBI agents—like members of the United States Armed Forces—are held to a strict code of conduct in their personal lives. Essentially, even when an FBI agent is not on duty, he is to comport himself in the same upright manner that he would on the job. This is doubly true for agents who work in national security-related divisions (those who hold security clearances, as Strzok reportedly still does).
In the words of attorney Matthew B. Tully, “Adultery is the kiss of death for federal employees with security clearance.” It certainly was for David Petraeus, whose prior outstanding service and dedication to his country was no match for the controversy he caused when news of his own illicit extramarital affair with Paula Broadwell broke. The ensuing scandal destroyed Petraeus’s career and political future.
And while Strzok’s career is likely over as well, the damage he did to the FBI and the country is arguably greater than any fallout from Petraeus’ affair.
Apparently, Strzok’s marital problems were well-known to his peers in the FBI. Further, his close relationship with Lisa Page was known as well. Despite having been the number-two man in the FBI’s Counterintelligence Division, there were still several people above him in the chain of command. Also, FBI agents who are engaged in violations—such as adultery—are supposed to be investigated by the Office of the Inspector General. This never happened. Given how well-known the affair was, it’s surprising that no one in the FBI had the fortitude to launch the investigation into Strzok and his alleged girlfriend. Had it been, it’s likely that the damage could have been mitigated or entirely avoided.
Character and Integrity Matter
The division that Strzok worked for in the FBI hunts foreign spies operating in the United States. Naturally, these agents have immense investigatory power and they are expected to be supremely judicious, responsible, and fair. When an issue of personal moral integrity arises, it is up to the institution to rein it in. The assumption is that if an agent’s personal integrity is compromised, then that agent’s ability to act as a professional, objective investigator vanishes, which of course puts their investigations in jeopardy.
Those who work in counterintelligence or intelligence—and who are engaged in extramarital affairs—open themselves up to blackmail. Since the beginning of time, spy services have sought to “flip” agents of rival services. Adultery can be a powerful tool in furthering those aims.
Luckily, Strzok and Page, as far as we know, were not operating at behest of a foreign power. Without the affair, however, it is likely that the well-placed Strzok never would have risked his career the way he did in 2016. This affair has irrevocably changed modern American political history. Without Strzok’s influence—and his urge to impress his Trump-hating girlfriend—the turmoil roiling the American political landscape today likely would not be as feverpitched as it currently is.
In his efforts both to satisfy his own political needs, as well as his personal desires, Strzok got the hapless, former FBI Director James Comey to remove the criminal charges against Hillary Clinton for her irresponsible handling of classified emails during her time as secretary of state. After Trump won the election, Strzok promised Page he would stymie Trump’s presidency. The Robert Mueller investigation soon followed, with both Strzok and Page joining the investigation—along with 13 other highly partisan, Democratic lawyers.
Clearly, Stzrok’s judgement was negatively influenced by his illicit relationship with Page, in much the same way it would have been if Stzrok had been sleeping with a foreign spy. Thus, just as America paid the price in 2000 for FBI agent James J. Smith’s affair with a Chinese spy, Katrina Leung, we are paying the price for Strzok’s inappropriate relationship with a hyper-partisan FBI lawyer today.
The Punishment Should Be Severe
On top of his loss of objectivity and abuse of power, Strzok’s adultery must be investigated. Since it is known that he engaged in the activity—in violation of basic FBI guidelines—he must be disciplined (regardless of what punishment Congress metes out in its own investigation of him and Page). Since everyone knows he was having an affair, the FBI should punish him to the fullest—meaning Strzok should be fired immediately with the loss of his pension.
An affair being made public decimated a real hero like General David Petraeus. The same should happen to a man who has facilitated an administrative coup attempt against the duly elected president of the United States.
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