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Monday, April 15, 2024

House Judiciary Passes a Crucial Reform to the FBI

'I had seen too many criminal investigations in which FBI agents conducted interviews and then paraphrased their subjects inaccurately because they were unfamiliar with the complicated subject matter or had their own spin on the case already...'

(Ken Silva, Headline USA) The House Judiciary Committee passed a bill Thursday that would require the FBI and other federal law enforcement agencies to electronically record its interviews of U.S. citizens suspected of having committed crimes.

The FBI’s standard practice is to take notes during an interview, and then summarize them in a report known as a Form 302.

Rep. Tom Tiffany, R-Wisc., who sponsored the reform legislation, noted the flaws in this process.

“Without a verbatim record of what was said during an interview, prosecutors, defendants and judges are often left with a 302 report that merely summarizes the FBI agent’s characterizations and memories of the interview—or worse, Form 302 mischaracterizes what was said,” Tiffany said during a markup of the bill.

“We’ve seen these Form 302s be weaponized against Republicans,” he added, referencing the FBI’s investigation of Trump’s former National Security Adviser, Michael Flynn. In that case, “irregular handling and editing” of FBI 302s transpired, according to a 2020 report from RealClearInvestigations.

Tiffany, who introduced the bill, further noted that the Justice Department has a policy in place that presumes that custodial interviews be electronically recorded. But without a law in place that requires interviews to be recorded, DOJ agents and officers are free to ignore the policy without any consequences, the congressman said.

The issue of FBI’s fudging 302 reports long proceeds the Flynn case. In fact, FBI officials facing investigation have expressed fears about their fellow agents mischaracterizing what they said during interviews.

Indeed, former top FBI agent Danny Coulson, who spearheaded the creation of the bureau’s Hostage Rescue Team, said in his autobiography that he insisted on submitting a sworn affidavit when he was under investigation for his role in the Ruby Ridge massacre in 1992.

At the time, the DOJ was probing the decisions that led to FBI sniper Lon Horiuchi shooting and killing Vicki Weaver as she stood in the cabin door holding their 10-month-old baby. Coulson was one of the officials who signed off on the “rules of engagement” for Ruby Ridge, which stated: “If any adult in the area around the cabin is observed with a weapon after the surrender announcement had been made, deadly force could and should be used to neutralize the individual.”

Coulson said in his book, No Heroes, that he agreed to be interviewed about the matter, but he insisted on submitting a sworn affidavit as well.

“I had seen too many criminal investigations in which FBI agents conducted interviews and then paraphrased their subjects inaccurately because they were unfamiliar with the complicated subject matter or had their own spin on the case already,” said Coulson, who was not charged over the Ruby Ridge massacre.

Tiffany’s bill now heads to the House floor for consideration.

Ken Silva is a staff writer at Headline USA. Follow him at twitter.com/jd_cashless.

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