Editor's Letter: A Respect for Justice
And an appreciation for truth
As a member of the FBI Citizens’ Academy, an organization that fosters a greater understanding of the role of federal law enforcement, I’ve had the opportunity to peek behind the scenes at the Federal Bureau of Investigation. My eyes have been opened to the organization’s scope of responsibility – cybercrime, white-collar crime, child pornography and other violence against children, terrorism, public corruption, civil rights and more.
I’ve met agents and leaders who embody the FBI motto – “Fidelity, Bravery, Integrity” – and heard about dramatic closed investigations, sometimes as firsthand accounts. In interacting with the men and women who work for the Bureau, I observed their commitment to serving the American public, the Bureau and justice. Catching the “bad guy” is more than merely winning a game – it’s a high-stakes mission to stop evil before it harms other innocent people.
As you might have guessed, when I’m in the presence of agents and other FBI personnel, I feel a bit of hero worship. I unabashedly and wholeheartedly respect them and their work. Similarly, I admire and respect police officers and other law enforcement professionals.
Yet, as a person who values objectivity and as a member of the media attuned to the importance of truth, I always do my best to keep feelings from affecting my judgments. I strive to see past façades to ascertain facts. When accusations are made, I pledge not to automatically exonerate nor condemn.
OPENNESS TO TRUTH
In June, the Justice Department Inspector General released a report with criticism of three specific FBI employees.
As you might imagine, I was disappointed. While I know FBI employees, like the rest of us, have and are entitled to political beliefs, I was disappointed that their actions hurt the reputation of the FBI. As Lady Justice holds her scales, I weighed the information: their actions, the report and the response from the FBI.
Director Christopher Wray responded publicly to the report, pointing to the FBI’s more than 30,000 other agents, analysts and other professionals. “In office after office, and meeting after meeting, I see extraordinary people doing extraordinary work. Again and again, I hear remarkable stories – frankly, inspiring stories – of the work the FBI’s men and women are doing to protect the American people and uphold the Constitution.” He cited disrupted terrorist plots, from San Francisco’s Fisherman’s Wharf to a Miami mall; agents who assisted in the Austin package bomb investigation; the 1,305 children rescued from child predators; and more than 4,600 violent gang members arrested in the past few months. And those are just the tip of the iceberg.
I’ve been open to slaying other sacred cows lately, too, to maintain confidence that my ideas are rooted in fact. To see other sides of issues, I’ve tuned in to Ava DuVernay’s documentary, 13th, the NPR podcast Code Switch, and the Black Lives Matter movement. As Lady Justice is blindfolded, I try to see facts, not color.
I believe in American people – all along the political spectrum. I believe that the survival of a democracy is dependent upon citizens’ openness to truth and facts. And as I look closely at issues in law enforcement, I still believe: the FBI and other U.S. law enforcement agencies benefit from appropriate oversight, deserve our respect and need our support.
As Mahatma Gandhi put it, “Truth never damages a cause that is just.”