As the United States grapples with the threat of domestic terrorism, a new whistleblower has come forward to claim that the FBI is artificially inflating the number of cases it is investigating.
The latest whistleblower, whose identity is being protected, is a current FBI employee who spoke to the House Select Committee on Intelligence about the agency’s practices. He claimed that the bureau is exaggerating the number of domestic terrorism cases it is investigating in order to justify its budget and expand its powers.
According to the whistleblower’s testimony, the FBI is counting “non-substantive” activities as domestic terrorism cases, such as social media posts and online comments that do not actually pose a threat. He said that agents are encouraged to classify incidents as terrorism even when they do not meet the legal definition of the crime.
This is not the first time an FBI whistleblower has come forward with similar allegations. In 2017, a former FBI agent named Michael German testified before Congress that the agency was manipulating its terrorism statistics in order to make itself look more effective.
German said that the FBI was counting nearly every instance of “material support” – a broad term that could refer to anything from donating money to a charity to providing training or advice to a terrorist organization – as a terrorism investigation. This allowed the agency to inflate its numbers and create a false impression of the threat.
The new whistleblower corroborates German’s claims, stating that agents are pressured to “blow up” the numbers of domestic terrorism cases in order to secure funding and justify increased surveillance powers.
While the FBI has acknowledged that its definition of domestic terrorism is broad, it has defended its reporting practices. A spokesperson for the bureau told CNN that it “takes all threats to the United States seriously and welcomes information from the public”.
However, the whistleblowers’ allegations suggest that the FBI is overestimating the threat of domestic terrorism and potentially infringing on civil liberties in the process. As the House Select Committee on Intelligence considers reforms to the FBI’s practices, it will have to grapple with questions about how to accurately measure the threat of domestic terrorism without infringing on Americans’ rights.