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James Comey echo of J. Edgar Hoover — amassing power, declaring himself moral authority in FBI

Listen to the 10 min audio

Read the transcript:

NEW LIGHT ON COMEY’S FBI ACTIONS DURING ELECTION

TOM LAMPRECHT: Harry, it was a week ago that the Justice Department Inspector General Michael Horowitz released his report. On Monday of this week, Michael Horowitz, along with FBI director, Christopher Wray, went before the Senate judiciary committee and, on Tuesday, they both went before the House judiciary committee. What is your take on this report where the key word seems to be “bias”?  

DR. REEDER: I’m trying to look at this from a Christian world and life view. In the current testimony, we have been informed that further reports on the investigation of the previous director of the FBI, James Comey, has yet to be published but what’s already been said is pretty damaging in terms of the FBI, in general, and its director, James Comey, in particular.

WHAT WAS THE ORIGINAL PURPOSE OF FBI?

However, I think I would look at this in a historical perspective first in order to look at it from a Christian world and life view. We need to remember that the FBI was not instituted at the founding of our country — in fact, it would have been unthinkable. It was really in the context of crisis that the FBI was begun at the early part of the 20th century — I think the actual year was 1908 if I’m not mistaken — and it was initiated because of the rising movement of anarchists. It was also because of the entrenchment of organized crime that had begun.

However, it was a great battle to put that in place, the notion of a national police force, and then the iconic leader stepped forward, J. Edgar Hoover. He reigned for decades — which, by the way, is a little bit of an insight from a Christian world and life view — and, throughout those decades, solidified tactics, solidified strategies, solidified power and solidified a lot of information that was used.

And it became documented and published that he not only wiretapped individuals illegally, amassed information with multiple evidences of blackmail. The backdrop of that was some extraordinary police work that he did through the FBI: the breaking of organized crime in the 1930s and the 1940s, the rooting out of anarchists in the middle of the 20th century.

Some extraordinarily brave, courageous, honorable, effective, insightful agents and leaders just litter the pages of our history. I hope and pray that’s not lost because, also, in our current FBI, there are some very honorable, noble, effectively courageous agents that are serving us to maintain order in our society.

AN EGOTISTICAL MAN IN CHARGE CAN TWIST AGENCY’S PURPOSE

James Comey has almost become an echo of J. Edgar Hoover in terms of amassing power, declaring himself — and this is what J. Edgar Hoover did — he declared himself as the moral authority that determined the strategies and tactics and values of the FBI — not the law, but J. Edgar Hoover. And even in the publication of his memoirs that James Comey has been promoting over these past weeks he recently published, what’s clear is he had set himself up as the moral authority in terms of what was right and what was wrong and would knowingly disregard not simply precedents but laws and regulations in order to do what he thought was morally right at the time. What we’re finding out is that his determination of what was morally right was actually illegal.

THERE IS, AT TIMES, RIGHTFUL CIVIL DISOBEDIENCE

We’re going to do a program on if there is a time, from a Christian world and life view, where it is right to disobey and disregard a law. Yes, but how do you do that? Not by setting yourself up as a moral authority but appealing to a higher moral authority and the ethical absolutes that the law has violated and, therefore, that law must be disobeyed.

Now what we have are individuals, following the lead of Director Comey, who decided that they were going to become political players in the 2016 election. The 2016 election was an extraordinary election. It is still divisive in our country to this point and this time. What was also very clear is that it was divisive in the FBI as you had certain FBI agents who said, “Let’s just do our job and do it right,” and there were some who decided, “Our job is to make sure that one presidential candidate, Hillary Clinton, is to be elected over the other presidential candidate and we are going to use our information to accomplish that.”

The FBI director, himself, began to become a player in the election and, as a player in the election, it wasn’t so much of his loyalty to one party or one candidate over another, but it was the loyalty to himself and what he felt and what he determined was the moral compass of the nation and what needed to be done in light of the investigations that were given to him and his publication of those investigations’ selective information given to the public.

And he became the arbiter, he became the center of it, he determined that this is what needs to be said, when it needs to be said, when it needs to be said from himself as the moral authority to direct the nation. Therefore, he committed acts that were documented as illegal and transgressions of stated law — not just precedents but stated law.

DANGER OF CENTRAL AGENCIES

There are some things in here, Tom, that we cannot miss. The centralization of power is a very dangerous thing. Its argument is always around the principle of efficiency. “You need a centralized authority for efficiency.” And, when you decentralize authority, you get the power to the people and more accountable, but it becomes less effective and more difficult in its implementation.

The FBI exists as a centralized and very powerful authority. Probably the two most powerful instruments we have other than our military is the IRS and the FBI. Both of them, in the recent years, have become politicized and used their centralized power and their extraordinary reach to intimidate and to influence and to direct the affairs of this nation instead of their particular position which is an equitable collection of taxes and also the enforcement.

What’s become abundantly clear is that the FBI had no authority, no right, no precedent and no law to appeal to in terms of its decisions on prosecutions. That is not the job of the FBI that James Comey took upon himself to make those determinations. That is the job of the arm of prosecution in the Department of Justice, whether it’s local, state or federal. That is not his job but he, by his own moral decisions, he felt it was needed in the country and made those decisions himself, and appropriated that power, and overstepped his boundary and moved the FBI out from under the Department of Justice as an investigative agent to taking the place of the Department of Justice in the area of prosecution and publication of information.

THIS IS NOT JUST A GOVERNMENT ISSUE

TOM LAMPRECHT: Harry, it is interesting, whether it’s Satan’s rebellion, whether it’s an individual wanting to commit a personal sin or whether it’s an FBI director, it’s, “I want to be in charge and I’m going to throw off any accountability.”

DR. REEDER: And that’s why this accountability and self-investigation must always be a part of governing authority structures from a Christian world and life view — accountability — and I would remind all of us that there is an ultimate accountability. We will give an account of every action and every word.

“It is appointed unto men once to die and then the judgment.” And we either stand at that judgment naked under all of the weight of our sins in word and deed and thought or we stand in that judgment clothed with the righteousness of Christ having confessed that we are sinners and put our trust in the one who took our place under judgment on the cross for our judgment so that we could have not only forgiveness in eternal life, but the presence of the Spirit of God for a changed life.

And a life that has been changed by the grace of God is a life that is always seeking the investigation of the Spirit of God and self-examination and other examination. “Examine yourself,” Paul said, “to see if you be of the faith.” Investigation is certainly a part of the Christian world and life view and fleeing to Christ because of our inadequacies as we find ourselves guilty of sinners is the call of God’s grace and the provision of His grace for everlasting life.

COMING UP FRIDAY: IMMIGRATION ENFORCEMENT CREATING TURMOIL IN NATION

TOM LAMPRECHT:  Harry, on Friday’s edition of Today in Perspective, immigration is back on the front page and there’s something of a controversy concerning the separation of children from their families.

DR. REEDER: Yeah, this is a very difficult subject. I’m almost hesitant to take it on with you, but I know so many people are asking the questions. I think there are some answers but some of the challenges of this really need to be thought through so let’s do that tomorrow, Tom.

Dr. Harry L. Reeder III is the Senior Pastor of Briarwood Presbyterian Church in Birmingham.

This podcast was transcribed by Jessica Havin, editorial assistant for Yellowhammer News, who has transcribed some of the top podcasts in the country and whose work has been featured in a New York Times Bestseller.

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