FBI Releases Data Showing Sharp Dip In Post-Comey Morale After FOIA Lawsuit

BRENDAN SMIALOWSKI/AFP

In response to a Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) lawsuit, the Trump administration released a survey of FBI employees’ morale taken after the controversial ouster of former Director James Comey. The data from the annual survey has been released to the public each year since 2013, but the administration decided to keep the 2018 information under wraps until Ben Wittes and Scott Anderson of the Brookings Institution and Lawfare sued for its release.

On Friday, Wittes and Anderson received the report, which showed a sharp drop in rank-and-file FBI workers’ morale and confidence in their leadership, though satisfaction at the bureau remains high overall.

Both field officers and those at the FBI’s D.C. headquarters gave “confidence in the vision of the FBI director, the value of direct communications from him, the honesty and integrity of senior bureau leaders, and respondents’ respect for those leaders” much lower marks than in previous years.

The biggest dip was for the question “I am inspired by the Director’s vision and leadership.”

Anderson and Wittes noted in a post on Sunday that the true numbers may be even lower based on recent events that have rocked the FBI.

“Because the data was collected early this year, it does not capture reaction to the inspector general’s investigation of the Clinton email probe and the severe criticisms of agents and of Comey within the IG report, nor does it capture reaction to the separate report on McCabe,” they write.

The Protect Democracy Project, a non-profit founded by former White House and administration lawyers, assisted with the successful FOIA lawsuit. In their complaint, they argued that the survey data is of vital public interest because President Trump’s claims that he fired Comey because FBI employees lost confidence in him and the bureau was in “turmoil” were disproven by the release of the 2017 climate survey.

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