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Shutdown hampering security Trump says shutdown is meant to ensure: FBI agents

The FBI Agents Association warned Tuesday that the ongoing government shutdown is not only hurting individual FBI employees and their families, but hampering key operations. Some of those affected operations, according to a series of statements the association released Tuesday, include efforts to thwart the same criminal enterprises President Trump claims the shutdown is meant to defeat in the long run. 

"The failure to fund the FBI is making it more difficult for us to do our jobs, to protect the people of our country from criminals and terrorists," FBIAA President Tom O'Connor told reporters in a conference call Tuesday. "This is not about politics or partisanship. As I have said, special agents are working and are committed to protecting our country, but we need funding to do our work. In conclusion we ask that our leaders listen to voices from the field. Protect our national security by providing financial security for the men and women of the FBI. Fund the FBI now."

The FBIAA released anecdotes from a number of unnamed FBI employees who described how the shutdown is hampering operations, even as Mr. Trump insists the government shutdown is meant to secure funding for his border wall and border security measures to prevent gangs, violence and drugs from entering the country. Mr. Trump frequently cites acts of violence committed by the MS-13 gang as a reason for the need for stronger border protection. The vast majority of FBI employees are working without pay for now.

"We are working hard at the Border, but we need a WALL!" Mr. Trump tweeted earlier this month. "In 2018, 1.7 million pounds of narcotics seized, 17,000 adults arrested with criminal records, and 6000 gang members, including MS-13, apprehended. A big Human Trafficking problem." 

But anecdotally, FBI employees, according to the FBIAA, say it's the shutdown, in fact, that is hurting their ability to defeat such criminal enterprises. 

"I have been working a long-term MS-13 investigation for over three years," one FBI employee wrote in the report. "We have indicted 23 MS-13 gang members for racketeering, murder in aid of racketeering, extortion, money laundering and weapons offenses. ... Since the shutdown, I have not had a Spanish speaker in the division. We have several Spanish speaking informants. We are only able to communicate using a three-way call with a linguist in another division." 

Multiple agents wrote in the report that the FBI currently cannot pay confidential informants during the shutdown, curbing narcotics and other investigations. One agent wrote that the bureau is "unable to do undercover" or confidential human source operations that require purchasing narcotics or guns from gang members, "a method we use to get drugs and guns off the streets and to prosecute the violent gang and drug traffickers."

The shutdown is also keeping the federal government from serving grand jury subpoenas, and this is damaging counter-terrorism probes.

"I am already starting to see a negative impact of the shutdown on the pace of our operations and investigations," another FBI employee said in the report. "Particularly, the United States Attorney's Office is unable to issue grand jury subpoenas for financial institutions ... Most of our [counter-terrorism] cases have a strong financial angle and our inability to fully utilize all available investigative tools slows down the pace of the investigation in critical [counter-terrorism] matters."

Another FBI official similarly noted they are "unable to pay our confidential human sources that report on terrorism."

It's unclear where the shutdown might end. Democrats are introducing individual bills to temporarily fund separate parts of the government, while Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell is introducing legislation to fund the president's border wall in exchange for temporary protections for Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program recipients and Temporary Protected Status recipients. At this point neither bill has the support to make it out of Congress.

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