Politics

FBI agents say investigations into sex crimes against minors are being stalled because of the shutdown, putting children in jeopardy

Key Points
  • The partial government shutdown, which is more than a month old, is hampering investigations into sex crimes against children and presenting other threats to national security, according to FBI agents.
  • The lapse in funding for the Federal Bureau of Investigation has delayed interviews of child victims and stalled grand jury indictments for child sexual assault prosecutions, according to a 72-page report published on Tuesday by an association representing thousands of current and former FBI agents.
A file photo of FBI agents
Hyoung Chang | The Denver Post | Getty Images

The partial government shutdown, which entered its 32nd day on Tuesday, is hampering investigations into sex crimes against children and presenting other threats to national security, according to FBI agents.

The lapse in funding for the Federal Bureau of Investigation has delayed interviews of child victims and stalled grand jury indictments for child sexual assault prosecutions, according to a 72-page report published on Tuesday by an association representing thousands of current and former FBI agents.

The report includes dozens of accounts provided by agents around the country to the FBI Agents Association. The report also details harm to operations involving drug and gang crime, counterterrorism work and other matters of national security.

The agents are quoted in the report but are not named. The accounts detail weakening morale as paychecks have failed to arrive and investigations have been put on hold. The association said that while agents remain at work despite not being paid, the "situation is not sustainable."

The new report follows a Jan. 10 petition from the association which said that pay uncertainty threatened agents' ability to secure or renew security clearances, and undermined the agency's ability to recruit new employees. In the document released Tuesday, the association paints a more dire picture of the shutdown's effects.

"FBI offices … are having investigations stalled, to include delayed forensic interviews of child victims and delaying grand jury indictments on homicides and child sexual assault prosecutions," one agent said, according to the report. "Our child victims deserve timely interviews to increase successful preservation of their testimony."

I have had to put pervs on standby.
FBI agent

"I have had to put pervs on standby," another agent, who works undercover on cases involving child exploitation, said. "This just puts children in jeopardy."

One agent said that "we were told we had to cancel" a training involving child abductions that was scheduled to follow two recent abductions.

"Victims from domestic minor sex trafficking cases are not receiving the attention they need and/or visits and counseling services," the agent said.

The report is illustrated with drawings apparently done by children thanking the FBI for keeping them safe. One drawing includes a caption thanking the FBI and saying, "I am so glad that you did not shutdown like the government did."

A quarter of the government has remained without funding since Dec. 22. Trump has pledged to veto any bill to reopen the government that does not include funding for his proposed border wall along the U.S.-Mexico border, a demand that congressional Democrats have called a nonstarter. Trump had pledged repeatedly that Mexico would pay for the wall.

The White House and the Department of Justice did not immediately respond to requests for comment.

A drawing included in the report.
FBI Agents Association

Other effects of the shutdown

Agents said the shutdown has prevented the fulfillment of payments to confidential sources who provide information that is used by senior policymakers. The agents warned that the sources and the information they provide could be lost permanently.

One agent, identified as a Joint Terrorism Task Force Coordinator, said that law enforcement had lost several sources who had been working for "months, and years, to penetrate groups and target subjects."

"Not being able to pay Confidential Human Sources risks losing them and the information they provide FOREVER," another agent said. "It is not a switch that we can turn on and off."

The report also describes the human cost of the shutdown on individual agents and their families.

"The question that is first and foremost on my mind, will I be able to financially out last this shutdown?" one agent said. "I am also very angry at the unnecessary stress this shutdown is putting on my wife who just survived cancer and my 9 year-old son."

On Saturday, CNN reported that FBI field offices around the country had begun to set up food banks to assist employees facing financial stress as a result of the shutdown.