Suspended FBI agent calls out Jan. 6 suspect investigations

Investigation

(NewsNation) — An FBI special agent was suspended and stripped of his badge and gun after issuing a complaint about the investigation into suspects believed to be part of the Jan. 6, 2021 riots at the U.S. Capitol.

Steven Friend, 37, is a 12-year veteran of the FBI and a father of two. He was declared AWOL by the FBI after refusing to participate in Jan. 6 investigations the bureau was conducting on citizens, claiming they were in violation of their civil liberties and they had a duty to uphold the Constitution.

“The investigations were inconsistent with FBI procedure and resulted in the violation of citizens’ Sixth and Eight Amendment rights,” Friend wrote in a whistleblower complaint filed last month with the Department of Justice Inspector General.

In August, as an FBI SWAT Team was assigned to make an arrest in Florida, Friend reportedly raised concerns, saying it was “inappropriate to use an FBI SWAT team to arrest a subject for misdemeanor offenses,” and later told his supervisors he would not participate in the operation, according to the complaint.

“This investigative misconduct is impacting people’s civil liberties,” said Dan Meyer, Friend’s attorney. “They’re being subject to search warrants that are unlawful. They’re being subject to a violation of their constitutional rights, the Bill of Rights. “

When asked about those involved in the Capitol riots, Friend told his supervisor, “some of the people who entered the Capitol committed crimes, but others were innocent.”

After refusing to participate, Friend was placed on Absent Without Leave (AWOL) status and was notified he could be subject to disciplinary action.

In his complaint, Friend alleges that — against bureau policy —  Jan. 6 cases were farmed out to the FBI field offices, “even though the alleged crimes occurred in Washington, DC.”

He added that a Washington field office task force still reserved authority for actually managing the cases and that the FBI leadership told field staff to interview possible Jan. 6 riot suspects, “even though there was no direct evidence that they were in Washington DC on January 6th,” and to use “aggressive tactics, such as SWAT teams, when apprehending suspects accused of non-violent misdemeanors.” 

“There is a vast amount of investigative effort going on right now related to Jan. 6, and Steven wants those people who are under investigation, particularly the innocent ones, to be investigated in a manner which respects the Constitution,” Meyer said. “And that has not been happening.”

“They were all being directed centrally from Washington,” Meyer also said. “There were cases in his name that he was not working. So that leads to problems of accountability. “

Two Republicans, Sen. Chuck Grassley and Sen. Ron Johnson, have called on Attorney General Merrick Garland and FBI Director Christopher Wray to end the special agent’s suspension.

In a statement from the FBI national press office to NewsNation, the bureau says it cannot comment on specific investigations, writing:

“The FBI’s authority to investigate a case as domestic terrorism requires the existence of a potential criminal federal violation, the unlawful use or threat of force or violence, and ideological motivation of any type.  We do not investigate ideology.  The FBI investigates individuals who commit or intend to commit violence and other criminal activity that constitutes a federal crime or poses a threat to national security. We are committed to upholding the constitutional rights of all Americans and will never open an investigation based solely on First Amendment activity. “   

Meyer says the FBI should “freeze everything” and allow Friend to return to work.

“I mean, he’s a special agent,” Meyer said. “He should be doing the work of the American people, and then the director should let the probes by the Justice Department IG and the special counsel go forward. They should be given unfettered access to bureau information. He should call off his agency attorneys from any attempts to impede the access to evidence about what has happened. And they should, they should come to a ground truth about what has been going on here.”

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