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The Shady FBI Headquarters Move


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NRO

Jim Geraghty

January 2, 2024

You have made it to 2024. On the menu today: Did you know that a range of figures — from FBI director Christopher Wray, Virginia senators Mark Warner and Tim Kaine, Virginia governor Glenn Youngkin, and almost the entire Virginia congressional delegation — are accusing a high-level Biden administration official at the General Services Administration of issuing a tainted decision to help old friends, with billions of dollars at stake? Amazing what gets missed in a busy news cycle. This weekend, Donald Trump argued that the FBI needed a “new and spectacular building, in the best location” in the nation’s capital, and that the FBI was moving to Greenbelt, Md. (“a far away location”) because the bureau was “running away” from violent crime. Trump’s in the right church but wrong pew, as the GSA decision appears to be a case of a Biden appointee overruling recommendations and helping old coworkers at the Washington Metropolitan Area Transit Authority in a lucrative land deal. Read on.

Where Should the New FBI Headquarters Be Built?

You might think that Donald Trump could no longer surprise us. But there he was, as 2023 ended, declaring on Truth Social that the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) — you know, a key part of the alleged “deep state” that is out to get him — needed a “new and spectacular building, in the best location” in the nation’s capital:

The FBI Headquarters should not be moved to a far away location, but should stay right where it is, in a new and spectacular building, in the best location in our now crime ridden and filthy dirty, graffiti scarred, Capital. They should be involved in bringing back D.C., not running away from it, especially the violent crime. An important part of my platform for President is to bring back, restore, and rebuild Washington, D.C., into the “crown jewel” of our Nation. We will make it crime free and GREAT AGAIN. The FBI should not be fleeing for safer, yet much less convenient, environs. It should make where they are now the safest place on earth! DON’T MOVE THE FBI!

First, there is indeed a strong case that the FBI could really use a new headquarters building. The first FBI employees moved into the current headquarters in June 1974. (Up until then, the bureau mostly operated out of the Department of Justice building, built in 1935.) Back in February 2016, the General Services Administration submitted a prospectus to Congress for the construction of a new FBI headquarters facility. The previous year, Jonathan O’Connell of the Washington Post reported:

Beneath the headquarters of America’s premier crime-fighting organization, one of the parking ramps has been condemned because corroded pieces of the ceiling were falling on cars.

(Snip)

It is understandable that Republicans would look at the FBI in a new, more suspicious light after the revelations of the extremely partisan attitudes of Peter Strzok and Lisa Page, as well as the unnamed FBI lawyer who asked then-director Jim Comey in late October 2016, “Should you consider that what you are about to do may help elect Donald Trump president?” Comey’s decision to become a #Resistance celebrity did enormous damage to the bureau’s image and reputation for pursuing the law regardless of party. The fact that the investigation and prosecution of Hunter Biden for self-evident crimes proceeded at the pace of a kidney stone exacerbated the perception among Republicans that there is one standard of justice for their party and another for well-connected Democrats.

But the FBI employs approximately 35,000 people, including special agents and support professionals such as intelligence analysts, language specialists, scientists, and information-technology specialists. Whatever you think of Wray or other top officials at the FBI now, the country needs an institution that enforces federal laws and investigates crimes.

Every day, the bureau announces new guilty pleas and convictions in cases of fentanyl and other drug smuggling, illegal gunrunning, insider trading, carjacking rings, espionage, child sex abuse, kidnapping and murder, Medicaid fraud, hacking and cybercrime, and activists defacing artwork in museums. Few of these guilty pleas or convictions make big headlines, but just because you aren’t hearing about or paying attention to the FBI doing old-fashioned crimefighting doesn’t mean it isn’t happening. We shouldn’t let the indisputable bad guys off the hook because we’re mad about the outspoken political agendas of a couple of officials. Punishing the institution that hunts down dangerous criminals is cutting off our nose to spite our face. I don’t particularly care where a new headquarters building is located — traffic in northern Virginia is bad enough already — but I’d prefer the FBI have the best facilities and resources available for the hard work of putting bad guys behind bars.

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