Two FBI agents who appeared before a House subcommittee Thursday had their security clearances revoked this month over security concerns, according to a letter sent by the FBI to the House Judiciary Committee on Wednesday and obtained by The Washington Post.
The letter, signed by FBI acting assistant director Christopher Dunham and addressed to Rep. Jim Jordan (R-Ohio), the chairman of the committee, came in response to a subpoena from the Subcommittee on the Weaponization of the Federal Government that sought information regarding the security clearance adjudications of former FBI agent Stephen Friend and Marcus Allen, an FBI agent who is suspended without pay.
Friend and Allen were billed by the committee as whistleblowers and testified Thursday about alleged abuses by the bureau. The agents claimed they were retaliated against for their actions, in part, related to the FBI’s investigation of the Jan. 6, 2021, attack on the U.S. Capitol.
But Dunham’s letter to Jordan does not address that allegation. Instead, it alleges multiple violations of FBI rules and guidelines as the bureau’s reasoning for revoking the agents’ security clearances. Democrats on the subcommittee argued during the hearing that the agents did not fit the definition of whistleblower and argued their actions have been politically motivated.
The memo laying out the security clearance investigations was provided to Jordan after the GOP-led subcommittee declined the FBI’s offer to provide Jennifer Moore, the agency’s executive assistant director of human resources, for a second interview to answer questions about the security clearances. Friend and Allen have 30 days to appeal the decision to repeal the revocations.
In the letter, Dunham writes that Friend’s top-secret clearance was revoked Tuesday after a referral from the FBI’s Jacksonville, Fla., field office had prompted the bureau’s security division to open an investigation in September 2022. Friend’s security clearance was suspended on Sept. 16, 2022.
The investigation concluded that Friend presented a number of security concerns related to his personal conduct, handling of protected information and “use of information technology,” according to the letter.
In a letter to Friend detailing the reasons for the clearance revocation, Moore wrote: “The security concerns stem from your refusal to execute a court-ordered, arrest warrant, unauthorized download of sensitive FBI information, failure to participate in a Security Awareness Briefing, unauthorized dissemination of sensitive FBI information, unauthorized recording of executive management, unsanctioned interviews with the media, and lack of candor during an interview with the Security Division.” That letter also was also shared with Jordan and obtained by The Post.
Dunham’s letter included additional details about Friend’s clearance revocation, saying he espoused alternative theories about the Jan. 6, 2021, attack on the U.S. Capitol. Friend entered “FBI space and downloaded documents from FBI computer systems to an unauthorized removable flash drive,” Dunham wrote. “The FBI then required Mr. Friend to attend a Security Awareness Briefing (SAB) regarding his actions, but he refused to do so.”
Allen’s top-secret security clearance was suspended on Jan. 19, 2022, and ultimately revoked on May 3 after a referral from the FBI’s Charlotte field office that prompted the security division to open an investigation. Allen’s clearance was revoked due to security concerns regarding his personal conduct and his “allegiance to the United States,” according to Dunham’s letter to Jordan.
Dunham wrote that Allen “failed to provide relevant information to an FBI Special Agent (SA) regarding subjects who were allegedly involved in criminal activity at the U.S. Capitol on January 6, 2021.” Specifically, when Allen was asked to conduct “open source searches on a Jan. 6 subject,” he reported that “he did not find any information that the subject engaged in criminal activity nor did he find a nexus to terrorism.”
That case was then closed based on Allen’s response but was reopened and a “different FBI employee provided publicly available information about the subject — information that was readily available to and should have been obtained by Mr. Allen when he conducted his search,” according to the letter.
“Investigative activity established that this subject physically assaulted U.S. Capitol Police officers on January 6, 2021,” Dunham wrote, adding that Allen expressed “sympathy for persons or organizations that advocate, threaten or use force of violence … in an effort to prevent federal government personnel from performing their official duties,” which had affected his work.
The hearing comes several days after the release of special counsel John Durham’s report on the FBI’s investigation into possible links between the 2016 Trump campaign and Russia. Durham’s report criticized the FBI as having conducted the investigation based on “raw, unanalyzed, and uncorroborated intelligence.”
“This is a last minute Hail Mary from the FBI in a desperate attempt to salvage their reputation after John Durham illuminated their election interference and before brave whistleblowers testify about the agency’s politicized behavior and retaliation against anyone who dares speak out,” said Russell Dye, a spokesperson for Jordan.
The hearing hosted by the marquee subcommittee, armed with sprawling power to investigate some of Republicans’ biggest targets in the federal government, also featured testimony from Tristan Leavitt, the president of Empower Oversight, and Garret O’Boyle, a suspended FBI special agent from the Wichita Resident Agency in Kansas.
Ahead of the hearing, the GOP-led subcommittee released an 80-page interim report that led with a call for Justice Department and FBI employees to come forward to Congress to assist in “identifying, understanding, and remedying waste, fraud, abuse, and mismanagement.”
The report, which was largely based on the disclosures of the agents, detailed the measures the FBI implemented in the wake of the Jan. 6, 2021, attack on the U.S. Capitol that the agents claimed were examples of government overreach.
The report also argued that cash bonuses distributed to local field offices for meeting certain performance goals created “perverse incentives for the FBI to utilize law-enforcement tools and resources where they may not be needed or appropriate in order for FBI leadership to benefit financially.”
During the hearing, the agents — some of whom described great personal sacrifice to pursue jobs in the bureau — argued that the FBI sought to purge the bureau of critical thinkers who challenged conventional wisdom. Democrats on the committee repeatedly challenged the agents’ claims and complained that they did not have full access to witnesses’ testimony.
“I don’t walk away convinced of anything other than we are listening to sad tales of certain individuals about their situation and the numeration of grievances does not constitute whistleblower statuses,” said Rep. Gerald E. Connolly (D-Va.). “I’m not sure why we had this hearing.”
Rep. Dan Goldman (D-N.Y.) added that it is ultimately up to the courts, after it is adjudicated within the FBI, to make the determination of whether the agents were wrongly dismissed as whistleblowers.
Republicans sought to paint the agents as patriots who were being punished for their political beliefs and argued that Democrats were being hypocritical in their criticisms of the agents and the GOP’s efforts to conduct oversight of the FBI.
“Those who profess to be most concerned about the victimization of people by law enforcement in this country, join in the victimization of you,” said Rep. Dan Bishop (R-N.C.). “I think that’s the takeaway, at least for me from this hearing.”
Also included in Dunham’s letter was information on the revocation of agent Brett Gloss’s top-secret security clearance, which occurred after the FBI’s Washington field office made a referral for an investigation that was opened in August 2021. The investigation found that Gloss “knowingly entered a restricted zone around the U.S. Capitol” on Jan. 6 and expressed support for the rioters.
Gloss “was present in an area close to protestors clashing with Capitol Police,” Dunham added. “The FBI reviewed communications in which Mr. Gloss expressed support for the protestors’ unauthorized entry into the Capitol building and support for their criminal acts against the U.S.”
Devlin Barrett contributed to this report.
A previous version of this article stated Stephen Friend’s security clearance was suspended Sept. 16, 2021. It was suspended Sept. 16, 2022. The article has been updated.