A gender discrimination trial in Washington, D.C., shined a harsh spotlight on the FBI general counsel's office, portraying it as a hotbed of dysfunction, turf wars, mismanagement and paranoia. The lawsuit centered on claims of gender discrimination in the office, where attorneys are charged with helping safeguard Americans from terrorism, cyber threats, organized crime and corruption, reports Politico. A federal jury sided with the FBI, but not before a parade of witnesses testified to startling revelations about the bureau, exposing dysfunction and management woes that at times have been exploited by the bureau’s detractors — most notably amid Donald Trump’s crusade against investigations into his activities.
The trial offered a peek inside the secretive confines of the FBI — describing degrees of dysfunction that are rarely aired, particularly by FBI insiders. Witnesses included Jim Baker, who testified that when he took over as FBI general counsel in 2014, his staff of about 200 lawyers were burned out, locked in bureaucratic turf battles and wracked by fear of their own colleagues. Baker said some employees were so afraid to raise concerns in front of others that they “frequently” slipped anonymous notes under his door overnight — typewritten to conceal handwriting. “People were so afraid to be seen talking to me,” Baker said. “They were afraid of some of the leadership that was still in the office.” A senior lawyer in the national security branch allegedly threw a chair at a meeting, prompting alarm on the part of people present. Bureau officials warned of widespread “grade inflation” in annual performance reviews of FBI personnel, which created problems when those reviews turned out to be inaccurate. The lawyer and FBI agent who filed the case, Marciann Grzadzinski, kept close track of her “KMA” date, referring to her eligibility for retirement. FBI personnel routinely referred to that milestone as their “Kiss My Ass” date, signaling the moment they no longer had to cater to bureau leadership. While defending the FBI in the discrimination suit, a Justice Department attorney referred to the general counsel’s office as “a low-morale organization” at the time Baker took the helm.