If you work for any extended amount of time in Washington, you are likely to meet people who work within the intelligence and law enforcement communities. You learn to recognize potential sources and those who will never be. The bad sources love to tell stories, so many stories, with at least a veneer of truth. The good sources will tell far fewer stories, but only when it’s important. But the most frequent stories you will hear, from good and bad, are stories of internal dysfunction and irresponsible uses of power. This is not confined to one administration or another, but is a recurring and expected fact of life within the agencies that ought to be focused on securing our liberties and protecting us from threats, foreign and domestic, not spying on an ex, using taxpayer funds for professional gain, or preventing the return of a romantic rival by adding them to a watch list. Once you’ve heard enough of these stories, a realization may dawn on you: these institutions are as dysfunctional as all the others, with their own internal politics, defects, aspiring people, and conflicted forces that often cross the lines of law and ethics in pursuit of their goals. Not losing faith in them at that juncture is a difficult thing indeed.
That brings us to yesterday’s FBI briefing on the shooting targeting Republicans in Alexandria, a briefing that could not be more bizarre in its content and its conclusions.