Ron Landmann: Open letter to FBI Director James B. Comey

Ron Landmann submitted this guest column, an open letter to FBI Director Comey.

Dear Director Comey,

I watched your performance this morning on CBS television. At the conclusion, I was nothing short of incredulous.

By way of background, I retired as a Supervisory Special Agent (Federal Job Series 1811) from the U.S. Customs Service on the last day of 1999. From 1995 to my retirement I had two wonderful jobs. First, I was the Customs Representative to the Organized Crime, Drug Enforcement Task Force (OCDETF) Northwest Region in San Francisco, Calif. Second, I was the Customs coordinator at Joint Interagency Task Force West (JIATF-W), based on Government Island which is also on San Francisco Bay. JIATF-W is a counter narcotics intelligence fusion center.

At OCDETF I had the privilege of working with Robert (Bob) Mueller, the United States Attorney, Northern District of California. Mr. Mueller often traveled with our committee to cities where we did case reviews like Portland, Anchorage, Seattle, Honolulu, Guam and Saipan along with the cases in our own home city of San Francisco. I was present when Mr. Mueller announced he was under consideration for the job as director of the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI).

At JIATF-W, I worked in a Secure Communications Information Facility (SCIF) and am very familiar with the laws regarding the handling and safe guarding of classified information. Communications devices such as pagers, Blackberries and cell phones were not allowed, as you well know.

Further, after 9/11, I was recalled to work as an instructor at the Federal Law Enforcement Training Center (FLETC) in Brunswick, Georgia, on a three-year contract. There I taught a wide variety of courses to criminal investigators such as report writing, execution of Federal search warrants, surveillance, undercover operations as well as some other subjects.

To the point: This morning you said “no charges are appropriate” and that was your recommendation to Main Justice. In my career things worked a differently. We criminal investigators did our jobs and gathered facts. We discussed the investigation with Assistant United States Attorneys and they decided if it warranted Grand Jury time. In this case you admitted there was negligence and if memory serves, someone who is negligent it in handling of classified materials should be enough for a presentment to a Grand Jury. Let the Grand Jury, 23 of our fellow citizens, decide if there is probably cause for an indictment or not. If the Grand Jury decides there isn’t cause to issue an indictment, well, at least they got to hear an interesting story.

Every federal agency has in-house attorneys available for questions pertaining to the laws the agency works with. We also know that every agency that handles classified materials have security officers that not only take control of classified materials but can also educate employees on what is expected. Why didn’t Hillary Rodham Clinton bring in her in-house counsel and ask questions about her private server and the use of her Blackberry for conducting classified business? Why? Because she would have been told it would be in violation of a host of federal laws. When the State Department security officer “read her in” to the security aspects of her job, was it noted that Hillary Rodham Clinton was fully briefed on the laws, rules and regulations that pertain to the handling and security of classified documents? Curious minds want to know.

For the rest of my life I will have problems with “equal protection (justice) under the law” for as of this morning, I believe it no longer exits. For example: Let’s say a Secret Service Agent who was supposed to transmit the travel schedule of the president or vice president didn’t use secure means, but like Hillary Rodham Clinton, used an unsecure Blackberry. If the agent’s actions were referred to the FBI, would the FBI come to the same conclusions as they did in the Clinton investigation? I think not.

Today you proved that there are two levels of law enforcement operating in the United States: one for our government’s elite, and then a second for the rest of us. You even pointed out that someone who did something similar to what Hillary Rodham Clinton did might be investigated and prosecuted for that behavior. Thank you for bringing that distinction up for all of us to hear.

After your performance on television this morning I reached out to some of my retired 1811 friends from DEA, Customs and the FBI. To a person, they too were incredulous of your conclusions and recommendations. In fact, I wasn’t the only one who wished that Bob Mueller was still in charge of the FBI.

Very truly yours,

Ronald H. Landmann

Ron Landmann is a Minden resident and retired senior Special Agent with the U.S. Customs Service, a division of the Treasury Department, and a member of the Organized Crime, Drug Enforcement Task Force. He was a senior advisor on smuggling issues at the Joint Interagency Task Force (West) from 1995 to 2000.


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