FBI official Stephen Kelly sends a letter to Senator Charles Grassley (R), chair of the Senate Judiciary Committee, in reponse to his questions. The letter reveals that FBI agents taking part in the FBI’s Clinton email investigation were sworn to secrecy. The agents signed a non-disclosure agreement (NDA) called a “Case Briefing Acknowledgement” which says the disclosure of any information about the investigation is “strictly prohibited” without prior approval.
The NDA reads in part: “I (FBI agent) also understand that, due to the nature and sensitivity of this investigation, compliance with these restrictions may be subject to verification by polygraph examination.”
The FBI claims that “no one refused to sign” the NDA or “raised any questions or concerns” about it.
An unnamed recently retired FBI agent says that this kind of NDA is reserved for “the most sensitive of sensitive cases,” and can have a “chilling effect” on agents, who understand “it comes from the very top and that there has to be a tight lid on the case.” This person adds that such NDAs can also contribute to “group think” because investigators cannot bounce ideas off other agents, only those within a small circle. (Fox News, 7/14/2016)
An upper-ranking retired FBI official says, “This is very, very unusual. I’ve never signed one, never circulated one to others.” And a current FBI agent says, “I have never heard of such a form. Sounds strange.” (The New York Post, 7/12/2016)
Grassley first wrote to the FBI with questions about NDAs on February 4, 2016, after a media report that FBI agents were asked to sign additional non-disclosure agreements in some cases.
Grassley comments that he finds it “troubling that the FBI tried to gag its agents with a non-disclosure agreement on this matter, in violation of whistleblower protection statutes.” Agents are only allowed to speak without permisssion in a limited number of circumstances, such as communications with Congress regarding waste, fraud, and abuse. (Fox News, 7/14/2016)
Information about this NDA will be first reported by The New York Post on July 12, 2016, shortly after the FBI announced Clinton would not be indicted. Fox New will wait for a follow-up letter to Grassley which won’t come until just after that announcement. (Fox News, 7/14/2016) (The New York Post, 7/12/2016)