FBI Counterintelligence Director Told Congress: ‘No FBI Policy That Says You Can’t Have an Affair’

By Susan Jones | April 11, 2019 | 5:30am EDT
Deputy Assistant FBI Director Peter Strzok reported to FBI Assistant Director E.W. "Bill" Priestap, the head of the FBI’s counterintelligence division. (Photo by Mark Wilson/Getty Images)

(CNSNews.com) - FBI Assistant Director E.W. "Bill" Priestap, the head of the FBI’s counterintelligence division, told investigators from the House Judiciary and Oversight Committees on June 5, 2018 that the FBI does not prohibit adulterous affairs.

"There's no FBI policy that says you can't have an affair, and if you do, you're going to be punished," Priestap said, according to a transcript of the closed-door hearing. The transcript was released last week.

Priestap told the committees he heard from other people that FBI Counterintelligence Agent Peter Strzok and FBI lawyer Lisa Page might be having an extramarital affair, but he never asked them if it was true, nor did he report it to the FBI's Office of Professional Responsibility (OPR).

“[Y]ou make reports to OPR when you believe somebody has violated FBI policy. There is no FBI policy that prohibits somebody from having an affair,” Priestap said. “So I had no information that Mr. Strzok, if he was engaging in an affair, that that was against FBI policy. So, no, I didn't have any information that I thought was reportable to OPR.”

Both Strzok and Page were part of the Clinton email investigation and immediately afterward, the Trump-Russia investigation, both of which Priestap was overseeing.

CNSNews.com asked the FBI two questions:

--Were Bill Priestap's statements to these congressional committees--that the FBI has no policy prohibiting extramarital affairs--correct?
--Does the FBI have a policy that prohibits FBI personnel from engaging in adultery? Yes or no?

In a statement to CNSNews.com on Wednesday, an FBI official indicated that some "personal relationships" are prohibited.

“The FBI holds its employees to the highest level of integrity, conduct, and professionalism. Per FBI policy, employees must not engage in personal relationships which impede their professional performance or which may otherwise adversely impact the FBI’s mission,” the official said.

As CNSNews.com previously reported, FBI Director Christopher Wray declined to tell Congress on June 28, 2018 if engaging in adultery was a "significant vulnerability" for an FBI counterintelligence agent.

Rep. Bob Goodlatte (R-Va.), then the House Judiciary Committee Chairman, told Wray: "[W]e have repeatedly asked FBI personnel whether the fact that an agent has an extramarital affair is a problem. I am not asking because I want to be the morality police, I am asking because it seems clear that an affair that is unknown to a spouse could be a significant vulnerability to an FBI agent, especially a counter-intelligence agent. Do you agree with that sentiment?"

Wray responded: "Well, Mr. Chairman, we have a specific offense code, and I don’t want to comment on any of the ongoing personnel matters that are going through the disciplinary process right now, which I think answering your question at this particular time might cause me to do."

According to the FBI Ethics and Integrity Policy Guide, which is available online:

“Uncompromising institutional and individual integrity are core values of the FBI. In fact, integrity is the value that binds together the very fabric of our institutional identity. It defines us and what we stand for; it is how we operate and how we measure our success. In short integrity is the touchstone for everything we do."

The guide, issued in February 2015 and revised in February 2016, “applies to all FBI employees,” it says. That period of time covers the employment of both Strzok and Page.

The 332-page guide says, “The FBI expects its employees to behave in such a way that their activities both on and off duty will not discredit either themselves or the Bureau. Failure by an employee to follow the guidelines set forth in this Guide may result in appropriate administrative or disciplinary action.”

Section 4.7.7 of the guide comes closest to addressing extramarital affairs, although that language is not used.

Section 4.7.7, titled “Restrictions on the Employee Interaction,” states that employee relationships in the FBI should always be:

--Professional and courteous;
--Consistent with FBI Core Values, Motto and Code of Conduct [see below]; and
--Conducted in a manner that recognizes the dignity of every person with whom we come into contact.

This part of the guide also says, “Generally speaking, employees and their supervisors must not engage in a relationship, financial or otherwise (romantic, business, recreational) that:

--Negatively impacts their ability to maintain a professional and appropriate superior-subordinate relationship; or
--Otherwise adversely impacts the completion of the FBI mission.

The FBI’s Core Values include, among others, “uncompromising personal and institutional integrity; accountability by accepting responsibility for our actions ad decisions and their consequences; and leadership, by example, both personal and professional."

The FBI’s Motto is “Fidelity, Bravery and Integrity.” The FBI defines fidelity as “strict and continuing faithfulness to an obligation, trust, or duty.” It defines integrity as “firm adherence to a code of especially moral and artistic values” and “trustworthiness and incorruptibility to a degree that one is incapable of being false to a trust, responsibility or pledge.”

And finally, the FBI’s Code of Conduct says in part: “The FBI enjoys a reputation as one of the finest law enforcement organizations in the world. This reputation is largely dependent upon how each of us conducts ourselves, both in our official and personal capacities. All FBI employees are expected, therefore to act in accordance with the highest standards of personal honor and integrity.

The Code of Conduct also says FBI employees must "[c]onduct their personal activities in a manner that does not impede their professional performance or tarnish the reputation of the FBI. And they must “report to proper authority any violations of law and regulation by themselves or others."

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