There have been a lot of stories lately about whether or not the FBI's actions in regards to Trump are proper.

Fox News


My question is -- what are the relevant professional standards? There seems to be a lot about what the FBI did. But what standards would show whether it is proper or not?

EDIT: People are asking what this is about. The FBI has got to have some rules about what agents are and are not allowed to do. A handbook or the like. It may also help to get specific with individual texts. Here are the ones that people seem to be the most concerned about. Note that while the linked question is also relevant to the general topic, these texts are different from the ones mentioned there:

• Page to Strzok, commenting on a Trump-related article: “Maybe you’re meant to stay where you are because you’re meant to protect the country from that menace,”

• Strzok to Page: “I can protect our country at many levels, not sure if that helps,”

• Strzok to Page: “I want to believe the path you threw out for consideration in Andy’s [Andy McCabe?] office that there’s no way he gets elected — but I’m afraid we can’t take that risk. It’s like an insurance policy in the unlikely event you die before you’re 40.”

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    This seems very broad. What behavior exactly is this question about? The NPR link covers topics such as an FBI agent allegedly calling Trump an "idiot" and making "political statements" (here I guess it would depend on the context if it is acceptable), the FBI somehow making mistakes with the Clinton email investigation (here the accusations would need to be a lot more concrete), to the FBI investigating Russian interference. It's all very vague. – tim Dec 18 '17 at 14:40
  • Looking at the Fox News link, it seems the question is "Can FBI agents share political opinions with romantic partners (and/or others?) via text message (possibly using a work phone)?" It would certainly help this question if you could make it clearer what this is about. – tim Dec 18 '17 at 14:50
  • They have to know how to surf and clearly state I. Am. An. EFF. BEE. EYE. AGENT. When in a van. – user1530 Dec 18 '17 at 16:56

The FBI is a part of the Department of Justice (DoJ). Within the Department, the Department Ethics Office issues guidance on professional ethics.

Fortunately for us, they have published their guidance online. There are probably two sections you would want to take a look at:

  • Political Activites covers what political activities a DoJ employee may participate in. Although we already have a question (and answer) on that here. Note that FBI agents are 'further restricted' employees for the purposes of the Hatch Act.
  • Conflicts addresses conflicts of interest between DoJ employees and their work. Although much of it is dedicated to financial conflicts, the general rule is:

"an employee should seek advice from an ethics official before participating in any matter in which her impartiality could be questioned"

  • Misuse of Government Resources prohibits DoJ employees from using their position for personal gain. This includes their professional authority, government property, information learned while on the job, and more.

In addition to these department-specific requirements, FBI employees may also have ethical obligations from their profession (for example, a lawyer may still inherit obligations from being a lawyer).

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    I don't think that personal text messages to romantic partners - even if political in nature - constitute political activities. I think the note from the linked answer regarding the Hatch act may be useful here though, if it is correct (" the Hatch Act explicitly protects the rights of federal employees (even 'further restricted' ones) to express their opinions on politics [...] Being critical of the President is not a restricted activity"). – tim Dec 18 '17 at 15:36
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    "Misuse of Position and Government Resources" from your link might also be somewhat relevant here. It allows for "minimal personal use" (highlighting in original) of office equipment, which is relevant if the texts were send from an official phone. – tim Dec 18 '17 at 15:36
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    @tim I have no idea what you are talking about. What's this about texts to romantic partners? – indigochild Dec 18 '17 at 15:45
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    Fox News claims that Strzok and Page (the people who send the texts in question) were romantically involved at the time. I think that that might change the evaluation of the situation (messages between partners tend to be more personal/informal), and different policies might apply. – tim Dec 18 '17 at 15:48
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    @tim Gotcha. Unless the OP cares about that specific policy, I'll probably leave it out. – indigochild Dec 18 '17 at 15:52

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