On September 15, gymnasts Aly Raisman, Simone Biles, McKayla Maroney, and Maggie Nichols testified at the Senate Judiciary Committee’s hearing discussing the abuse gymnasts faced at the hands of disgraced Olympic doctor Larry Nassar. Though Nassar was given up to 175 years in prison during his trial, the women took the floor to document not only his horrific actions but the blatant neglect from the FBI concerning their cases as well. In his initial statement, Senate Judiciary Committee Chairman Richard Durbin stated that the FBI had evidence of Nassar’s abuse 15 months before the Indianapolis Star first printed the story. That is 15 months worth of victims that the FBI allowed Nassar to abuse, 15 months of pain at the hands of agents who swore to protect citizens from monsters like Nassar.
Each of the four victims present were given time to speak about just how miserably the FBI had failed them in their search for hope amongst the sexual abuse they faced. McKayla Maroney detailed the ways in which her claims were falsified by the agents who interviewed her or were never even reported, stating, “...the FBI looked the other way July 2015.” Maroney went on to express her frustration and anger over the way the FBI conducted her interview. The agents decided a phone call with Maroney would suffice, so they silently listened as the gymnast tearfully explained the extent of abuse that Nassar had subjected her to. As Maroney sobbed on her floor, one of the agents met her cries with the words, “Is that all?”
Aly Raisman’s testimony ran parallel to Maroney’s as Raisman was also made to feel as though her abuse was “not enough” for FBI agents assigned to her. Although Raisman repeatedly asked to be interviewed, the FBI waited 14 months after she gave her statement to adhere to her pleas. When Raisman was finally granted her request, she was put into a room in the Olympic Training Center, where it was made clear to her that Steve Penny, the now disgraced CEO of USA Gymnastics, was in the building as well. Raisman, extremely threatened by these surroundings, felt as though she was put under circumstances that were supposed to silence her. This sounds like the sinister plot of an HBO show, though each girl shares a similar story. It is truly sickening to hear just how little the FBI cared about hundreds of little girls and young women being brutally molested everyday.
While many senators present at this hearing sound as though they are reading off cue cards or just reiterating the speech their publicist frantically wrote a few minutes prior, Senator Grassley of the U.S. Senate truly seemed to care and feel deep anger for the women being heard. He relayed the Inspector General's argument that the failures of the FBI to act on the Nassar case involved “‘a few agents in field offices who neglected to carry out their duties properly.’” Grassley seemed taken aback by this statement, going on to say, “I believe there’s more to that story.”
Grassley is correct. The FBI’s road to wealth has been paved by corruption and utter devastation, as accusations and tips have fallen through the cracks, leading to the loss of countless lives.
Arguably the most famous bungled FBI investigation was that of the seize on the Branch Davidian compound, otherwise known as Waco, after the town in Texas where the egregious event took place. 87 members of the Branch Davidian religious group, led by David Koresh, died after a 51-day failed attempt by the ATF to investigate the group's illegal armory of firearms. Before this almost two month standoff, there was a gun fight amongst the ATF and Branch Davidians that killed 10 people overall. The FBI took the ATF’s place during this 51-day standoff, torturing the residents of the compound and spending hours trying to negotiate with Koresh to let his people out. Their efforts amounted to nothing but carnage after a fire at the compound killed the 87 Branch Davidians still left within Koresh’s fortress. Bryan Sage, one of the head negotiators who often spoke to Koresh, still cannot come to terms with how horrendously the FBI handled the happenings in Waco. Sage claims that the FBI did not want to help the religious group, but make a “spectacle” out of them, as they hired cameramen to film their elongated interrogation. Though this backfired, as these cameramen were present to show just how tragically the bureau handled their case.
The FBI is also responsible for mismanaged tips regarding the Marjory Stoneman Douglas high school shooting. There were two tips dialed into FBI call centers surrounding the shooter who killed 17 people in Parkland, Florida, though they were quickly disposed of by the institution. The South Florida Sun Sentinel tried to answer the question of how this could have happened in a recent article where they note that the FBI “has long depended on low-paid, overworked employees who were evaluated partly on how quickly they disposed of tips from callers.” The article also reports that FBI call centers can receive up to 3,540 calls a day. Although it may give insight into the aged and crumbling FBI operation system, the fact of the matter is that two major tips given to agents were ignored. This is a reason, not an excuse. The centers need to reevaluate how they are being operated, as mistakes in agents’ line of work lead to incredible violence.
McKayla Maroney, Maggie Nichols, Aly Raisman, and Simone Biles coming forward to shine much-needed light on the horrible mismanagement and judgment within the FBI may be an all too familiar tale, but until the FBI are truly held accountable for their numerous corrupt actions, we will continue to hear similar stories of their failures. The FBI has been revered by many people as just and efficient law enforcement, though each of these cases and countless others have proved to me, and many more Americans, that the bureau has a lot of examination and learning to be done before it can be held to the standard it was once at, or if its reputation can ever be redeemed. To hear first hand the utter lack of empathy many FBI agents had for the women abused by Nassar is nothing less than horrific, though no one can be sure whether or not real change will occur in the system. Knowing that there are brave survivors like Maroney, Nichols, Rasiman, and Biles, however, gives me hope that the FBI will finally start answering to those whose lives are forever changed as a result of the FBI’s carelessness.