DOJ's New Recording Policy: The Exceptions Swallow The Rule
...FBI agents routinely conduct their interviews in pairs, with one agent asking the questions and the other taking notes which are eventually typewritten into what is known as a form 302 report. It has previously been strictly against FBI policy to electronically record any of these interviews. Without an objectively accurate, verbatim record of the interview, the witness is compelled, forced even, to follow the script of the 302 report if it is presented in a court of law. If the witness’ testimony strays from the agent’s report, she opens herself up to a felony charge, for either making “false statements” to a federal agent (at the time of the interview) or for perjuring herself on the witness stand. This is how the FBI is able to coerce witnesses (or suspects) and shape their testimony.
Given the obvious dishonesty of this system, and the extent to which the truth can be corrupted by FBI agents and federal prosecutors who are able to teach their witnesses not only how to sing but also how to compose, it seemed only a matter of time before the interview procedure would change. While many think this memo will precipitate that shift, the devil is in the details of the document, which provides so many exceptions that the new rule, to be implemented on July 11th, will arrive stillborn.
All citizens – both of the law-and-order variety as well as civil libertarians– should want to see federal law enforcement practices become more transparent and less accommodating to rogue agents and overzealous prosecutors. Such reform will not be accomplished by enacting compromised policies like this one. [Read More]