WASHINGTON – An FBI manager, John Roberts, was passed over for promotion after criticizing the bureau on national television -- leaving the clear impression of retaliation, the Justice Department's internal watchdog says.
Inspector General Glenn Fine concluded Monday that Roberts' boss, assistant director Robert Jordan, exercised poor judgment in passing Roberts over for promotion and by leaving the impression that his subordinate could be investigated or asked to leave.
Roberts had obtained FBI approval to appear on CBS' 60 Minutes program last October. He repeated his previous congressional testimony that rank-and-file FBI workers received harsher treatment than senior managers in a double standard of discipline.
The report said there was no evidence that FBI Director Robert Mueller had a role in Jordan's actions or statements, but found that Deputy Director Bruce Gebhardt sent an e-mail critical of Roberts.
"If we have internal problems then I would rather find solutions and fix them, rather than tell the world on 60 Minutes," he wrote. "In my opinion, Roberts brought discredit to the FBI badge, and the 27,000 employees of the FBI."
Jordan's decision to pass over Roberts as deputy assistant director in the Office of Professional Responsibility was made "in large part because of Roberts' statements on 60 Minutes, an action that left the clear appearance of retaliation," Fine's report found. The job went to someone with less experience than Roberts.
Jordan made statements that led Roberts to believe the inspector general would be asked to investigate the remarks on the show. The report concluded, however, that Jordan actually asked the inspector general to investigate Roberts' allegations that some internal disciplinary investigations "just disappeared, just vaporized."
FBI spokesman Paul Bresson said Jordan would have no comment. He said the bureau "commends the inspector general and his staff for their thorough and independent investigation" and added the findings are under review by senior management.
Sens. Patrick Leahy, D-Vt. and Charles Grassley, R-Iowa, jointly released the findings and sharply criticized FBI management.
"Instead of facing up to the criticism and clear evidence of a double standard in discipline, top bureaucrats circled the wagons and shot the messenger," Grassley said.
Leahy said the FBI attitude toward Roberts was "a travesty to him and his family, as well as to the FBI, the Congress and the American people."
The report said Jordan showed poor judgment by holding a staff meeting shortly after the show, on a day that Roberts was on sick leave. Jordan may have left the impression that retaliation was planned, but "did not cross the line in what he said."
Most troubling, the inspector general found, was Jordan's failure to respond, when asked whether there had been discussion about removing people who had been in their jobs too long.
"Instead of saying he had no intention of forcing Roberts to leave ... Jordan said nothing," the report said.