Notre Dame alumnus faces FBI retaliation after January 6th Investigation
A well respected 12-year veteran of the FBI and former SWAT Team member and Notre Dame alumnus was suspended from his position as a Special Agent after filing a whistleblower complaint with the Department of Justice (DOJ).
Steve Friend was moved to Daytona Beach to work child exploitation cases which were, at the time of his move, described as “high priority.” However, he was relocated to the terrorism division a few months after arriving in Florida and told that “domestic terrorism was a higher priority” than his previous exploitation cases. In an interview with Sharyl Attkisson, Friend explained the reasoning behind the FBI’s decision to move resources away from child exploitation: “If you are able to open up a full investigation for national security reasons, it’s no secret that you’re going to have more money thrown at it than you can possibly imagine and without a tremendous amount of oversight.”
After working on the Joint Terrorism Taskforce, Friend soon found that the FBI was being “overzealous” in their investigation of January 6th protesters and that the field office was not only in violation of FBI policy but was also possibly violating the Sixth and Eighth Amendment rights of those accused of breaking into the Capitol on January 6th. He brought these concerns to supervisors in late August after refusing to participate in a raid on accused protesters. He told supervisors, “I have an oath to uphold the Constitution. I have a moral objection and want to be considered a conscientious objector.”
On September 19th, Friend was escorted out of the FBI field office in Daytona Beach, Florida for his objection, stripped of his gun and badge, and suspended without pay.
The raid was carried out against five men who were accused of rioting at the Capitol on January 6th. Friend, who did not vote for Trump in 2020, realized that he could not avoid participation in the raid in his current position, and he brought his first complaint over the “irregular” handling of January 6th cases to his immediate boss on August 19th, saying, “It was inappropriate to use an FBI SWAT team to arrest a subject for misdemeanor offenses … the subject would likely face extended detainment and biased jury pools in Washington, DC.”
He explained, “We got into a conversation about what my concerns were … [The supervisor] expressed to me that I was a domestic terrorism investigator, and it would be inappropriate for me to not want to be involved in a domestic terrorism operation. He said that he wanted to give me the weekend to reconsider that … and he said that I need to do an assessment of what my future was going to be with the FBI.”
Friend explained why he felt that he could not participate in that August 24th raid, “Beyond the fact that the FBI was operating outside of its rules, I felt that there was definitely a harder hand in the way that the arrests were going to be carried out, regardless of the individual’s involvement in January 6th. They had been interviewed; there had been open lines of communication between the FBI and those individuals.”
Friend was asked not to return to work on the day of the raid and was labeled absent without leave. Returning the next day from being AWOL, Friend spoke with the Special Agent in Charge of the Jacksonville field office. He recounted their conversation, saying, “She used some choice language about me needing to do some soul searching about my future with the FBI. She said that it appeared to her that I lost faith in the agency and its leadership and that I represented a very fringe belief about the events of January 6th not needing the heavy-handedness that the FBI was treating them [with].”
On September 19th, Steve Friend arrived at work and was met with a group of supervisors and security personnel. His security clearance having been revoked, he was escorted off the premises. They handed Friend a list of grievances, which included his unwillingness to participate in the January 6th investigation and an accusation of “improperly accessing material from the FBI’s ‘red side,’ which is the classified side,” though all information Friend accessed was unclassified and taken from the employee handbook.
Friend’s wife, who is a Ukrainian immigrant, had her Facebook account suspended after identifying herself in a private message. The group “Moms for Liberty” reached out to Anna Friend to show their support after the whistleblower news broke. She responded to that message, identifying herself as “Steve Friend’s wife.” Thirty minutes later she received a message that her account had been suspended, and Facebook did not respond to her appeal.
Friend, who graduated in 2006 from the University of Notre Dame with a degree in Accounting, was well respected in both his dorm and in the larger campus community. Fr. R.M. Vierling, former rector of Morrissey Hall where Friend lived, tweeted on September 22, “This young man was on my hall staff at the University of Notre Dame. You will not meet a finer, more ethical gentleman than Steve Friend. I have no doubt as to the veracity of what he has brought to light.” Continuing, “If you knew the man in question, you would find him to be very sober, not given to exaggeration, certainly not one to make false statements, nor desiring to be ‘page one.’ His character is impeccable.”
Elizabeth Hale is a sophomore studying political science originally from Northville, MI. She would enjoy exposing high levels of corruption, should the opportunity present itself. In the meanwhile, she is content going for walks around campus and taking pictures of changing leaves. She can be reached at email@example.com.