The partial government shutdown is hindering federal law enforcement, says the organization representing FBI agents, limiting investigators’ ability to pay confidential informants and witnesses at criminal trials and curbing the bureau’s ability to hire translators, paralegals and other support personnel, reports the Wall Street Journal. During the shutdown, now in its 32nd day, FBI agents and support staff deemed essential to national security and federal law enforcement have been working without pay. Federal rules bar spending government funds in many cases. “The FBI needs to be fully funded so that we can do our jobs—stop terrorist attacks, prevent criminal activity, arrest bad guys,” said agent Thomas O’Connor, president of the FBI Agents Association.
The association collected more than 50 anonymous accounts from FBI agents and other personnel describing in detail the impact of the shutdown on their jobs. Bureau employees working on drug cases or in counterterrorism or counterespionage described being unable to pay informants used to gather evidence and intelligence. “Not being able to pay confidential human sources risks losing them and the information they provide forever. It is not a switch that we can turn on and off,” said one employee working on national security issues. Another described being unable to buy a card for a special phone the agent used to talk to a source. Others described being unable to travel for work, or running out of resources from the mundane—tires, automobile parts, copy paper—to specialized investigative materials including forensic processing supplies, trace evidence filters and DNA swab kits. Others reported being unable to obtain grand jury subpoenas because legal assistants working for federal prosecutors were furloughed.