Special Agent Jane Turner vs. The FBI

Before Coleen Rowley, another whistleblower rose from the ranks of the Minneapolis FBI division. Retired agent Jane Turner talks at length for the first time about the Bureau's good old boy management culture--and how it goes about silencing its internal

So everything is based on, Were there any problems? Everybody is reluctant to get involved in problems. Just holding the status quo is the thing. As long as there is nothing adverse, we can still cling to the concept that we're everywhere and we do everything, and we do it perfectly. Because there's nothing to dispute that, is there? If you can just hold to that status quo, that seems good.

CP:As a profiler, say a little more about how the management program works, and give me a thumbnail profile of the sort of person who thrives in it.

Turner: As it stood when I was there--and I don't think it's changed--the Bureau could move you anytime, any place. Which is fine. When you sign on, you know that. Going into the management program means going to a series of different postings as you work your way through: supervisor, ASAC, and so on. And you have to go back to [work at] FBI HQ, sometimes twice. And then, for the inspections, you're out on the road a lot.

It's difficult. It forces you to choose between the Bureau and your family in some cases. I had an old SAC say to me one time, I put everything on the line for the Bureau. My wife divorced me, my kids won't talk to me, and it wasn't worth it. As you watch the management program work, you begin to understand that the Bureau demands total fidelity. So oftentimes what you get is people who put the Bureau before their own families.

They make the kind of managers to whom defending the Bureau is everything, because to them the Bureau is everything. They've sacrificed everything for it. And truth suffers as a result. Because it's such a cold-blooded position, anything around you is subject to being sacrificed as well, whether it's your employees, your wife, your kids, whatever. Everything is expendable.

That's why a lot of agents stay grunt agents. The type of personality you get in [management] often has allegiance to no one except themselves.

CP:Do you think the veil of secrecy around the FBI serves to encourage corruption and inaction?

Turner: Well, certainly there's no watchdog. At least at the time that this happened. Because of documented abuses, they have now put the Department of Justice Inspector General [in charge.] But when I started my whole thing, our internal watchdog, which was the Office of Professional Responsibility, was responsible for doing this. But unfortunately, a lot of the senior management has come through OPR, and they all know each other. And here again, it's quite a cozy relationship. Sometimes it's, You watch my back and I'll watch yours. I may save you when I'm in OPR, and when I go out in the field to be an SAC, you may be in OPR and save me. So they protect each other, and that's true of any law enforcement. It's part of that insular nature, us against them. And I think our senior management take it to an even higher level.

CP:When did you realize, or accept, that your own situation was not going to turn out happily?

Turner: Until I retired out on Halloween of last year, up until that day, I always expected somebody to say, You know, Jane, this has really been unfair. We're going to fix this culture.

I'm very disappointed in our director, because I kept waiting for him to call our senior management in Minneapolis and say, She's a whistleblower who's talked to Senators Leahy and Grassley, and you really need to climb off of her.

But it's our director. Values are established from the top. So if we get the impression from the top that the Bureau can get away with anything, chances are good your senior management is going to get away with a lot. If it comes from the top, don't be engaging in criminal activity, don't be doing things that are wrong, agents will suck it up and not do that kind of behavior. This director has said, "I will not tolerate retaliation against whistleblowers." But every single whistleblower, definitely including me, has suffered under this director. He's talked the talk and done nothing else.

CP:During these years from 1999 to 2002, were you ever offered the chance to come back into the fold?

Turner: I was brought down here in 2000, allegedly to work on the crimes against children program. I was told at that time that if I dropped my pressure on all these issues, just stopped pushing, I could get a transfer I had requested once before. He said to me, I know you want to get down to Rochester. If you drop this, I'll get you down there within a year. I could have a posting I really wanted, doing profiling research with some of the people at the federal medical center prison there. I had initiated some research with Quantico earlier. I wanted to do that very badly.

I went home and considered it. I knew I was in a world of hurt, because the attitude in the office was so negative toward me, like I had betrayed the family. I really wanted to get back in the family. I had crossed that thin purple line, and I wanted to come back. I wanted to go to lunch with my fellow agents. I wanted to get those awards I used to get, and the high ratings. But then I thought, if I don't speak up for those kids up there, and if I don't speak up for the kids down here, if I don't pursue the fact that they are worthy of service from the FBI, then how can I find honor in my career?

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