Here's what the FBI Agents Association says about recent threats to federal agents NPR's Mary Louise Kelly speaks with Brian O'Hare, the president of the FBI Agents Association, about recent threats against agents and calls to defund the FBI.

Here's what the FBI Agents Association says about recent threats to federal agents

Here's what the FBI Agents Association says about recent threats to federal agents

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NPR's Mary Louise Kelly speaks with Brian O'Hare, the president of the FBI Agents Association, about recent threats against agents and calls to defund the FBI.


The FBI is on high alert. It's warning of a spike in threats to law enforcement officers following last week's court-authorized search of former President Trump's Florida home. Those threats have proliferated online, also in the real world. An armed man stormed an FBI field office in Cincinnati last week. Well, FBI special agent Brian O'Hare has condemned these threats. He's calling on other leaders to do the same. He is president of the FBI Agents Association. That's a nonprofit, nongovernmental organization that supports active FBI special agents. And he's with me now. Mr. O'Hare, welcome.

BRIAN O'HARE: Thank you, Miss Kelly. I'm happy to be here.

KELLY: I want to start by asking about this joint intelligence bulletin that came down on Friday. This was released by the FBI and the Department of Homeland Security, warning about this jump in threats. Can you give us any more detail about what's in that bulletin?

O'HARE: I can't give you any more detail other than to say that the FBI and DHS has been putting out products similar to this for many, many years in an effort to warn our state, local and federal partners about the threats and risks that might impact their workforce on a day-to-day basis.

KELLY: You said they do this - have done this for many years. This is a regular thing. Is there anything that leaps out at you in terms of just the tone or the urgency of the warning here, without giving details?

O'HARE: Well, I think the threat stream directed at federal law enforcement and the FBI in particular is notable. I don't recall a threat stream similar to this in the last many years. And it's troubling. It's unacceptable. And it should be condemned by all who are aware of it.

KELLY: You've said in the last many years. And I'll note that you are an active FBI special agent. You've been one for more than two decades.

O'HARE: Yes, ma'am - 23 years.

KELLY: Wow. Any advice to fellow officers - is advice coming down to do anything differently in your work lives, in your personal lives, as you take account of these rising threats?

O'HARE: Well, I appreciate the interest and the question. However, it's just not prudent to describe what we might or might not do in work or at home to deal with these threats. I will say that when you're in the office of the FBI today, just like every other day, special agents and professional support employees are doing their jobs to protect the American people. That doesn't change. It continues on as we speak.

KELLY: I mean, I will say one of the things going through my mind as I watched those events play out in Cincinnati last week was thinking, wow, they must be battening down the hatches at field offices across the country and then thinking, but I would assume FBI offices were already pretty secure. Any additional steps to secure facilities?

O'HARE: You know, again, that's not something that I would share if I was familiar with all those steps. You know, the FBI is not immune to threats in the same way that state and local partners have been dealing with threats for a very long time. We all have to be vigilant and look out for each other, and that's what we continue to do.

KELLY: I know in your association there's something like 14,000 active FBI special agents - former agents as well. What's the conversation? What are you hearing from them?

O'HARE: Well, it gets a little old being threatened. It's just it's a climate of acceptance of violence that needs to be changed. And we're no different than anyone else. We don't see violence as being productive. In fact, it's counter to the interests of legitimate concerns that people might have about any action undertaken by the government or law enforcement in particular that violence does not move the needle. It detracts from what it is you may be interested in, and we hope that it subsides very soon.

KELLY: Is it getting in the way of the work?

O'HARE: No. Again, you know, we're doing the work. The work continues regardless. Work continued by the FBI throughout COVID. It presented unique and unusual challenges to us. But we continue to do the work that the American people expect of us.

KELLY: So what went through your mind as you watched that attack last week in Cincinnati?

O'HARE: Well, you know, that's an action that took place for whatever reasons in an atmosphere with many people calling for violence against the FBI. What I find incredibly important is the need for every leader, whether they're elected or not - every leader with a voice, every leader with a following should publicly denounce violence against law enforcement unconditionally. And that call should be irrespective of federal, state or local status. Law enforcement can do a much better job if it's not under constant threat of attack.

KELLY: What specific words would you like to hear them say?

O'HARE: Anyone who's a leader in this country should be condemning unequivocally threats of violence against law enforcement. I have heard some touch on the subject, but then it seems somewhat conditional based on other factors. Unequivocal - violence against law enforcement is a problem and should not be tolerated.

KELLY: That is FBI special agent Brian O'Hare. He's also president of the FBI Agents Association. Thank you so much for your time.

O'HARE: Thank you.


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