Not many people know it, but the FBI put me in my place a long time ago.
And, it was done in such a nice, decent way — without even the slightest hint that they probably thought a rogue like me was destined for their Ten Most Wanted Fugitives list.
Don’t try looking for a lack of candor on my walk down Memory Lane with friends from the Bureau. There’s no stretching the truth here. Just the facts, ma’am. The same applies to everybody else out there, too.
Here’s an FBI story for the ages:
For Baby Boomers growing up in the 1960s and 1970s, most Sunday nights were spent at home watching episodes of one of television’s most popular shows — “The FBI,” which starred Efrem Zimbalist Jr. as Inspector Lewis Erskine.
Back in those simpler times, nobody could have ever convinced me — a G-man wannabe — that the FBI hadn’t hung the moon.
That awe and wonder went with me into adulthood. Never mind those dirty secrets about the legendary J. Edgar Hoover that finally saw the light of day.
As a newspaper reporter for more than two decades, there were many occasions when crime stories put me in direct contact with rank-and-file agents of the FBI at field offices in the area and around the country.
These honorable men and women — my heroes — never disappointed me when it came to their professionalism, honesty and competence.
They more than lived up to the unofficial credo of the FBI: “Never Embarrass the Bureau.”
Of course, because the FBI was known for working quietly in the shadows, it was always like pulling teeth for a newsman to try to talk to them about any case. Without exception, they always went by the book and refused to confirm or deny an investigation. Believe me. It was a good day at any newspaper when a “No Comment” from the FBI appeared in a story.
Still, it never stopped hard-headed reporters like me from pestering agents with those tough questions that always went unanswered.
My day of reckoning came in the early 1990s after an innocent telephone call to the FBI office in faraway Flint, Mich. Investigating local ties to the “Dixie Mafia” crime family — and feeling quite important — Rob The Small-town Reporter was ready to do battle with the FBI agent who happened to pick up the telephone on that winter day so long ago.
Obviously, my call took him by surprise.
“This is Rob Dollar, and I’m a reporter for the Kentucky New Era newspaper in Hopkinsville, Ky.”
With that introduction, there was nothing but silence on the other end of the telephone line. Then, after what seemed like an eternity, came the response: “WOW!”
That FBI agent — in his subtle way, and with one word — reminded me of my place in life. After all, it wasn’t Mike Wallace of “60 Minutes” who had called the office that morning. The lesson he taught me — a guy who had been full of himself — was worth learning, for sure: Be yourself, and don’t ever get a big head.
Now, let’s fast forward the clock to the present.
These are challenging times in America. The country’s moral compass is askew, not only for people walking the streets but for great institutions.
The FBI is sporting a black eye nowadays, and it’s enough to make a grown man who’d once dreamed of becoming a G-man cry like a newborn baby.
Let’s be honest. There’s no way to explain away that ugly shiner. Reality hit with a thud, and when it did, it burst my bubble — maybe forever — about America’s premier law enforcement agency.
Politics ruin all that’s good in this life, and the FBI — thanks to revelations from a slew of investigations involving Hillary Clinton and President Trump — has unfortunately become the latest casualty in the assault on moral uprightness.
Of course, it’s true the bad behavior appears to be at the top echelons of the organization and doesn’t involve the hardworking, rank-and-file agents around the country.
But, it’s still hard to swallow for the FBI faithful.
Who would have ever believed it?
James Comey, the self-serving former FBI director and a key witness in the ongoing special counsel investigation, having the gall to write a tell-all book and then launching a coast-to-coast publicity tour to berate the president and gossip about him.
The deputy director of the FBI, Andrew McCabe, getting fired and now possibly facing criminal charges for lying to investigators about the decisions he made while supervising some of those probes into government misconduct.
Peter Strzok and Lisa Page — FBI “lovebirds” involved in an affair at work — exchanging thousands of texts that raise serious questions about bias in the Clinton and Trump investigations.
There are leaks, lies, deceit, and big heads everywhere in Washington these days.
What goes around comes around — even for the FBI.
ROB DOLLAR was a reporter and editor for the Kentucky New Era for 20 years. A resident of Hopkinsville, he has authored three books on topics of local interest in recent years. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.