WASHINGTON — The director of the Federal Bureau of Investigation is adding a mandatory visit to the Martin Luther King Jr. memorial in D.C. to agent training, he said Monday, a move he said will be a warning “of the dangers in becoming untethered to oversight and accountability.”
“As I think about the unique balance represented by fidelity to independence on the one hand the rule of law on the other, I think it also makes sense for me to offer those in training a reminder closer to our own history,” James Comey, who was ceremonially sworn into the FBI director’s job at a ceremony at the bureau’s headquarters Monday. “I’m going to direct that all new agents and analysts also visit the Martin Luther King Memorial here in Washington.”
Comey said that the surveillance of King during his career as a civil rights leader was the “most famous” example of FBI “abuse and overreach” in the bureau’s past, and he said he hoped a visit to the memorial will help some of the FBI’s darker chapters in mind as they go about their work.
Incoming FBI agents have been ordered to visit the U.S. Holocaust Memorial Museum as part of their training since the Clinton administration, when then-Director Louis Freeh added the requirement to warn new agents about the dangers of government overreach.
“We do this early on in their training … to remind them of the horror and evil which can result from not just a government, but particularly law enforcement, abandoning its mission to protect people and becoming the engine of oppression,” Freeh said in 2000.