Thursday, March 30, 2017 | 2 a.m.
The election of President Donald Trump hasn’t changed how the FBI operates, as the federal agency steers clear of politics despite what “a lot of people would want to have (it be),” said Special Agent Aaron Rouse, the director of the FBI’s Las Vegas division.
"We’re not a political organization; we’re not affected by the politics,” Rouse emphasized to reporters Wednesday from the FBI's Las Vegas headquarters, where he and other special agents spoke.
The “Getting to Know the FBI” meeting with reporters was an effort from Rouse, who was appointed to his position in September, to “bring down the barriers” between the FBI and the public so it understands that investigation methodologies don't quite develop the way they're portrayed in Hollywood.
Politics was one of the topics that came up, and prior to Rouse's question-and-answer session, the FBI held presentations on career recruitment, hate incidents and cyber crimes. A Metro Police detective made a hands-on demonstration on how criminal elements use skimmers to steal credit card information from ATMs and gas pumps.
Special Agent Vicki Correia, an agency recruiter, explained that the FBI is searching for candidates from all backgrounds to apply for a possible career with the agency. She stressed that the current 36,494 employees, including the 13,728 agents, went through rigorous background checks prior to being hired, but that it's worth it.
Correia said the agency loses 40 to 60 percent of its possible candidates during polygraph exams for things they disclose and things they don't. There are currently 25,888 applications submitted.
Disqualifying offenses include smoking marijuana less than three years before applying or engaging in other illicit drug use within a 10-year period.
FBI Hate Crimes Overview Special Agent Joseph Dickey spoke about hate crimes across the U.S. and explained the difference between hate incidents and free speech.
According to FBI data Dickey cited, the number of hate-crime incidents reported to the agency were on a downward trend from 2003 to 2014, with a slight increase in 2015. He said 2016 data will be available later this year.
He said that a 19-year-old American-Israeli Jew recently arrested by Israeli authorities is believed to be the suspect in recent threats to Las Vegas synagogues.
No political agenda
Rouse touted the FBI's collaboration between the agency and local law enforcement partners. And although he said he couldn't expand, Rouse mentioned there were breakthroughs with the opioid problem seen across the state.
Rouse noted that he wants to shake the sometimes public perception that the FBI is a secret and rogue organization. He said that the agents and other employees follow the rule of law and are normal people just like everyone else.
“We have the same thoughts about what’s going on in America. We have a lot of opinions," Rouse continued. "But what we’re interested in — we put that all aside — when we come to work, we focus on protecting the American people and upholding the Constitution. We do it with professionalism. We do it appropriately and we do it responsibly. Any indication that we’re not doing that, I think it’s wrong.”
About the political climate and narrative the FBI has at times in the past year found itself lumped in with, Rouse said: "I think that in general there’s been a lot of thought about the FBI — obviously because of last year’s events — that I think if you look at on balance, where you have both sides of the aisle not particularly enamored with you, you might be doing something that is not political and the FBI is not political — we’re not a political organization."
"There are people who want us to be political (and) that doesn’t serve anybody’s purpose. Our mission is to protect the American people and uphold the Constitution regardless of party or agenda ... and that’s what we’re going to do every day.”