When Attorney General Jeff Sessions fired former FBI Deputy Director Andrew McCabe last week, just hours short of McCabe’s retirement, he cited an internal FBI investigation that concluded McCabe “lacked candor” in his conversations with investigators when asked about disclosures to the media during the 2016 election.
But what does that actually mean?
“Lack of candor is untruthfulness or an attempt to dissemble from the point of view of the investigator,” said Dave Gomez, a former FBI agent and a senior fellow at George Washington University’s Center for Cyber and Homeland Security. “The problem comes when, in answering a question, the person under investigation attempts to spin his answer in order to present his actions in the best possible light. This is normal human behavior, but can be interpreted as a lack of candor by the investigator.”
According to former FBI officials, the obligation of bureau employees—agents or otherwise—to have candor in performance of their duties comes from the need for FBI officials to represent the federal government in legal proceedings, act as witnesses in trials, and manage informants. Under the FBI’s standard, candor is not simply telling the truth—it confers an obligation to disclose relevant information even if an investigator has not directly asked about it. The standards are strict—one former FBI official estimated 20 to 30 bureau employees were dismissed annually for matters of candor. In one case described in a 2012 FBI report, an employee was dismissed after she lied to investigators about her husband’s drug use; in another, an employee was fired after they misled investigators about properly disposing of evidence. Another agent lost his job after using his bureau car to transport his daughter to daycare, and then lied about it.