FBI Accused of Working on Movie Plots, Not Terror Plots
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The Fiscal Times
January 7, 2014

The Federal Bureau of Investigation has been accused of shooting the wrong targets-- Hollywood movies—and in the process wasting millions of taxpayer dollars.

The allegations come from Sen. Tom Coburn’s latest annual “Wastebook” report, which claims the FBI wasted an entire office’s annual budget of $1.5 million and its staff’s time to serve as a consulting firm to movie stars, screen writers and producers by providing advice about how to accurately portray the Bureau on the big screen.

The report highlights 100 examples of what Coburn’s office deems the most egregious waste of taxpayer dollars hidden in the federal budget. This year, to the FBI’s dismay, the Bureau’s Investigative Publicity and Public Affairs Unit made the Senator’s list.

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The unit has worked behind the scenes on hundreds of popular shows like “Criminal Minds” and “CSI” as well as major blockbusters like “Shooter” and “Breach.”

The bureau isn’t taking this accusation lightly, especially since they’ve been hurt by the sequester and other budget cuts.  They call the report “misleading” since it fails to mention that helping Hollywood is only a small part of what the unit actually does.

“Any assistance given to the entertainment industry actually represents a small part of the unit’s responsibilities.  We receive a high volume of inquiries from the industry, and, after careful assessment and prioritization - given resource limitations - only a small number can be accommodated,” McKee said.

“Wastebook 2013 unfortunately misleads readers about an important function of the FBI,” said Susan McKee, the Unit’s chief.  McKee explained that the unit is also responsible for running the Most Wanted Fugitives Program and Most Wanted Terrorists, and the “Seeking Information” tool to assist in identifying and locating crime or terrorism suspects, as well as leading efforts to locate missing children.

McKee’s office does collaborate with Hollywood producers, from reviewing plots and scripts, to providing b-roll, fact checking, and advice on weapons and props, as the report says. Although the “Wastebook” depicts helping Hollywood as unnecessary and wasteful, McKee says it’s “in the public’s best interest” that the Bureau is portrayed accurately on the big screen, “given the impact of television and movies on public understanding.”

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The report, however, argues that Hollywood producers can already get advice and expertise on how to depict the Bureau from former FBI agents who now have private consulting businesses specifically for that purpose.

“Scott Nelson, a retired agent who worked for the FBI for 25 years, for example, “is part of a now-sprawling community of expert ‘consultants’ who help Hollywood film-makers to realistically portray everything from fight scenes to the intricacies of real- life police investigations,” the report said.

“What's troubling is they aren't denying they are using part of their budget to subsidize Hollywood productions. The FBI should be focused on terror plots, not movie plots,” John Hart, a spokesman for Coburn's office said. “Every dollar we spend helping Jerry Bruckheimer get his facts right is a dollar we can't spend stopping criminals and terrorists.”

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Washington Correspondent Brianna Ehley, based in D.C., covers Congress, government agencies and spending issues, health care, and tax and economic policy for The Fiscal Times.