Botched FBI Probe Into Nassar Abuses Highlights ‘Endemic Failures’ Within Bureau, Former Agent Says
23:30 GMT 16.09.2021 (Updated: 13:54 GMT 17.09.2021)
© AP Photo / Carlos OsorioLarry Nassar sits during his sentencing hearing Wednesday, Jan. 24, 2018, in Lansing, Mich.
© AP Photo / Carlos Osorio
The US Department of Justice’s inspector general revealed in July that the FBI made a series of errors in its handling of sexual abuse allegations against former USA Gymnastics doctor Larry Nassar. Addressing the findings, top US gymnasts told lawmakers on Capitol Hill that there must be change in order to prevent such missteps moving forward.
The failures exhibited by the US Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) in the Larry Nassar case proves yet again that the agency has dropped the ball when it comes to sharing pertinent information with authorities, a former agent has stated.
Coleen Rowley, a lawyer and retired FBI agent who turned whistleblower, revealed to Radio Sputnik’s Fault Lines on Thursday that the agency’s missteps in the handling of the Nassar case underscored that the bureau is suffering from “endemic failures.”
17 September, 10:14 GMT
“There are endemic failures on the part of the higher levels of the FBI,” Rowley said, touching on the revelation in the July inspector general report that determined agents investigating the sexual abuse allegations had failed to act with the “utmost seriousness and urgency” that the case required.
“This essentially was a failure to share information because these FBI officials were advised in July 2015 [of Nassar’s abuses], and nothing happened in the case. … There was this big long gap of over a year where the FBI in Indianapolis kept it secret.”
The inspector general’s findings revealed that the FBI’s Indianapolis field office had first learned of the sex abuse accusations after USA Gymnastics had carried out its own internal investigations, but that the bureau never acted on launching its own probe until October 2016.
During that 16-month period, FBI officials did not alert the authorities in Michigan, where the abuses had occurred and where Nassar was continuing to work as a physician at Michigan State University. In fact, the bureau’s probe wasn’t launched until USA Gymnastics chose to file a new complaint in Los Angeles.
© REUTERS / POOLU.S. Olympic gymnast Simone Biles testifies during a Senate Judiciary hearing about the Inspector General's report on the FBI handling of the Larry Nassar investigation of sexual abuse of Olympic gymnasts, on Capitol Hill, in Washington, D.C., U.S.
U.S. Olympic gymnast Simone Biles testifies during a Senate Judiciary hearing about the Inspector General's report on the FBI handling of the Larry Nassar investigation of sexual abuse of Olympic gymnasts, on Capitol Hill, in Washington, D.C., U.S.
© REUTERS / POOL
The watchdog report also found that federal agents failed to document allegations when they were first brought to their attention, as well as improperly documented the existence of a thumb drive that included slides and videos of the highly intrusive “medical technique” that Nassar was performing on athletes. The files had been provided by USA Gymnastics President Stephen Penny at the time.
Rowley told show hosts Jamarl Thomas and Shane Stranahan that the faults exemplified in the case highlighted that the bureau had the “same problems that we’re seeing with the FBI over and over again.”
“Child porn is clear FBI jurisdiction but in this case it was merely allegations of sex abuse from the start, and that is more of a local, state crime - not a federal crime,” she admitted. “These agents should have shared it … but they just sat on it.”
In the end, Rowley told Stranahan that the athletes coming forward with the allegations had better luck divulging the information to the media, saying, “that’s where some action is taken.”
Appearing before the Senate Judiciary Committee, US gymnasts Simone Biles, McKayla Maroney, Aly Raisman and Maggie Nichols called for change during the first half of Wednesday's hearings at Capitol Hill.
“We suffered and continue to suffer because no one at the FBI, [USA Gymnastics] or the [US Olympic Committee] did what was necessary to protect us,” Biles told lawmakers. “We have been failed and we deserve answers. Nassar is where he belongs, but those who enabled him deserve to be held accountable. If they are not, I am convinced that this will continue to happen to others across Olympic sports.”
Having pleaded guilty to seven counts of criminal sexual conduct and using his medical position to assault and molest girls under the guise of medical treatment, Nassar was sentenced in July to 40 to 175 years in prison. During the legal proceedings, more than 150 women testified of the sexual abuse they suffered at the hands of the former USA Gymnastics doctor.