The FBI's motto is "fidelity, bravery, integrity." It's understandable, then, that the law enforcement agency's leaders are upset about what FBI assistant director Candice Will calls a "rash of sexting" among FBI employees. The agency is even going so far as to send out quarterly reports detailing some of the worst transgressions, in a bid to shame employees into refraining from exchanging racy texts and photos on their government-issued smartphones, or otherwise breaking FBI ethics rules. Just how bad is the problem? Here, a brief guide:
How many FBI employees have been caught sexting?
To be sure, the vast majority of the FBI's 36,000 employees have remained professional — and clothed — while texting. Reports from the agency's Office of Professional Responsibility, however, show that 1,045 employees were disciplined from 2010 to 2012 for a variety of reasons — including sexting, dating a drug dealer, and visiting a massage parlor — and 85 were fired. The number of these cases that involved sexting was therefore small, but it was still big enough to alarm FBI leaders. "You can't do this stuff," Will tells CNN. "When you are given an FBI BlackBerry, it's for official use. It's not to text the woman in another office who you found attractive or to send a picture of yourself in a state of undress."
What exactly did these employees do?
Only a few sexually charged cases were detailed in documents acquired by CNN. In one, a woman "used (a) personal cell phone to send nude photographs of herself to other employees," which "adversely affected the daily activities of several squads." In another, an FBI worker emailed a "nude photograph of herself to her ex-boyfriend's wife," prompting the couple to report the incident to supervisors. Both of the employees were allowed to return to work after 10 days.
Is this the first time the problem has come up?
Hardly. Last year, another CNN investigation uncovered numerous cases of misconduct within the FBI, many of them sexually charged. One employee, for example, shared agency secrets with his girlfriend, a news reporter. Then, after they broke up, he threatened to release a sex tape they had allegedly made. Another used a video camera to record a co-worker changing in the women's bathroom. One employee who used a government-issued BlackBerry to send a colleague sexually explicit messages got a five-day suspension. Another incident that raised eyebrows surfaced last year during the David Petraeus sex scandal, when it was reported that FBI agent Fred Humphries had sent a shirtless photo of himself — as a joke, he said — to Jill Kelley, the Florida socialite who triggered the Petraeus investigation after getting harassing emails from his mistress.
Why doesn't the FBI just fire everyone it catches sexting?
The agency does have a "no-tolerance policy" for severe misconduct, Will says, but "it doesn't mean that we fire everybody. You know, our employees are human, as we all are. We all make mistakes." When possible, the agency gives people a second chance. "If you lie under oath, you are gone," Will tells CNN. "If you tell the truth — it's sort of Watergate 101. It's not always the behavior itself that results in a seriously adverse finding. It can just be the cover-up."