Kneeling could be an avenue to rise through the ranks at the FBI, judging by promotions for two agents who did so in solidarity with Black Lives Matter protesters.
One of the two agents appears in a video for her alma mater saying that the FBI seeks a “diverse workforce” to ensure that the bureau is “looking like the communities that we represent.”
Protests and riots linked to the Black Lives Matter movement swept the nation in the weeks and months after the May 25, 2020, killing of George Floyd, who was black, by a Minneapolis police officer who is white. In some cases, law enforcement joined the protests.
At least six FBI agents from the bureau’s Washington, D.C., field office were photographed kneeling during a BLM march on June 4, 2020, and were referred to derisively on social media as “Kneel Team Six.”
The Daily Signal identified two of the kneeling agents through direct and indirect communications with former and current FBI officials.
They are Sarah Webb Linden, who was promoted from special agent to assistant special agent in charge of the FBI’s D.C. field office, and Amy Oakes, who was promoted from agent to lead cybercrimes counterintelligence agent.
A former FBI agent, Kyle Seraphin, identified both women to The Daily Signal. Seraphin said he communicated with six former and current FBI agents who aren’t authorized to speak publicly, and they also confirmed the two.
Although other FBI agents or officials are believed to be in the group of photographed kneelers, Seraphin said he couldn’t positively identify anyone else after consulting the current and former agents.
Correlation and causation aren’t the same, of course, so it doesn’t mean that Linden and Oakes were promoted within the FBI because they knelt in protest. The personnel decisions do indicate, however, that FBI brass had little problem with their doing so.
Seraphin said he was in the room a few days after the kneeling controversy when two FBI executive assistant directors, Jennifer Moore and Larissa Knapp, praised agents who kneeled. Hugs even occurred, he said.
“In the meeting, there was praise for all who knelt,” Seraphin told The Daily Signal. “They were told they did the right thing and did not escalate the situation.”
The FBI declined to comment on inquiries for this story from The Daily Signal.
As for the matter of escalation, Seraphin said, the FBI kneelers were a good distance from the actual protesters. He said he suspected that the agents’ act of kneeling was more of a political statement than an effort to stay safe.
“Both were promoted shortly after kneeling,” Seraphin said.
Seraphin, an FBI special agent for six years, became a whistleblower before the bureau suspended him without pay last year. He first revealed that the FBI’s field office in Richmond, Virginia, was targeting Catholics when he published a document on UncoverDC.com.
In late March, the FBI’s Washington field office—which calls itself FBI WFO—tweeted about Linden’s cooperation with the District of Columbia’s Metropolitan Police Department.
“Global and local partnerships help the #FBI protect the American people,” the tweet said. “#FBIWFO Assistant Special Agent in Charge Sarah Linden recently graduated from @DCPoliceDept‘s Leadership Academy, where she honed her leadership skills alongside dozens of law enforcement leaders.”
In response, J. Michael Waller, a senior analyst at the Center for Security Policy, replied to the tweet, writing: “Sarah Linden took the kneel for BLM and got promoted to ASAC [assistant special agent in charge] at @FBIWFO.”
Linden’s focus has been counterterrorism. She also has served as an FBI intelligence analyst, working international terrorism investigations in San Francisco and at FBI headquarters.
Linden is a 1998 graduate of Smith College. The college’s website says she majored in comparative linguistics and planned an academic career.
But a part-time job with the FBI “changed the trajectory of her career path,” the Smith College website notes. “Today, Sarah is a supervisory special agent specializing in cases of homegrown violent extremism.”
Linden’s video for Smith College in 2018 was part of a series on careers.
“If you are a Smith student looking to work in the FBI, the advice I would give is to study what you love and be good at thing. Exercise your critical thinking skills,” Linden says in the video, adding about the FBI: “Because when we do hiring, what we are looking for is a diverse workforce with people who have different skills and lots of different dimensions, because that’s what makes us effective is looking like the communities that we represent.”
Oakes, the second agent identified as kneeling during a Black Lives Matter protest, also has worked on counterterrorism investigations.
According to Zoom Info, Oakes has worked for the FBI since at least 2006 and previously was a staff writer for The San Diego Union-Tribune. Little other public information about her appears to be available.
In declining to comment for this report, the FBI’s national press office acknowledged questions from The Daily Signal as to whether two of the agents were properly identified as Linden and Oakes. The bureau also ignored a direct question about wheher the promotions occurred shortly after the agents took a knee, and whether the promotions were related to that incident.
“The FBI declines to comment,” the bureau’s email response says.
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