The FBI is using surveillance and unfounded investigations to intimidate attorneys for 311 Hispanic agents suing the bureau in a class-action discrimination suit, the lawyers charge.
But the FBI's assistant director labels the allegations "outrageous and repugnant."The flurry of charges and counter-charges in court Thursday punctuated the end of the nine-day trial before U.S. District Judge Lucius Bunton, who said he hopes to render a decision by Oct. 1. Almost 100 witnesses testified.
The 311 Hispanic agents joined in the class-action suit contend the FBI discriminates in the promotion, discipline and assignment of Hispanics. They seek unspecified damages and changes in FBI policies.
About 400 - or 4.3 percent - of the FBI's 9,400 agents are Hispanic, compared to about 8 percent of the general population.
The plaintiffs' attorneys, Hugo Rodriguez and Antonio Silva, complained Tuesday and Thursday that the bureau has kept watch on them and possibly begun an investigation to discredit them.
"This is the FBI," said Rodriguez, who resigned from the FBI last year after 18 years. "You've heard witness after witness state that the first rule of the FBI is, `Don't embarrass the bureau.' That's what this case is doing. It's bringing out the dirty laundry of the FBI."
About 40 agents testified that the the bureau transfers Hispanic agents more often to undesirable locations, hands them assignments that are less glamorous or more dangerous, promotes them more slowly and gives them less recognition for their successes.
Witnesses called by the FBI denied the accusations.
Rodriguez and Silva were notified Thursday that the FBI was concerned about a possible security breach in connection with the disappearance of an affidavit from Rodriguez' briefcase July 29. Someone mailed the affidavit to FBI headquarters.
Rodriguez and Silva implied the FBI stole the document so it could start an embarrassing investigation.
But Milt Ahlerich, FBI assistant director for Congressional and public affairs, said the charge was false and denied an investigation resulted from the affidavit's disappearance.
"They're the ones making a veiled allegation of a document being taken from them," he said.