FBI director James Comey was on hand for the groundbreaking of the agency's new Boston headquarters on March 7. With Comey pushing back against President Donald Trump’s questionable tweet claiming that the Obama White House had bugged his phones during the election, and with Trump publicly disagreeing with that assessment, the audience waited eagerly to hear what the FBI director had to say.
When Comey came to the podium at the agency’s new headquarters in Chelsea, he seemed clearly aware of the audience’s expectations.
“I think right at the beginning I should hit an issue that I know is on the minds of many and that is controversial, so I should speak to it directly," Comey said. "I am a New York Giants fan…and I find it painful to walk around this state of the art facility and see reminders of how great the New England Patriots are as a football team.”
Comey’s light-hearted comment was greeted with laughter from many and stern silence from others in the audience of politicians, law enforcement officials and community representatives. And so, after the ribbon cutting, it was left to Boston special agent in charge Hank Shaw to address the issues at the FBI. I asked Shaw to comment on morale within the agency considering the multiple controversies swirling around the director, including his contentious action in announcing days before the election that that the FBI was again investigating Hillary Clinton. Shaw said there was no morale problem within the FBI.
“The way we look at it we’re an apolitical organization," Shaw said. "We march forward to be able to counter any number of different threats in front of us.”
Comey — who stands six-foot-eight—literally towered over everyone else on stage at the new FBI office in Chelsea. He thanked Governor Charlie Baker, praised the developer and complimented the local team of agents. But he remained silen on Trump’s wiretapping accusations against former President Obama when a reporter shouted the question, “Were Donald Trump’s phones tapped?” Comey’s only response was, “Thanks for coming today.”
The Boston FBI’s new headquarters has been 11 years in the making and will focus heavily on cyber security, among other federal priorities. Chelsea residents hope the new building project will help revitalize their city.
Alan Alpert, Chelsea’s director of emergency management, explained one of the selling points in getting the FBI to move here.
“We always said that we have something Boston doesn’t offer, and that’s a view of Boston," Alpert said. "And being in Chelsea, we’re closer to downtown Boston than 80 percent of the city of Boston.”
Chelsea Council President Leo Robinson said, standing in the lobby of the new FBI building, that it is one of several projects helping to remake the city.
“We’re going to have six hotels in 1.8 square miles," Robinson said. "The Mystic Mall has three acres, [and] we just built two residential buildings. There are 500 employees in this building alone that will add to our economy.”
Robinson said many FBI employees will be shopping here and some will even be living in Chelsea not far from their new headquarters.