A former top FBI official found by the Justice Department’s watchdog to have leaked secretive investigation details to journalists likely spent thousands on online reputation services just before an inspector general’s report about him was released.
Bryan Paarmann, 53, former deputy assistant director of the FBI’s international operations division from 2016 to 2017, likely paid more than $5,000 to Net Reputation, which says its purpose is to help customers “take control of your online reputation” by “working with the most trusted team in the reputation industry.”
The former counterterrorism special agent appears to have paid the business to build him a website that praises him for his decadeslong career at the FBI and to write and promote a similarly effusive article about him.
A Net Reputation sales representative told the Washington Examiner a basic website similar to Paarmann’s, with blog posts, a contact page, and a place for photos, would likely cost $3,500 to $4,500 and would take one or two months to build. Another sales representative estimated a ghost-written article and press release of the sort Paarmann appears to have paid for would likely cost an additional $1,000.
Paarmann’s identity was revealed in a 21-page report obtained through a Freedom of Information Act request last Friday. DOJ Inspector General Michael Horowitz determined Paarmann “improperly disclosed court-sealed and law enforcement sensitive information to the media,” in violation of FBI rules.
The incident is part of what Horowitz’s lengthy June 2018 report called the FBI’s “culture of unauthorized media contacts.” Although the new report is heavily redacted, the Washington Examiner was able to identify one of the journalists Paarmann allegedly leaked to — Del Wilber of the Los Angeles Times — and three articles by the reporter about Orlando Pulse nightclub shooter Omar Mateen, Dallas cop killer Micah Johnson, and Russian hacker Yevgeniy Nikulin.
The DOJ decided not to prosecute Paarmann.
“I gave 35 years of faithful and devoted service to this nation, and never did I give classified or investigatively sensitive information to the press,” Paarmann told the Washington Examiner. “I never endangered a prosecution and only did what I believed my superiors had tasked me with.”
After initially agreeing to talk, Paarmann then declined to answer the Washington Examiner, saying: “I do not wish to speak further. That chapter is over in my life.”
Paarmann’s website, BryanPaarmannFBI.com, states it was designed and developed by Net Reputation in 2019. Its blog archives include posts from as late as last November and as recently as Monday.
The posts, written in third person, include sentences such as, “Bryan Paarmann is protective of his country and is a proud American. In many ways, he has faithfully and honorably served his homeland,” and, “Bryan Paarmann has excellent leadership skills and a steadfast allegiance to the United States.” The post from Monday says, “Although he has more than done his part to selflessly serve his nation and people, he is committed to a lifetime of service.” Many of the blog posts were also posted on Parmann’s recently created Medium page.
The photo section of his website includes pictures of Paarmann smiling with President George W. Bush and Republican Sen. Mitt Romney of Utah, as well as a photo of him as a younger, much slimmer, man in uniform, when Paarmann was a West Point graduate and U.S. Army officer.
The early November press release says it was authored by “Caroline Hunter” at Web Presence, which is one of the names Net Reputation operates under. The article contains nearly identical language as the website’s posts, including, “After three decades of selfless service to the nation, Bryan Paarmann nobly retired from his FBI role as an expert counterterrorism practitioner and a leader in the effort to keep America safe.”
It was picked up by several websites, including Maryland-based WBOC-TV in late November and two separate Yahoo Finance pieces, one in early November and another just days ago, which was given the headline, “Bryan Paarmann, Retired FBI Agent, Served As a Crisis Manager in Major Terrorism Events for Nearly 10 Years.”
By Monday evening, the third item about him on Google News was a Presswire article by “Caroline Hunter” with the headline: “Bryan Paarmann FBI Continues to Serve His Country Through Educational Engagements and Professional Networks.”
Horowitz’s team reviewed Paarmann’s communications from 2012 through 2017, which showed “extensive contacts” with members of the media, especially in 2016 and early 2017, laying out interactions with at least six reporters. These contacts included hundreds of texts, calls, and emails; over a dozen rounds of golf; private drinks and dinners; a media member’s housewarming party where Paarmann brought wine as a gift; and a $225-ticket dinner free of charge thanks to a member of the media, in violation of FBI rules.