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tv   Book TV  CSPAN  August 8, 2011 6:30am-7:00am EDT

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war on terror. with the changes the president has announced in his national security team, robert mueller still in place, and you make the point he is the longest serving -- been there since 9/11. >> yep. >> and through two presidents and lots of changes. how has the fbi changed?
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>> robert mueller started work september 4, 2001. he was actually sitting in, basically, his first briefing on al-qaeda and the threat of al-qaeda on the morning of 9/11 still getting up to speed on that. and he is now the longest-serving fbi director since j. edgar hoover himself and the last of the president's national security team still in his same job since 9/11. he's on his second president and is about to finish out his ten-year term this september, thept -- september 3, 2011. and what he has done is really remarkable. he's on the cover of "time" magazine this week which is one of the first times he's gotten any recognition for the work he's done sort of leading this evolution of the fbi towards an agency much more focused on counterterrorism and national security than a lot of the traditional crimes we still think of the fbi as being
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involved. in. >> this is what the book looks like, and this is a participatory interview. we'll put the phone numbers on the screen, and our twitter address is at booktv. so get involved with this discussion about the role of the fbi and national security, and we'd very much like to hear there you. first, a detailed question. the fbi director is a ten-year term. what was the thinking on that? >> guest: this was a decision congress made after hoover died in 1972. and hoover just had, as everyone knows, this incredible term. he was fbi director for 48 years from a period three years before charles lindbergh crossed the atlantic until a period three years after we landed on the moon. i mean, just a quarter of all american history he was the fbi director. and after he died there was a decision by congress that no one in a democracy should be able to
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amass the power and the longevity that hoover did. so they instituted this ten-year term. what's been interesting is that since hoover no fbi director has hit that ten-year limit. and i think with robert mueller what we're seeing right now is an almost cal ripken-like record that we have never seen since hoover and are unlikely, i think, ever to see again. mueller was sort of this right mix of a low-profile individual who was very driven, very ambitious but didn't seek out the spotlight. and can was able to weather a lot of controversies and a lot of storms, serve his presidents and his attorneys general well and is on track to leave office in september with what almost everyone seems to think is a very successful ten-year term. >> host: the homeland security concept was created because of the lack of coordination among the agencies, and i'm wondering as you document this growth in
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the role of the fbi in counterterrorism, was that a vacuum that robert mueller jumped in to fill, or was it an intentional division of responsibility? >> guest: it was actually a vacuum that began after the end of the cold war in the late '80s when you had what was sort of referred to in washington as the peace di tend -- dividend, sort of these big reductions in defense spending, big reductions in the intelligence budget. the cia layed off -- laid off thousands of staff and closed many of it overseas stations. and so what ended up happening was that the fbi expanded it in ways that it was not originally set up to do, that it expanded overseas, over the course of the 1990s the cia closed 20 overseas stations, and the fbi opened 22. the fbi has become this huge tool of u.s. foreign policy chasing criminals overseas, chasing terrorists overseas in a way that i don't think that the
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american public really fully recognizes. >> host: in fact, a line from your book that i wrote down was the u.s. will never go to war without an fbi contingent. >> guest: and so after 9/11 you have fbi agents on the ground in afghanistan, in iraq that the fbi now has agents deployed in 80 countries overseas, most of them not in war zones, obviously, but that the fbi has grown this huge international presence such that the bureau now has an overseas force that's about a tenth of the size of the entire u.s. foreign service. >> host: 202-585-3885 is our phone number for you to join in the conversation as we talk about the role of the fbi and specifically this profile contained in the book of robert mueller, the fbi director, finishing up his ten-year term. also great history of the earlier years with j. edgar hoover inside this book if you are an officionado of that period of time in american history. mountain and pacific time zone
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202 585-3886. before we do more detail on what the fbi role has become, how did this book come about? >> guest: it actually grew out of a piece i had written in 2008 profiling director mueller. as i said, he's kept this remarkably low profile. he gives very few interviews, doesn't really like press conferences, doesn't really do the sunday talk show circuit in washington, and what struck me as i got in to covering him and writing about him was that the fbi that existed in my mind from pop culture, the hoover-era bank robberies, kidnappings, john dillinger, bonnie and clyde that this really wasn't what the fbi did anymore. that it had grown into what i argue in the book was the fist global police force -- first global police force. and they're engaged in kidnappings in africa and gangs in central america.
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the fbi under robert mueller actually has worked its first case out of antarctica, and all of this national security work, all of this counterterrorism work has received very little attention, certainly compared to since 9/11 all that's been written about the cia or war in iraq or the war in afghanistan. that actually the lead agency in the u.s. war on terror is, in many ways, the fbi. >> host: and has this come at the expense of the white collar crime that they were so heavily involved in? >> guest: it has. and that's been something that mueller and the bureau and eric holder and the department of justice have been working on over the last couple of years. there has been this repriorityization has been, i think by most accounts, pretty devastating to the bureau in terms of white collar fraud, in terms of kidnapping, in the terms of what they call the drug enterprise cases, the bigger
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drug cases they work. one of the clearest causes of the fbi's repriorityization has come along the southern border where mueller pulled 2,000 agents away from the crisis along the border. and if you look at that over the last decade, the rise in violence in mexico among the drug cartels matches pretty closely the disappearance of those 2,000 agents. >> host: what has congress' reaction been to that? >> guest: well, in many ways as much as the fbi has grown in terms of national security, that has mostly been at the expense of pulling agents out of the criminal division. and many of those agents have not been in government terms back filled. the fbi has not been hiring new agents at the pace that it's been redeploying agents within the system. so this is something that i think congress is beginning to take a little bit more seriously. joe biden, actually, when he was
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in the senate pushed for hiring a thousand new fbi agents to sort of try to back fill some of that criminal work. but in some of the budgets during the bush administration the fbi, for instance, would only get one, two, three new agents. >> host: we did learn a lot in the years after 9/11 about the antiquated computer system inside the fbi and the frustration that agents would have with getting, sharing basic information among agencies and within their own. there's a lot of money that's been put after that. is the system working well for the agents now? >> guest: it's gotten a lot better, but that is, to a certain extent, a relative measurement. in the summer of 2001 during the run-up to 9/11 when the bureau was desperately chasing al-qaeda knowing that a plot was afoot, in san francisco they intercepted an e-mail and had no way to transfer that e-mail securely to the case agents in
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new york who were working it. so an fbi agent ended up having disk, get on a plane, fly commercially to new york and hand deliver the disk in the summer of 2001 in order to pass it just between the fbi themself. so they're doing a lot better than that. there's still a long ways that the bureau has to come to catch up from its sort of missteps in information technology. and i think one of the things that the bureau has not been investing in the enough is the rising threat of cyber crime, that we are underinvesting in cyber crime-related issues this decade the same way we were underinvesting in terrorism in the 1990s. >> host: and are we likely to learn about that and deploy funds after the fact? >> guest: i think, unfortunately, that's going to be the case. one of the challenges of the way that we treat the fbi in the united states is that the fbi
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since hoover's days has fought public enemy number one. it fights the thing that we as a nation are most afraid of. you know, from bank robbers and kidnappers in the 1930s to nazi saboteurs in the '50s to the communist sympathizers in the '50s to you have in the '60s the ku klux klan and all of that and the weather underground of the black panthers and so on and so forth. what that also means is the fbi has a very hard time being forward looking because if we're not afraid of it as a nation, it's not necessarily something we're going to fund them to chase. >> host: we're going to mix in questions from our viewers. your camera's right oh there. let's -- over there. let's begin with omaha. you're on the air with garrett graff. >> caller: yeah, i was wonder oring if you could tell me of the fbi's involvement with the atf. they were reported to have lost
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several automatic weapons to mexican drug cartels, and i was just wondering what the involvement is with the fbi and the atf. >> host: thank you. >> guest: the fbi and the atf continue to have, despite i think what you will hear from executives, a very difficult working relationship in many instances. they serve together on some task forces, but it is something that you see a lot of the bureau on the case level really still struggling with. >> host: next is a telephone call from denver. you're on for garrett graff as we talk about the fbi. go ahead, caller. >> caller: yes. quick story and then a comment. >> host: okay. >> caller: i was on a chat room shortly after the election. there was somebody on there who came very, very close to physical threat against president obama. i called the fbi to find out if they monitor chat rooms, and i called three times. they eventually called me back,
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asked me why i was asking, gave me -- we had quite a conversation, and they said, yes, they do monitor chat rooms. so i was very surprised. >> host: and did you have a question besides that comment? >> caller: just that. it's that kind of -- is that kind of transparency surprising to the author? >> host: the fact that they answered her question? >> guest: yeah. you also raised this other interesting point in this which is the fbi -- and i sort of trace this through in the book. we have this pendulum in the unite that swings back and -- in the united states that swings back and forth between civil liberties and national security. so one of the challenges that the fbi has historically struggled with is how much to do thing like monitor chat rooms, to send informants into mosques, to try to uncover plots and threats in advance. and that this has been a big
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push for robert mueller since 9/11, to prevent attacks from happening, to be proactive. and you'll hear fbi agents and executives talk about this all the time, but at the same time we as a nation, i think, are very uncomfortable with the idea of the fbi monitoring protests with sort of them watching anti-government groups who haven't necessarily committed a crime. and that every couple of years you do see these scandals where the fbi ends up monitoring sort of the wrong group and getting caught up with sort of innocent americans sort of wrongly swept up in these fbi dragnets. but at the same time when we say we don't want the next attack to happen, what that ends up meaning is you have to be able to be there to stop the plot in advance. >> host: we're here at the l.a. times festival of books, and this is the book we're talking about with garrett graff, "the
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threat matrix." garrett graff is the kind of writer that you think, where do you get all that time? [laughter] in addition to two years in the making of this book with lots of research and details, you can tell from the footnotes and the index. he also is the editor of a well-read magazine in washington, the washingtonian. he teaches internet and social media courses at georgetown and is a regular political commentator. how do you fit that all in? >> guest: it's a lot of early mornings. l i wrote the book mostly sitting at a coffee shop between the hours of 6 a.m. and 8 a.m. >> host: what kind of access did you get from the fbisome. >> guest: i actually got remarkably good access, i think. i demonstrated over the course of two years of working on this that i was taking it seriously, that i was sort of thinking about this and trying to understand the work that they were doing. and i think, unfortunately, in the media that's relatively rare for a government agency like the
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fbi to have journalists who have the time to devote to really sort of delving into issues. i certainly didn't have them answer all of my questions, but i ended up interviewing about 180 people for the book, most of them current or former fbi officials. and within the bureau the fbi did make available to me over the course of the book every single person that i asked to speak with. >> host: reno is up next as we talk about the fbi. you're on the air, caller. >> caller: hello? >> host: yes. your question. >> caller: yes. my question and combined comment, what about did the gentleman comment on the fbi after hoover? because when hoover passed away watergate was about ready to snowball on, in to the media, and the subsequent consequences
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of watergate and how it interacted or how the fbi interacted with all of that kind of events? thank you. >> guest: yeah. this is, actually, a great story and one that really surprised me as i got into this. i set out to tell the story of the fbi since 9/11, and what i discovered is as i got into this i actually needed to start much further back and that one of the things that fascinated me was that where the fbi was on 9/11, actually, the foundation for that was laid in the wake of hoover. he is, as susan is showing, the first picture in the book because the fbi still is very focused on sort of the legacy left to it by hoover. and, in fact, in the wake of hoover's death you had all of these scandals come out, the so-called co-intel probe scandals, the fbi's what one
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might nicely call extralegal surveillance programs aimed at groups like the domestic terror groups, the earth underground and the -- the weather underground and the black panthers and also people like the reverend martin luther king jr. so one of the things that sort of comes out of this is this new set of guidelines of how to conduct surveillance on domestic groups. now, what's interesting is that the man who is in charge of setting that up at the department of justice is someone named alan cornbloom who ends up in the summer of 2001 still the person enforcing the rules that keep the fbi, the fbi agents in new york who are working al-qaeda from being told by the cia that there are al-qaeda operatives working within the united states. these two men, of course, end up being two of the 9/11 hijackers. but that this tension over how
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you create an environment where the fbi is not wrongly persecuting innocent americans who have not done things wrong ends up creating exactly the environment in the 1990s that leads the fbi, i think, to underprosecute and underpursue terrorism. >> host: massachusetts is up next. your question. sorry, let me -- i've got the wrong order. montana caller, you are on the air. >> caller: i enjoy watching "criminal minds" on tv, and it's supposed to be based on the behavioral analysis unit of the fbi. i wondered if they did work with the agency itself and use dramatic versions of their cases sometimes? >> guest: yeah. "criminal minds" is in many ways an accurate representation of the work that the behavioral
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analysis unit does. it's an elite group of profilers based at quantico where the fbi academy and laboratory is. one of the things that's sort of wrong about the show, understandably for dramatic reasons, is that very rarely do those behavioral analysis officials or sort of profilers end up actually deploying to the scene of an evolving crime. they're often called in remotely via conference calls or sort of examine cases over a long period of time. they're not often on the front lines of solving a breaking, evolving crime in the way that they are for "criminal minds." >> host: just basic statistics, how many fbi personnel are there? >> guest: the total staff is about 34,000 of which about 14,000 of those are fbi agents, the special agents that we sort of think of as making up the bulk of the fbi. and what's interesting as i was
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talking about earlier in terms of the fbi's growth after 9/11, that's actually only about 3,000 more agents than there were on 9/11. and that much of that, that's a much smaller percentage of growth than what you have seen in a lot of the other agencies that have been sort of tasked with counterterrorism and national security since 9/11. and it's really striking to me. britain, for instance, when they really refocused their agencies on counterterrorism, doubled the size of their agent deployed to that. the fbi, we only gave them about 3,000 extra personnel nationwide. >> host: what's the budget? >> guest: the fbi's budget is about $9 billion which in sort of corporate terms puts it about on the scale of ebay and larger than many companies like visa. i mean, it is a big, you know, fortune 300 entity, you know,
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operations in 80 countries overseas and, you know, a big, global footprint just like any big multi-national corporation these days. >> host: and here's a factoid that you report that surprised me. in 2010 "businessweek"'s hottest employees, the fbi came in third behind google and disney. >> guest: yep. and robert mueller sort of teases that he's not sure he will ever overtake mickey mouse and theiphone and google. but this is an agency that has a very, very intense cameras ri -- camaraderie and one with a very intense set of values, fidelity, integrity and bravery, the fbi motto, in a way that you don't see in many american constitutions anymore. >> host: now massachusetts, you're on the air. >> guest: i lived in the sat for eight year, so i kind of know a little bit about you and your
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dad. well, i know your dad. anyway, speaking of, like you said, in the '90s they expanded in all these different countries. i don't recall having, seeing any hearings or reading about any hearings in the congress about this. and most of these companies, are they receptive to the fbi being there, or could you tell me about that? >> guest: yeah. you raise two very interesting points in this. the first being i think one of the things that's interesting about the fbi's budget is it is micromanaged in a way unlike many other government entities and certainly like the intelligence community that has sort of the so-called black budgets where no one really knows where a lot of the money goes. the fbi sort of agent by agent is broken down in the appropriations budget that comes through congress. and so all of these expansions overseas, you know, point by point have been approved by congress and appropriateed the funds by congress. but i think you raise the larger
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question that i don't think we have really had which is that i don't think the american people fully understand how much of a global role the fbi now has. and that's one of the things that i really tried to set out to tell in the book. now, the sort of second point about the fbi and the counterterrorism mission and all of that, i think that this is something else that we are still really, really struggling with. >> host: los angeles, where we are right now, is our next caller. scwhrk thanks for taking my call. i just wanted to find out, did you talk about the main motivation for 9/11 which was u.s. support for israel as page 147 of the 9/11 commission report conveys? khalid sheikh mohammed, who's currently in kwan tan mow bay, of course, had conveyed that, and i'm willing to bet you didn't bring that up in your book. and lastly, about the dancing israelis on 9/11 that the fbi
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arrested that were, basically, doing surveillance? i'm just saying they knew about 9/11 ahead of time, and the fbi arrested these israelis as they looked at the burning twin towers, and they're holding up cigarette lighters -- >> guest: well, i ended up not doing so much about al-qaeda and its background because that story has been very well told in "the looming tower" by lawrence wright as well as, of course, by the 9/11 commission report. i was trying to set out to tell the u.s. response from the fbi's standpoint about the way that the bureau has evolved both before and after 9/11. >> host: that caller specifically is someone critical of u.s. policy towards israel, as you could tell from his remarks. can you talk a little bit about the fbi and its relationship with israeli security? >> guest: the fbi does work -- the fbi has a different role as a law enforcement agency than an intelligence agency like the cia
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overseas. and so one of the things, and this was raised by the previous caller, of course, as well that the fbi in many ways has an ability when it goes into a foreign country to be more open, you know, sort of the fbi is investigating crimes. it's doing this openly with an aim towards prosecuting in an open courtroom. and so the fbi is not going in undercover. it's not going in to conduct espionage on a host government. and so the fbi is able to work very closely with the host governments when it opens these offices, and it is able in many ways to develop sort of a healthier relationship than the cia is able to do. so in some cases the fbi ends up being welcomed into areas that the cia is asked not to touch overseas. >> host: it's hard to believe that half an hour's long in the television time, but this is a 600-page book and very complex
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and covers many decades of the fbi's history since its founding. and is i want to tell you that garrett graff's in an event that we covered on the web site if you'd like more detail. this, again, the book is called "the threat matrix." i want to thank you for being here. this is tough, but what's the most interesting and surprising thing you found in the course of writing this? >> guest: i guess one of the things that really surprised me is that the fbi has actually done a better job than i think we thought it was or at least what i thought it was going in. the fbi in many respects since 9/11 has carved a different path from the cia and the dod, and it has refused to participate in the enhanced interrogations, the extraordinary renditions, the domestic surveillance programs of the nsa. so the fbi has ended up sort of being very bound by its constitutional responsibilities
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to protect and serve. >> host: can he be reappointed, mr. mueller? >> guest: it would take a special act of congress to extend his term, something i don't think we're going to see. >> host: thank you for your
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>> my wife and i live in tulsa where there's plenty of water and woods. it is a very green place but like the rest of this nation it has been stricken. temperatures in triple digits for many days and that is the way it has been most of the summer because we are in the last leg of this national book tour and we have been all over the country. deep into the eastern ud


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