The Oath with Chuck Rosenberg
Frank Figliuzzi: The FBI Way
Chuck Rosenberg: Frank Figliuzzi, welcome to The Oath.
Frank Figliuzzi: It's my pleasure to be here, Chuck, thanks for having me.
Chuck Rosenberg: It's a pleasure to have you. Where do you grew up, Frank?
Frank Figliuzzi: I grew up in a little town in southern Connecticut called New Fairfield.
Chuck Rosenberg: Is that where your parents are from?
Frank Figliuzzi: My parents came from New York, both--Mount Vernon was on my mom's side and the Bronx on my father's side. And my father had spent time in the Army Corps of Engineers in the military came out. This was during the Korean conflict. He was always careful to say that he didn't, he didn't see any conflict. He was building things, he was a draftsman, built a lot of buildings on military bases, etcetera. But when he came out of there, he returned home to New York and eventually met my mother.
Chuck Rosenberg: And how about your mom? Tell us a little bit about her.
Frank Figliuzzi: She was a nurse early in her career, then became a homemaker for much of her later life.
Chuck Rosenberg: And you have a younger brother?
Frank Figliuzzi: Yeah, I've got a brother who is six years junior to me. And that was that was just I found that to be a significant age difference. And it's funny now as adults how I think we're drawing closer, perhaps than we ever were as kids.
Chuck Rosenberg: What does your brother do?
Frank Figliuzzi: Well, he, you know, we're reaching the age now where the "R word:" retirement has crept into both of our vocabularies, although not really much so--we've both found other careers. He was, for many, many years, he was an executive with Cigna health care, but he's chosen to pursue a path in the ministry after his corporate life. And of course, I, I've found a couple of careers after my life in the FBI. So we joke about the word retirement, but it's something other than the bulk of your, your career.
Chuck Rosenberg: And Frank, you're actually named after your dad.
Frank Figliuzzi: Yep, I'm a junior, his full name was Cesare Frank Figliuzzi. in the small town we were in that caused some confusion. And ultimately, I took on my middle name for use, and it's--I think it's made things much easier.
Chuck Rosenberg: So, he went by Cesare, and you went by Frank.
Frank Figliuzzi: Yes.
Chuck Rosenberg: Now you tell a wonderful story, in your new book, "The FBI Way," about writing a letter to the Special Agent in Charge of the New Haven Connecticut office of the FBI, when you were just 11 years old?
Frank Figliuzzi: Yeah, it was pretty cool. You know, I grew up in that New York media market, Southern Connecticut was very much part of the greater New York media market. And I'd read the newspaper or see the New York City news and saw the FBI taking down mob families and doing really cool things. And so, I said, "Hey, that looks really interesting." I wrote a letter to the Special Agent in Charge of the New Haven field office. And lo and behold, I get a response. And it--to this day, it looks like a real signature by the SEC at the time, you know, wasn't one of these pen machines or anything. And he said, "Hey, thanks for your interest. I hope it works out. Here's what you got to do to grow up and be an FBI agent." And he threw a pamphlet in there. And lo and behold, it actually happened.
Chuck Rosenberg: You still have that letter, Frank?
Frank Figliuzzi: I think I do. I think I have a packed away in boxes. And I can remember the Special Agent in Charge at the time. His first name was Lon or Alonzo. And he was kind of a legend in his time, and I thought it was pretty neat to get to get that from him.
Chuck Rosenberg: I actually think it's a wonderful lesson for life that this man took the time to write back to a little kid and encouraged him to, you know, pursue his dream, when very easily he could have ignored your letter.
Frank Figliuzzi: Yeah, he could have either ignored it or simply sluffed it off to an applicant coordinator or a member of the clerical staff to respond. But that has stuck with me, Chuck, I call timeout whenever a young person sends me an inquiry about the FBI or a career in the FBI. And I spend almost an inordinate time--I think sometimes they may wish that I would that I would stop talking. But I respond to those inquiries, because I think it's important, and that's what somebody did for me.
Chuck Rosenberg: Right. And the way you pay him back is by doing it for others.
Frank Figliuzzi: That's my feeling. And I actually have helped steer some folks into the FBI. And I've talked some young people out of the FBI,
Chuck Rosenberg: Both equally valuable.
Frank Figliuzzi: Yeah. Because look, one of the things I emphasize with young people who are thinking about it is this is not another career choice. This is a vocation. It's a calling. And if you don't understand that, you're going to be making a mistake.
Chuck Rosenberg: And you had the calling as a little kid.
Frank Figliuzzi: Well, at least I thought I did, right. And over the years, I always had a, I always had a plan B because I knew it was incredibly competitive to get into the FBI. I mean, look, kids want to be firefighters, astronauts, and what have you, and this was kind of in that category as far as I was concerned. So I thought, well, how do you go about doing this? And at that time, you know, Chuck, it was really a lot of lawyers and accountants. So I decided I'd go to law school. And I did, I went to university Connecticut Law School. I actually interviewed with district attorney's offices, I got offers from the city of Philadelphia and Nassau County, Long Island to become an assistant DA with them. But I had done something relatively new to the FBI during my last summer in law school, which was, I was selected to be an honors intern for the summer at FBI headquarters in Washington. And that absolutely hooked me. So in choosing between what those two DA offices told me, which was, "you're going to be spending a lot of time in the law library writing briefs and motions, you're probably not going to get a felony trial for a year." And then the FBI saying, "here's a badge, a gun, and a stack of cases for you to solve." I went with the bureau.
Chuck Rosenberg: So if I'm understanding you right, you actually went to law school because that was one of the things that the FBI was looking for in new applicants at the time, like you said, either a law degree or a background in accounting.
Frank Figliuzzi: Being a lawyer was a Plan B, for me, Plan A was that was the--that was the quickest route, I could figure out on how to get into the FBI at that time. Now, you also know that today, today's FBI has entirely different critical needs. And I often wonder whether I would even get into it.
Chuck Rosenberg: I hope you would, Frank.
Frank Figliuzzi: Yeah, it was a great adventure and a great career. But I don't, I don't speak Farsi or Urdu, nor am I into the hard sciences, nor do I have a military tactical background. But yeah, I'd like to think I'd have something to contribute.
Chuck Rosenberg: So shortly after graduating from law school, you ended up at the FBI Academy as part of new agent class 87-16. What are those numbers mean?
Frank Figliuzzi: Yeah, you never forget your class number, nor your classmates. And that's a very simple numerical designation for 1987. And the 16th class of 1987. So we were 87-16.
Chuck Rosenberg: You like the academy?
Frank Figliuzzi: You know, the short answer is absolutely. Look, when you've been since age 11, when you've been thinking about getting somewhere and doing something, and it's finally happening, and you're in the middle of it, you're, you're going on pure adrenaline, trying to get it right, simultaneously thrilled that you're there, while also worrying that you're going to pass every test and every fitness qualification and firearms qualification while you're there.
Chuck Rosenberg: And everybody, I'm told, struggles with something at the FBI Academy. What did you struggle with?
Frank Figliuzzi: Oh, yeah, so that's easy for me. It wasn't the academics, which are rigorous, by the way. We had a lawyer in my class who flunked the legal to exam, so anybody who thinks they're going to skate through academics is wrong. But--and firearms was great for me because they could shape and mold me I had very little familiarity with firearms. So I was a good student there, the PT and defensive tactics was I thought was fun and part of learning how to save yourself. But here's, here's where I struggled, and that is I when it comes to distance running, I might as well have a piano on my back. So, I sprinted in high school, I'm a decent sprinter, but I consider anything over one mile to be, to be long distance. And that was no fun.
Chuck Rosenberg: But you got through it.
Frank Figliuzzi: I got through it because of some great instructors, some great personal drive, and then teammates, classmates that simply cheered each other on throughout the whole thing.
Chuck Rosenberg: There was a test at the time that you were a new agent trainee, called the trigger pull, no longer required at the FBI Academy, but you wrote about it in your book, and I was hoping you would talk a little bit about it here.
Frank Figliuzzi: Early in the book, I absolutely give some insights into what life at Quantico is like and, and very early in the book I talked about how the bureau starts imprinting its own code of conduct on you from day one. And so, I give the example of like day two at the Academy where we all had to do this trigger pull test. At the time, FBI agents carried very heavy 357 Magnum revolvers, they're fully loaded, they're well over two pounds and you may think "that doesn't sound very heavy," but it is if you're, if you're, if you're shooting all day, and it is if you're under stress, and you've got to extend your arms out and hold this thing and fire accurately. So, on about day one or day two, they start making sure that we can do left handed and right-handed dry firing--no bullets in the gun, just arms extended firing for--Oh gosh, I think in the book I, I clocked it at 25-30 seconds. And if you can do that, you're good to go for the range and you should have already passed this test in the field when you were applying before they sent you to Quantico, well guess what? Many folks in the class weren't able to handle that test. And the next day, we show up for class in the morning, and those people are gone, empty seats. we later found out that this wasn't so much about those folks and their inability to handle the test, but it was about the applicant recruiters back in the field offices, who had the audacity to try and make their numbers for recruitment and send these people forward without having passed that test. So it was sending a message to all of us that holy cow, you, you got to get this right, ethically, but also, if you screw up, you're going to pay the consequences for it.
Chuck Rosenberg: And in this case, the folks who paid the consequence immediately, were your classmates, but I imagined the applicant recruiters got the message too.
Frank Figliuzzi: Yeah, I found out later on from the Training Unit chief that he wasn't very pleased with those individuals and they didn't make their numbers, those applicants didn't count for credit in terms of their recruitment numbers.
Chuck Rosenberg: Because they weren't ready.
Frank Figliuzzi: Exactly, yeah
Chuck Rosenberg: Now, at Quantico as a new agent trainee, that's also the first time you take the oath.
Frank Figliuzzi: It is and it's a solemn moment, you really take it twice at the Academy, you take it on day one with your entire class, and then, you take it on graduation day, again, with your entire class and I it has deep meaning to me. And I have to tell you, moving forward, as I went up the management ranks, there were many, many occasions where I was required to swear in and give the--administer the oath to Task Force officers, local state county police officers who we deputized as part of FBI task forces. And I took it very, very seriously. And I know that those officers did as well.
Chuck Rosenberg: Now, Frank, you graduate from Quantico, and like all new agents, you're not exactly sure where the FBI is going to send you, only that you agree to go wherever they say. And then in your case, they said Atlanta.
Frank Figliuzzi: They sure did. They took a Connecticut Yankee, and they sent, I was on--I was married. We, my wife and I married my second year in law school. In fact, she became part of the application process, because, as I described in the book, a female agent came to our apartment and, and said, "I don't want to talk to you, Frank, I want to talk to your wife," and sat her down and made sure that she understood that she was signing up for the Bureau too, that this was going to require assignment anywhere the bureau needed us. And she was all on board for that. But yeah, you open an envelope in front of your class, Chuck. For us, it was like week five, I think, you open the envelope, and it's a, and I--somebody took a photo of me as--I think it was probably one of the class counselors, took a photo of me opening it up, the Connecticut Yankee hadn't traveled much. And I'm going to, you know, the deep south, I thought I was going to another planet. And in some ways, culturally, I was.
Chuck Rosenberg: Now you get to list the places you'd like to go. You also have to put on the list places you don't want to go. In fact, you have to list all of the field offices. Do you recall where Atlanta was on your list?
Frank Figliuzzi: Yeah, boy, you know, that's a cruel process that they do for you. My recollection is that Atlanta was in the bottom half, middle to bottom half of my preference. Yeah, indeed. But look, as I tell young people, you're in for a penny in for a pound. And I wouldn't take back anything about any of my assignments anywhere in the country.
Chuck Rosenberg: What did you work on in Atlanta?
Frank Figliuzzi: They assigned me to a squad--back then remember, this is pre-9/11. So, the national security of the work of the FBI, the counterterrorism work, particularly was lumped in with other things. So, we had a squad that did counterterrorism, counterintelligence, and civil rights. And I was on that spot. Now, you can imagine, Atlanta covers the entire state of Georgia. That's the largest state east of the Mississippi River. And we had civil rights, counterterrorism and counterintelligence for that large state. And I got heavily into counter Intel right there in Atlanta.
Chuck Rosenberg: Something you had been exposed to before, or was this all new for you?
Frank Figliuzzi: Absolutely zero exposure to it. And for me, it was like a sophisticated chess game with a very smart adversary, multiple adversaries, obviously. This is all about countering the efforts of foreign intelligence services operating inside the United States. I was able to do some creative things. You know, there's really two kinds of offices in the FBI when it comes to counterintelligence. There's what we call the establishment offices, meaning they have major diplomatic establishments. They have embassies and consulates that that House Foreign spies inside them.
Chuck Rosenberg: So, for instance, Washington DC, New York, San Francisco.
Frank Figliuzzi: Exactly. So, you've got, you can actually point to a building and say, there's spies in there, right. They're operating undercover as diplomats, but there's real card-carrying intelligence officers in that building. That's not true for the other offices, and it certainly wasn't true for Atlanta. You have to make it happen in counterintelligence work there, you've got to find the spy, right? It's kind of like a game of Where's Waldo on a global level. And you've got to find their targets in your territory, and you've got to draw them out, and you've got to neutralize them. I had tremendous fun and some success doing that.
Chuck Rosenberg: So, without giving away trade secrets, which I know you're not allowed to give away, how do you find a spy, and how do you find their target?
Frank Figliuzzi: Well, there's a number of ways to do this, you have to look at certain groups, you know, it's kind of a watering hole mentality. Where are they most likely to be? They're certainly--for some countries, it's a graduate student research population. For other countries. It's certain visitors, tourists, or business people who get embedded in key companies. But one of the best ways to do it, Chuck is to go where you think they're headed, meaning the watering hole. What is it that they're after in your territory. So, if you've got, for example, a very attractive military base with some really sensitive things going on, you can rest assured that a foreign adversary is going to be targeting that place. So, if you set up the traps correctly, if you dangle certain people, assets, right, double agents in front of them, they may bite on that. And it's your job to figure that out, how you can draw them in, and how you can identify and neutralize them.
Chuck Rosenberg: So military installations make sense. I imagine research universities would be a watering hole.
Frank Figliuzzi: Yeah, look, post-Cold War, if there is any such thing, there was an entire shift in counter intelligence that I became a part of which was, look, it was no longer all about military secrets, it was about economic secrets. And in fact, after Atlanta, I headed to a brand-new unit at headquarters called the Economic Espionage Unit. So, today, it's as much about secrets to business strategies, formulas. You know, I worked a case in San Francisco where they stole the secret to the Pentium Chip at Intel Corporation. So it's that and but the methodology stays the same, Chuck, find out what's being targeted, go there, find the spy, neutralize the spy.
Chuck Rosenberg: You tell a wonderful story about a quote, unquote drop everything case that you got as a young agent in Atlanta, in the counterintelligence realm. What happened?
Frank Figliuzzi: Yeah, young agent, Atlanta, Georgia. My squad supervisor says, hey, Buck Revell, who at the time, was an executive assistant director over all investigative operations. He's on the secure line, wants to talk to you. And this never happens.
Chuck Rosenberg: So he's a very senior FBI agent and--you got to imagine, Frank, Buck Revell doesn't call Frank Figliuzzi very often.
Frank Figliuzzi: Never, and it doesn't happen. And I knew the name, and I knew that this, this probably wouldn't end well, because I was either in big trouble, or there was going to be tremendous pressure to solve something immediately. And, and in fact, that's the category fell into there was tremendous pressure to sell something immediately. So I get on the line. He basically says, "Look, there's been, there's been a murder in Atlanta, it was actually just outside Atlanta. We think there may have been, this may have been an act of terrorism on US soil. You know, get your button gear, get to the police department, and figure out what happened." And indeed, there had been a murder. It had been not an act of terrorism, but it had been committed by a code clerk in a foreign embassy in another city, who had been recruited by the FBI. And he had traveled to Atlanta and murdered his wife. But the problem is at the same time, since he had fled the scene, his own country had figured out that he had been working for the FBI. And we were now in a race to find him. We were either going to find him or they were going to find their code clerk. And as I described in the book, they won the race.
Chuck Rosenberg: What is the code clerk? And why is it so important for you to find him first?
Frank Figliuzzi: If you're going to strategize about who you would want to recruit to work for the United States, inside the US diplomatic establishments, you might say, oh, well, you'd want the ambassador recruited, wouldn't you? Or you'd want the defense attaché, they've got all the secrets. But you'd be missing a major player in that establishment. And that major player would be the guy who literally sees all the secrets because he handles all the encrypted traffic in and out of that embassy or consulate. That's your code clerk. That's gold for counterintelligence folks, in terms of recruitment. The bureau had recruited this code clerk. The only problem is, he had decided to kill his wife. And his country found him before we found him when he fled that murder scene. And they did something that really is the stuff of movies, they grabbed him off the street in a major American city, drugged him, put them on a commercial flight out of Dulles Airport, and took them home, never to be seen again.
Chuck Rosenberg: For the cops who found the murdered woman, it must have come as a bit of a surprise, as good as they are as homicide detectives, to learn that there was a connection to the FBI into the counterintelligence world.
Frank Figliuzzi: Yeah, these were seasoned homicide detectives, but they certainly I don't think, had ever seen this kind of foreign intrigue attached to a homicide outside of Atlanta, Georgia. So, they caught on pretty quickly. I couldn't share all the classified details with them, but they understood that we were now in a race to find him and bring him to justice versus his own country finding him and bringing him to their own kind of justice. And ultimately, we learned that he went back home and met his demise for having worked for the United States.
Chuck Rosenberg: Did you ever figure out why he killed his wife?
Frank Figliuzzi: When I saw the crime scene, I knew this was, this was not an act of terrorism, the body was lying on the floor, covered in nicely in a blanket with a note pinned to the chest on the blanket. And we got that translated. But it was clear just from looking at this that someone knew this woman, someone had cared for, even loved this woman. And I cringed at it because I knew that this was likely the code clerk that had been recruited by the FBI who did this. But it looks like there was a dispute over her having a career, working, going off on a business trip to Atlanta, just about where their future was headed. It might even have been--he might have--I don't know this, but he might have shared with her that he had been secretly working for the FBI and that also might have been a cause of dispute.
Chuck Rosenberg: Did you ever call Buck Revell back and tell him what you had found?
Frank Figliuzzi: I left that to my management team. I didn't, I wanted as little contact as possible with the seventh floor of the Hoover building. But, we figured out what happened and, and it just didn't end well for this person.
Chuck Rosenberg: And the seventh floor of the Hoover building is where your executive management sits at headquarters.
Frank Figliuzzi: Yeah, little did I know as a young agent in Atlanta, that I'd be up there a few times every single day at the end of my career.
Chuck Rosenberg: Where did you go from Atlanta, Frank?
Frank Figliuzzi: Yeah, I had some, as I mentioned, I had some success with a double agent operation in Atlanta and decided that if I were ever to get promoted to headquarters, I wanted it to be the counterintelligence division. And I had lost a double agent operation, by that I mean, it stopped dead in its tracks. It was going successfully, it stopped for no explainable reason. And I thought that was a time for me to kind of take a look at where my future was headed. And maybe it was time for me to see the bigger picture beyond Atlanta. So, I put in for a promotion to headquarters, counterintelligence division, brand new economic espionage unit. And I--lo and behold, even though I was still really young, I got picked, and I ended up working for a unit chief by the name of Robert Philip Hanssen. Well, Hanssen, when I arrived, told me a few things. He said, "Frank, welcome on board. I've been monitoring your success of your double agent case and operations down there in Atlanta--"
Chuck Rosenberg: And explain, Frank, for our listeners, what a double agent is and what a double agent case would entail.
Frank Figliuzzi: Sure, look, I do think counterintelligence is a form of sophisticated chess playing, and there's no better way to play chess than to have your opponent think you're doing one thing, but you're really doing something else. And so a double agent is someone that you recruit on your side, to pretend to be--to want to betray the United States on behalf of another country. The other country can reject that person and say this looks like a trap to us, or they can say, we need what this person has so badly that we're going to take the risk of working with him or her, just because we want to see where this goes. And that, that's how that works. And you engage the adversary that way, you might even pass disinformation and propaganda to them, you might even impact the outcome of a war by giving them the wrong strategies and plans. If you've got, for example, a military asset working as your double agent. And those kinds of things happen. And, they're really neat when it when it happens. So, I get to headquarters, and this guy, Bob Hanssen says, "Look, I brought you here because of the great work you're doing down there and especially in the double agent operation field. I've been looking at your cases through the automated case system." I thought, well, he did his homework on me, that's, that's great. And here I am. I only later found out, Chuck, Much, much, much, much later, years later, that Robert Hanssen had been spying for the Russians. He was the worst FBI spy in the history of the Bureau, most damaging,
Chuck Rosenberg: He was a traitor, to the FBI and to the nation.
Frank Figliuzzi: If there were a stronger word for traitor, I'd use it. But traitor, traitor, he indeed was and he betrayed all of his colleagues, his agency, and more importantly, the American government and people. And amongst the many, many things that he gave up, I later discovered in the aftermath and investigative work afterwards, when he was caught, that he gave up my double agent Operation case to the Russians, which explains why it stopped dead in its tracks.
Chuck Rosenberg: Something you didn't know at the time, but that you learned later.
Frank Figliuzzi: I did. As you can imagine, there was extensive investigation and everybody that ever worked with or for Bob Hanssen was interviewed for hours. And I explained to the investigators when he was caught years later, I said, you know, when I got here to headquarters, he said he, he had been looking at my cases in my successes through the automated system. And they eventually led on that he had given up my DA up. And look, Bob Hanssen was responsible, as far as we know, for the death of at least 10 people who had been working for the United States government, but had betrayed Russia in order to do it.
Chuck Rosenberg: Which is really extraordinary. When we recruit a double agent, which is very, very hard to do, that person is assuming great risk. And for that person to be betrayed by an FBI Special Agent, by Bob Hanssen, and then to be killed by his home country is a devastating loss in so many ways.
Frank Figliuzzi: It not only in the moment is a tragedy for that person and their family, but moving forward for the entire US intelligence community to try and overcome that issue and try to convince people in the future to play with us. We've got the way to go. We're the system you want to associate with, and we're going to do our best to protect you. It obviously impacts that and I'm sure the Russians used this example of saying to their own people, you better think twice about playing with the United States, because they can't guarantee your safety if you play ball with them.
Chuck Rosenberg: Right. The long-term implications of Hanssen's treachery might have been overshadowed in some ways by the short-term implications.
Frank Figliuzzi: I got to tell you, on a personal level, it was like a punch in the gut. I was, I was actually driving in my FBI vehicle to work on the Florida Turnpike. By this time. Years later, I had become the Assistant Special Agent in Charge in the Miami office and it was on the news on the radio. I'm playing the car radio. It says the FBI has arrested one of its own Robert Philip Hanssen for espionage. I had to pull the car over because I felt like, you know, I had been punched in the stomach. This was a unit chief I had worked for years and years earlier. And as the, as the damage assessment unfolded, it was clear that he had been doing this for many, many years.
Chuck Rosenberg: How quickly did it dawn on you that the double agent case that came to an absolute dead end, the one that you had nurtured and worked on was attributable to his spine?
Frank Figliuzzi: In terms of a gut feeling, I--it happened with within mere hours of looking at his arrest, confirming that he had been working with the Russians, realizing that I had lost a case, a case and stopped dead in its tracks against the Russians and then playing over and over in my head, Chuck, him telling me one day that he had been watching my cases in Atlanta, but it went further than that because the handful of us that worked that unit with him all got on the phone to each other. We had all had--the one thing we all had in common--was that we had all had successful double agent operations against the Russians. And there we all were selected by him to work for him in his unit. Now, I have theories about why we all ended up in his unit. Did he feel some sense of guilt that he had ended all of our double agent operations? Did he feel like we were superstars, that if we could mess with the Russians, and he was working with them, he wanted us close at hand, was he fearful that we would all give him up and he needed to keep us close to the vest? I don't know. But that was the one commonality that we all had in that unit.
Chuck Rosenberg: I imagine the FBI had to make a number of changes. They had to analyze, they had to rethink who could see the entire work of the FBI, who would have access to all of the double agents, who would know about all of the things the FBI was doing, because in the wrong hands, as we saw with Hanssen, it can be incredibly damaging.
Frank Figliuzzi: I'm glad you raised this because this goes toward the credibility of any organization, especially the FBI, and that is credibility is not about being perfect, it's about being transparent, owning up to the mistakes, and then fixing them so that you develop and restore trust. So, in the aftermath of Hanssen, yes, there were pages and pages of corrective and remedial measures that had to be taken. And I talked about that in the book, it's all about the credibility, saying we had a major failure. And here's what we're going to do about it. So among those, you know, every FBI employee curses Hanssen out for a number of things. One of them is that every year, you've got to fill out this thick financial disclosure form that asks you to list everything from the VIN number on your car, to what rent and mortgage payments are and who you owe, and any other sources of income. Yes, I umpire kids ball games that I make this income and blah, blah, blah. That's because Hanssen's financial analysis should have disclosed that there was unexplained income, right? He had six kids, they went to private school, his wife was a teacher's aide, what the heck was going on financially that allowed him to afford that? So, that's one of them, but also the computer access, it's truly now need-to-know. And, and the infamous story with Hanssen is that he, he--when he thought maybe the Bureau was onto him, he tried to cover his tracks, when one day he walked into his section chief's office, slammed down a list of Russian operations on the section chief's desk and said, "Look what I was able to get into just on my own. There's a problem with computer security, right?" So in his mind, he was covering his rear end, that if anybody was tracking his movements through the computer system, he would say he was just performing a security test, right? But we now know why he was doing that.
Chuck Rosenberg: You know, speaking about credibility and transparency, you also spend some time Frank, while at headquarters, in the internal units of the FBI that look at a couple of things. One, employee misconduct and the other, as part of the inspection division, the operational capacity and efficiency and efficacy of pieces of the FBI. I wanted to talk to you about both of those. First one first, the Office of Professional Responsibility. What is it? What does it do?
Frank Figliuzzi: Yeah, it's, um, it was a significant part of my learning as a leader, because it taught me a lot about, not only what to do, but what not to do. And it's, you know, in common parlance, it would be referred to as the internal affairs folks, you know, in a police department. But it's so much more than that, because at the time, there were units that conducted investigations of allegations of serious misconduct against FBI employees. And then, I headed an adjudication unit, which is just a fancy way of saying my unit had to come up with the discipline decisions based on the results of the internal investigation. So the FBI is famous for being extremely harsh on its own people, for maintaining its core values in a way that I don't think anybody else could do, including the Inspector General, and including Congress. You know, from early on, in any FBI career, no matter what position you're in, you're told repeatedly don't ever embarrass the Bureau, the Bureau thrives and succeeds on its reputation. And so, there's a strict, rigorous enforcement mechanism inside the FBI to maintain those core values and maintain that reputation. So, my job in the office of Professional Responsibility, "OPR," was to actually make disciplinary decisions, to read through and study the internal investigation on a particular employee accused of serious misconduct, look at whether or not it had been proven, what the precedent cases and discipline indicated, and make sometimes, Chuck, agonizing calls about the conduct of really fine people who, through stress, through other errors in judgment, had, had failed in some way to live up to the bureau standards.
Chuck Rosenberg: When you say the FBI is harsh on its own, let's be clear, people get fired all the time for misconduct, including, as you said, Frank, people who've otherwise lived, you know, good, and thoughtful, and constructive professional lives.
Frank Figliuzzi: This was part of what made the job so agonizing in terms of internal discipline is because, don't forget, every FBI employee has a top-secret clearance. Every FBI employee has gone through extensive vetting, background investigation, polygraph, analysis, you know, all kinds of vetting, and does so every five years again, throughout their career. And so, when, when they get accused of misconduct, you're dealing with someone that has the standards to be an FBI employee. And now, you've got to figure out whether this was an aberration, whether this person can be rehabilitated, and how they the totality of their career, and their life should be weighed against the proven misconduct.
Chuck Rosenberg: So, one of the most important things, and I was an FBI employee on two separate occasions, that you hear over and over again, is that if you're truthful, if you truthfully disclose when questioned by OPR, what you did and what you did wrong, and why you did it, there's a chance you can save your job, but that if you lie, you're done. Is that fair?
Frank Figliuzzi: This is the number one thing guaranteed to get you walked out the door is a lack of candor, under oath and FBI employees are under oath when they are interviewed for internal investigations. And, and here's why, look, you're worthless to the bureau as a witness in court in one of your investigation cases if you've ever been proven to lie, and if you--particularly if you've lied under oath. How can you possibly get on the witness stand in a criminal proceeding and convince a judge or jury of something if you've proven yourself to be a liar, so those calls--and I've had to make those calls--in just one year as a unit chief in OPR, Chuck, I touched and decided over 200 internal disciplinary cases. Really, really tough stuff, sometimes easy, black and white, this guy did it, and there's no excuse, no mitigating circumstances, but oftentimes, agonizing decisions.
Chuck Rosenberg: And just so our listeners are clear, a prosecutor has an absolute affirmative obligation to turn over to a defense attorney in a criminal case, anything that attacks or undermines the credibility of a witness that they plan to call. And so if they plan to call an FBI agent, who lied to OPR, in the course of an internal investigation, the defense lawyer has to be told about that. So, when you talk about an agent becoming useless as a witness, I gather that's what you're referring to.
Frank Figliuzzi: Right, their effectiveness, as someone who can testify successfully as to what they found in a criminal investigation is down the tubes if we have to disclose to the defense and the court that this is a proven liar. And it could be that he or she lied about something relatively insignificant in some internal inquiry. Maybe there's candy bars missing from the break room, I--you know--but you, those are the things that you've got to weigh. And I think the public has to understand, there's a reason why there's never been systemic corruption inside the FBI. And one of those reasons is there's an incredibly rigorous process around preserving what matters most inside the bureau.
Chuck Rosenberg: SO, let me ask you about a really hard case, one that I found utterly fascinating. From your book, an agent, drove his wife with his kids in the backseat of his car, downtown in the city in which he was working to buy heroin because his wife was addicted to drugs. And at that moment in time, he thought he was out of options to help her.
Frank Figliuzzi: This was one of those agonizing decisions internally. I had a young agent attorney who worked for me who was really talented decider of discipline. And that's the other thing, by the way, Chuck, is the FBI doesn't leave disciplinary decisions to other people. It's not someone else's job. The folks who staff those positions, those internal, investigative and adjudicated positions, their agents and analysts themselves, they've lived that life, they know what that employees going through. And they know, they know the rules and regs and they know what the job is like. So, one of those young adjudicators poked his head in my office one day and said, "Hey, boss, we've got a case, just a heads up, investigation is over, this agent bought heroin for his wife." And I said, I looked up from my desk, I had a big pile of cases to adjudicate, I looked out, I went, "well, that's a termination, right? And he goes, "I don't know." And sure enough, as we studied the case, we learned that this agent had been an invaluable member of his team, had been working, even for an FBI agent, incredibly long hours on particularly sensitive, long running investigations. He had been doing the right thing in terms of trying to get his heroin addicted wife the help she needed, including stints in rehab. And one day, when he knew there was not babysitting help available for the for the kids, he gets called into work, she has relapsed, and, or needs, needs a fix for the day in order to get through and at least be physically present for the kids. While he's going off on an unexpected work assignment, no one else is available, he makes attempts to get family and or friends to watch the kids. He makes a call under the stress to take her downtown and have her point out where she gets a fix from. He gets that fix. But you know, FBI agents aren't really good at buying dope, and so he ends up dealing with a drug enforcement or drug law enforcement officer. He later gets identified and that's how it comes to our attention.
Chuck Rosenberg: And it was a case, Frank, wasn't it, that when he was interviewed by the Office of professional responsibility at the FBI, he told the truth.
Frank Figliuzzi: Yeah, the truth, the truth goes a long way toward setting the stage for, for mercy. And this case you're referring to is in my book under the chapter called "Compassion," because if you're all about harsh, rigorous, aggressive, rules enforcement, you're not going to last very long as an organization because people will hate you for it, your system won't have credibility, they won't report misconduct, and they won't cooperate with the core values you're trying to maintain. So with any disciplinary system, with any attempt in your family, your team, your community, your company, to enforce compliance, enforce regulations and values, you better have compassion, along with consequences. So, I cite this example, Chuck, as where, during my time in the internal system, I saw the most compassion needed for someone who was trying to do the right thing for his family, horrible judgment. And don't get me wrong, this agent didn't get off the hook. This agent took a hit on a suspension, right? But with that hit came the compassion of the employee assistance program coming alongside his family and getting him the help that he was really too embarrassed and mortified to ask for.
Chuck Rosenberg: But if he had lied to the internal investigators, he would have been fired.
Frank Figliuzzi: No question about it, in a heartbeat. And, you know, as they say, it's cliché, but the cover up is always worse than the crime. Some of the finest people I've seen accused of misconduct were the ones who said, I did it, and I deserve what's coming.
Chuck Rosenberg: Now, that job you had, Frank, in the office of professional responsibility, was one part of the FBI's internal mechanisms for discipline and for oversight, but you also worked for a time as the FBI as Chief Inspector. It's a different job with a different purpose and a different mission. Can you describe it?
Frank Figliuzzi: Sure, much later in my career, I took a senior executive position as an inspector. There are only nine Senior Executive inspectors at the time in the FBI. Inspections, for those of your listeners in the corporate world, you'll--they'll know this far better as the corporate audit staff. And I have yet to see a corporate audit mechanism that's more rigorous than the FBI's. But again, it's not someone else's job to preserve the culture of the Bureau, it's everyone's job. So, as part of your leadership management career, you need to do some time learning the FBI from the inside out, you need to be on that audit staff, which we call the inspection division. And it's led by these senior executive inspectors. I did that for a year. And then, a guy by the name of Bob Mueller, named me Chief Inspector. And I oversaw everything from all shooting incidents involving agents, we did those investigations. But more routinely, we did those performance and program audits around the world of FBI, offices, leaders, and programs and made very hard calls about whether they were performing effectively and efficiently. So for example, if a field office were to say, our number one priority here is public corruption, we got a public corruption problem. Well, you better show your work, you better have some tangible metrics that show us you're developing sources, you've got cases going, you've got wiretaps going, you've got undercover going, don't just tell us what you're doing. Show us why you're doing it. And more importantly, show us the impact you're making in this community. How is this community different because of what the FBI is doing her every single day? So, I would make the distinction between inspections as performance and I would say OPR is about the compliance and preservation of core values.
Chuck Rosenberg: Which I think is a great distinction, but let me go back to the inspection function for a minute, Frank, because there's a risk, I think, for inspection divisions, whether it's at the FBI or ATF or DEA or anywhere else, to count the countable. In other words, the quantitative aspect of that work, I think, is relatively easy. The qualitative aspect of that work is quite hard. How do you capture that?
Frank Figliuzzi: I love this question because it's about defining meaningful metrics. Bean counting should never be about what an audit function is. And quite frankly, after 9/11, the bureau changed its whole mindset about metrics. And Bob Mueller helped to bring that mindset in and then really enforce it. And by that, I mean, we would have plenty of field offices claim that they led the FBI in bank robbery arrests, or they lead the FBI in violent crime arrests. When you start scratching those numbers, you realize that, you know, grabbing 10 fugitives is, you know, a month, is very nice, but has it made any meaningful difference in the crime problem here? Is it even something that could be done by the local police department or the marshals? And are you really bringing the entire skillset of the bureau into this community to make a difference? And if the answer is no, and you're just playing a numbers game, that's where you start to be fearful of the inspection team arriving at your door and asking some of those hard questions.
Chuck Rosenberg: Right, because I worry about the perverse incentives we create when we rely on metrics, more indictments, more arrests, more seizures, more convictions, has the tendency, perversely, of pushing our work down the ladder, rather than up working smaller cases rather than bigger ones working less meaningful cases rather than more meaningful cases.
Frank Figliuzzi: Yeah, you know, I think a lot of a lot of cops get asked the question, "hey, do you have a quota of the number of traffic tickets you need to write every week?" Right? And I want people to know, there's no such concept in the FBI. The concept is one of impact. So for example, if an entire field office needs to stop what they're doing because there's an enormous corruption problem that every squad needs to work right now and may need to work it for the next six months, that that will happen because that is the impact that's needed in that community. And you know what? It might mean that you just made five arrests, maybe there's a gang, that it's terrorizing the neighborhood, right, and the whole city, and in order to dismantle that gang, you need to stop making all these other arrests and concentrate on the gang and maybe only make 10 arrests at the end of the year, but it's the top 10 gang leaders. That's how that works.
Chuck Rosenberg: Speaking of Bob Mueller, and we both had the privilege of working for him, you tell a very funny story later in your career, about a promotion he gave you to run the counterintelligence division. So, you start off as a counterintelligence agent in Atlanta, right out of Quantico. And at the end of your career, you're running the counterintelligence division of the FBI at headquarters. But tell me about the promotion.
Frank Figliuzzi: Yeah, I had, I had worked a number of things as with most FBI employees, you get the one of the beauties of the FBI is it it's it does 300 different things, right. And ,and you get to touch all of those if you want to, and, and sometimes even if you don't, so I had led white collar teams, I had led counterterrorism teams, I ran a crimes against children squad in San Francisco, very painful, troubling work, but to come back full circle at the end of my career, and become the assistant director that the head of counterintelligence, where, as you say I started, was a pretty neat experience. But lest anyone think that there would be some incredibly official promotion process and announcement with pomp and circumstances, I clear that up quickly in my book, because I got what I call a "drive by promotion" from Bob Mueller, which is--I had thrown my hat in the ring for the top job in counterintelligence, the Assistant Director, over the Counter Intelligence Division, I had been the Deputy Assistant Director, and the assistant director was retiring. And so, I thought maybe I had a shot at this. And I thought, you know, it's a pretty big job. Maybe there'll be some, if it happens, maybe I'll be called in the director's office and or maybe there'll be some official announcement, but here's how it happened: I'm walking down the hallway in the inner corridor of the seventh floor of the Hoover building one morning after a briefing. The Bob Mueller sees me, looks up and says, without breaking stride, "Hey, Frank, I gave you the AD job." That was it. And from that moment on, I was the Assistant Director for Counterintelligence. You know Bob Mueller far better than I do, but to say he's a man of few words is, is an understatement. He's, he's all look, he's all about results, tangible work, and getting it done and getting it done, right. He doesn't have the time nor inclination for any kind of fluff, as I would call it. And I needed to get to work as assistant director quickly. And he hammered that message home by just telling me without breaking stride, "you're the AD."
Chuck Rosenberg: But a tremendously decent and honorable man, a man of tremendous integrity.
Frank Figliuzzi: I think, as history is written, and they look at the role of Mueller through the years, really, I'm talking about Marine Corps forward, you are going to see that word hero used repeatedly, a word that I don't take lightly, but I think that applies to him.
Chuck Rosenberg: So, now you're the Assistant Director of Counterintelligence. What do you do?
Frank Figliuzzi: Well, I was given a mandate. You know, sometimes you've got clarity on the mission ahead, and sometimes you don't. I had clarity I was, I was told very clearly, by the then executive assistant director for national security that the counterintelligence division had to catch up with the rest of the Bureau, meaning there was absolutely nothing wrong with that division. In fact, it was quite successful. But because of timing and other decisions, it hadn't yet converted to the post 9/11 intelligence driven model of the FBI. And I'll give you a very simple example. By this time, in almost every field office, in fact, I'm confident in saying every single FBI field office had converted to a model, where there were embedded intelligence analysts on every single squad, the intelligence analysts, and the agents were working together like never before. And in fact, intelligence was driving decisions about which cases to open, which informants to work, what questions to ask your informants, and connecting all the dots that needed to be connected across a field office. Imagine, for example, an Organized Crime Squad in Cleveland, working Russian organized crime members, and not talking to the Russian counterintelligence squad in Cleveland, that, that's that got fixed after 9/11. I show up at the counterintelligence division at headquarters, and the analysts were almost on an entirely different floor of the building from the agents. The products that they were producing, were not of any assistance, or even being read by most of the agents in that division. That needed to change quickly. That was one of my first steps--was literally knocking down walls. We literally broke drywall and started moving furniture almost as soon as I took the position
Chuck Rosenberg: In order to have your intelligence analysts sitting with your special agents.
Frank Figliuzzi: Indeed, they needed to understand the value they could provide to each other. The analysts were no longer some esoteric, academic cerebral types producing papers about the demise of the wheat crop in Russia. They needed to support the mission together. And look, today, if you go to the FBI Academy in Quantico, Virginia. Guess what happens? The analysts go through the Academy too, and at a certain--in a certain week of their training, they literally intersect with the agents undergoing training, and they learn to work the same case together and understand the value they each bring to the table.
Chuck Rosenberg: What else did you need to do as the Assistant Director of Counterintelligence?
Frank Figliuzzi: There, there were a couple things that got my attention. So, I was, I was one of these non-establishment office people that came up through the counter intelligence program, which was a little bit different. I will tell you that the history of the Bureau's counterintelligence program is, is one of agents coming out of Washington field office, New York City, places where, quote unquote, the real intelligence, foreign intelligence officers are assigned and working. This creates a very narrow mindset about what counterintelligence is and what the threat is. I came from those non-establishments: Atlanta, Miami, right. I spent time in San Francisco, which, but entirely in terms of Silicon Valley, a non-traditional approach. So, I show up and I start moving resources. Chuck, I, I start going, I started asking some hard questions. This did not make me popular with the certain huge field offices. Why is it that we need this number of counterintelligence agents in Washington field or in New York City? What about the Kansas cities and the Clevelands? And, you know, the Mobile, Alabamas, why aren't we working economic espionage there involving those companies in that research in those areas enough. So hard questions, reallocation of resources. And then, Chuck, it's clear that the cyber threat is the threat moving forward. And the idea of a stovepipe FBI where there is a cyber division, there is a counterintelligence division, and they're not necessarily working together elbow to elbow in the same cubicle area, was deeply troubling. And, and it was troubling to the cyber division folks as well. So we created a hybrid unit and then section where the cyber experts and the counter Intel experts could really become one. And boy, have we learned that in droves now with regard to the 2016 presidential election, the 2020 election, the impact of a foreign adversary can have through hacking, and through social media propaganda, you really can't tell the difference of what is a counterintelligence threat and what is a cyber threat. They are the same threat.
Chuck Rosenberg: Well, cyber is a vector, it's the way that you're attacked. And cyber matters for all of the work of the FBI, counterintelligence, but also criminal and counterterrorism, everything the FBI, and for that matter, the DEA and the ATF and everyone else does, intersects with cyber. You're right on there. And I mean, we have banks being robbed through computers at remotely now. So, you know, in the old days, one of the reasons the FBI was created originally was because there was this newfangled thing called the automobile. And bad guys were taking this automobile thing and driving across state lines to commit crimes. And so, you, you create the FBI to help because the local police can't leave their jurisdictions, they have no authority, and they don't know what to do about this car thing that's developing. It's very similar in the, in the cyber realm, we have this computer thing now. And it pervades all the crimes. And so it raises the question, I think of whether or not the bureau should even have something called the cyber division, at least as we know it, if truly cyber pervades every criminal violation and every national security threat. Right. So, to be clear, you're not saying they shouldn't have cyber expertise, that's absolutely fundamental to what they do, but it should be perhaps embedded in each of the divisions and not a standalone division. I think that's your point.
Frank Figliuzzi: Exactly. So, I would argue that we better have, the bureau better, have cyber expertise embedded in every single program, every single squad. Now, that's easy for me to say, because the recruitment challenge is immense, but that's, you know, that that skill set is in demand everywhere. And that's a huge challenge.
Chuck Rosenberg: You Know, Frank, I didn't want to gloss over the fact that for a point in your career, you ran the Cleveland division of the FBI. So, you were the Special Agent in Charge. You tell a wonderful story about a woman, a special agent, who worked there when you did about her passing. And I was hoping you would share that.
Frank Figliuzzi: I'm happy to do it. You know, as you go through your career anywhere, there are certain people that stand out and have an impact on you because they have an impact on everybody around them. And Lauri Fournier was someone like that, in terms of her just lighting up the field office and being almost an A-typical FBI agent. She's someone who was known for a dancing on bubble wrap in the office, she sang in an office rock band, I think it was called "Fed Up," She was someone who helped lead the employee assistance program in the office simply designed to help other employees and families get through tough time, she was a member of the evidence response team, going to grisly crime scenes and working those, she worked surveillance and health care fraud, someone you wanted around, someone you could always rely on to do the right thing. That was Laurie. And she had the unique experience of really spending her entire career in the FBI in the Cleveland division. She married later in life, she had young children, and she developed cancer. And it became quite serious. And we all knew she was very sick, but we kind of really didn't understand how sick she was because she was working literally right up to the end and passed very quietly, in a surprising way, because we didn't realize how close she was to passing until she had passed and left a husband and two young children. And this is in my book under the "Compassion" chapter as well. And here's why: the FBI is a big bureaucratic organization. And it can get very cold sometimes if you don't work really hard at doing the right thing and showing the human side of the Bureau. So, when someone passes on duty like that, you typically get some pamphlets and brochures out of headquarters to give to the family. I was the, I was the agent in charge of the office, it was my job to try and explain the death benefits. And they can get fairly complicated in the bureau. But for me, that wasn't showing enough respect to her family or to her. And I, I was struggling to understand the death benefits. And I thought, boy, if I'm not understanding them, I'm not sure how I'm going to do this with her husband. So I called headquarters and I said, "Look, I got to do this. I need some help. I'd like you to, to come down here and do it with me." These are the benefits experts said headquarters. And they said look, "we're happy to get on the speakerphone. You know, go to the house and we'll explain it." And I said look, would you think about coming down here? Think just think about coming down here doing it with me in person? Well, they did. I got somehow, I got through to them. And that's the other thing that, Chuck, that you'll find in a bureaucracy is you know, is sometimes you got to just keep being that annoying person who says, "No, no, I want you to come down here. I don't want you on speakerphone." And they'll get it, and they did get it and they came down and they did it. We did it in the kitchen of Laurie's house with her husband, the two kids were running around the kitchen. And it went as well as it could be expected. And I think it honored Laurie in a way, but it had lasting impact because the bureau after that decided to make it a policy that they would come in person and present the benefits to a family. So, I look back at my career, and I can tell you about arrests and double agent operations and all of that. But when you really look back from a distance and say "where did I have an impact?" it's, it's where you impacted a family and then changed the policy of an organization. And that has impacted me now. A pretty neat aside here is again, under the compassion and doing the right thing heading is years later after Laurie passed, it was discovered that her type of cancer was a type of cancer that came out of working the crime scene of a 9/11 airliner that crashed into the field in Shanksville, Pennsylvania. She had spent time as an evidence team member working the wreckage at that site. And the bureau didn't have to do this, but long after she had passed, they approached her family and said, "Would you want to submit her bloodwork or tissue samples from her medical care so that we could determine whether she actually died in the line of duty, that her cancer was part of her work?" And they did. And Laurie's name is now on the wall of those who died in the line of duty.
Chuck Rosenberg: Frankie, you talked about impact. I'm glad you mentioned that, I'm glad you mentioned that bureaucracies can be policed from the inside, that they can be reformed, that they can be made better, but that they can also be made more compassionate. And in your career, I think you had a lot to do with all of that.
Frank Figliuzzi: As I rose up the ranks in management and continually questioned why I was raising my hand for more and more responsibility, I'd have younger employees come into my office and say, "Hey, boss, should I really consider management? I mean, is it really worth it?" And I tell them, "Look, if you're doing this for the measly financial increase in salary, then it is absolutely not worth it. If you're doing it because you can have an impact across an office or program or on an individual life, then that's the reason to do it." And as I look back on my career with plenty of screw ups, and plenty of times I did the wrong thing, or didn't treat someone nicely, I can tell you that the impact I had, that I would be most proud of were the handful of times where I made a difference in someone's life and maybe even changed, what would have been a very cold, unforgiving process and a very large bureaucracy.
Chuck Rosenberg: Well, Frank, thank you for spending some time with us and for your legacy of service to the FBI and to the nation.
Frank Figliuzzi: Thanks for allowing me to tell some stories on the personal side that I don't get to tell very often and thanks for doing what you do with this show that exposes public service to lots and lots of folks