Interview w/Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI)'s Special Agent John Pikus

Interview By RAY FELICIANO on July 27, 2007

Q: While researching a news story, I was told by the FBI that they had no demographic statistics on the victims of crimes such as murder and rape. (How many black murder victims vs. white, etcetera) What kinds of statistics are kept and which are made available to the public?

"Are you talking about statistics that we keep, cases we have, what's given to us by local law enforcement? Because we have what's called the Uniform Crime Statistics that our facility in West Virginia puts together. That really depends on all the 18,000 police jurisdictions in the country providing information on rapes, robberies, all that statistical data, that all goes into what we call Uniform Crime Statistics that's published every year. So you hear that where crime has gone up this year in the United States, down this year - that's all put together by the FBI, but it's all statistics generated by local law enforcement. And, it's all voluntary. So, if you look in that-I don't know if I have one here [looking] because we just give 'em out."

FBA founder Ray Feliciano interviews FBI Special Agent John Pikus with Media Coordinator Paul Holstein.

From right to left: Ray Feliciano (TIC Publisher) with Mr. John Francis Pikus (Special Agent in Charge) and Paul M. Holstein (Chief Division Counsel and Media Coordinator) of the FBI’s Albany Division. Pikus was promoted to SAC just over a year ago on July 17th, 2006. He holds a Political Science degree from Drexel University in Philadelphia and served ten years as a Naval Intelligence Officer. During his career he has coordinated investigations in all areas of the FBI's jurisdictional responsibilities, including Terrorism, Foreign Counterintelligence, Cybercrime, and White Collar Crime matters. (Photo by Kimberly Feliciano)

Paul Holstein (Chief Division Counsel and Media Relations Coordinator): "You can also access that on the internet site. They have a lot of the…"

John: "Maybe because they are shying away from that, but there are civil rights statistics where there is cases in which civil rights violations are generated because of an act or some event and it may be described as 'white on black' or something like that. Those are in the civil rights arena. On the statistical reporting, that's probably be where you'd find that type, but it would be under that violation. It wouldn't be under, ya know there's murders in, say city 'A' had ten murders in which eight are African American and two were Hispanic or something like that. I've never seen that in terms of any generated documents up the chain to us."

Q: Could you tell us about how the IC3 (Internet Crime Complaint Center) addresses Cybercrime such as fraud, identity theft, or spreading viruses and malicious code? (Does it still have to be over a certain dollar value?

"That's a, again, that's a center that's got a hotline for all of America. Ya know, if you had information regarding internet fraud, or a type of internet scam say, particularly in that sense, so it was established about ten years ago, I'd say, by our White Collar [Crimes] Section. And that's run out in West Virginia as well. It's a site in which anybody can get on, and say, 'Hey listen, I have a problem. Here I have Nigerians who scammed me out of twenty five million dollars…' -on a scam or something like that-and it's a reporting, kind of free and open to the public to report possible scams or any type of what the public may believe as to be crimes, or even federal crimes specifically. Then we call through that information and say, 'Hey, this looks pretty good. Contact this point of contact and interview that person, that victim, and see what transpired. We may generate a case, we may not, depending on whether it lies as a federal violation versus maybe a state or local violation."

Q: Is there a dollar threshold that if not met you can't do anything about it?

"Well, that's not established nationally. That's established through each U.S. Attorney's Office. That's because of caseload. It may be that the Northern District in New Jersey which handles Newark and Trenton and Atlantic City, they handle it so the dollar threshold is high, while the Northern District up here may take a case that may be at a much lower threshold. It all depends-we have around fifty-plus districts in the country. LA [Los Angles] and New York had very high thresholds. Not only in the internet fraud/complaint area, but also just in general white collar-in bank frauds and embezzlements, and heck, even in the violent crimes. If you're working with, say, a car theft ring that goes interstate. It may be that the U.S. Attorney's Office needs a hundred cars, or five hundred cars, because they have so much crime going on that they can only handle through their limited resources, only certain cases, and they would look at the most egregious cases."

Q: Is it also the number of complaints that you have about a specific vendor? For example, I was affected just last week where someone put something that looked like a virus on my computer, but was actually a fraud, a scam, to get me to buy their software for cleaning out such stuff. It was only by contacting the anti-virus software provider that I had that I found out that's what was going on. Are these the kinds of things that should be reported?

"Yeah, they still should be reported because there is a kind of a gathering of data on a particular scam artist to see. Any type of nefarious activity conducted by somebody, they may graduate into doing larger scale, so we're always interested in the information. I always harp [7:15] back to the Nigerian scams, which you guys didn't flinch when I said it, but the Nigerian scam, that's been around for fifteen, twenty, twenty five years. We tell people, 'Give us the information. You haven't lost anything. There hasn't been a loss of money or anything like that, or assets, so we aren't going to do anything, but you got it from this site, and this site's been known to go after this part of the country, and there has been a loss there, so we want all the information regarding that site and what they're doing on that site.' So, we'll gather the information. We may not open up a case, or may not run with it. There has to be a loss, and most times there has to be a significant loss [not just a threat of a loss], mainly because we have to-and Paul, he's not only my media guy, he's also my Chief Division Counsel, so he also provides the legal framework for how we operate. Although, I've sat in court and brought cases to court through the U.S. Attorney's Office. He's a little bit more knowledgeable about it, but the loss that we're looking at, it has to be real, basically. It has to be real, and generally substantial."

Kim - Q: You mentioned earlier about the Cybercrime Internet Crime Complaint Center. What kinds of issues can be submitted there?

"A lot of people will just submit general, online through that. As a matter of fact, we'll get information regarding terrorism through that line. We'll get all sorts of information from people who email in and say, 'You ought to look at these people. They're doing immigration fraud.' Or, they're doing credit card fraud. It may be that we'll look at it, and we'll pass it on to the Secret Service who's into Identity Theft and they open up cases as well on the Financial Crimes side of the house."

Kim - Q: There is a growing population of people who believe there are a lot of corrupt judges, so would this be a way for them to submit complaints?

"Yeah. And we also have it through Besides the fact that we put our recruiting out there as well on that site to apply for jobs through the FBI, we also have a form on the main FBI site on the internet to pass on information, to pass on what they believe should be something the FBI should look at."

Kim - Q: If people feel they have concerns about what is going on in their government, is the FBI site the appropriate venue to submit that?

"Well, it all depends. You say the government, yeah, we do public corruption as part of our, ya know, it's part of our venue in which we operate. We have over three hundred plus violations that we are responsible for. It used to be the Migratory Bird Act. I used to say to the Interstate Transportation [10:46]… refrigerators. I mean, ya know, when Congress has a law that they pass, they generally put in that law who has responsibility to enforce that law. Sometimes it's co-responsibility, say between the FBI and the Secret Service, or FBI and DEA [Drug Enforcement Administration], while they give us the ability to enforce certain laws, like Title 21 drug laws, which you think the DEA on the federal side handle drug laws, but we also have the ability to enforce Title 21 which is our drug laws on the federal side. So, it's co-jurisdictional in terms of responsibility to enforce. When you talk about FBI, when you talk about public corruption, say there's a corrupt person in government, somewhere local, state, or federal, our job is when we get any type of complaint or any type of information, we try to get back to the people as best we can. Sometimes it's anonymous, but we'll get back to them, and say, 'Listen, it's not there,' or, 'Hey, this is good information but it's not our responsibility. I suggest you go to this agency 'X' to discuss it with them. I will pass this information to them as well because I deal with them on a daily basis and I'll tell them you're coming. Here's the name of 'Joe Shmoe', the agent over there you need to talk to.' So, we try to get back. We look at the information. We get a call at two o'clock in the morning here, somebody saying there's this activity you should look at, we try to get back to 'em whenever and wherever they approach us, whether it's through the internet or phone calls. It used to be that in this office we were downtown and people could walk right up [13:14]… kind of stand-off since 9/11, a little more isolated, but generally, anybody walking up to this gate can come in and see a complaint agent, and we have complaint agents on duty twenty-four hours to answer your calls. It doesn't look warm and friendly, but that's unfortunately because of Oklahoma City in '95 and the threats to government facilities. We've had to, unfortunately, make our sites hardened a little bit more, and the result is a little bit less accessible than we'd like, but we're open to the public."

Q: How prevalent is the crime of pedophilia throughout the country?

"I don't know how prevalent it is. We do have cases in our jurisdiction as well as, I dare say, probably in every field office in the FBI has cases involving individuals who have access to the internet who are accessing websites, or rather chat rooms, MySpace, places like that, to try to entice individuals to either send photos of themselves or try to entice them to meet them. So, we have ongoing task forces in a good portion of our jurisdictions, including ours, that look into, that actually get on the websites, get on the internet and try to track these individuals, track them down."

Q: Is there any state this doesn't effect?

"No, it effects every state and mostly every country."

Q: I had difficulty reporting an incident where somebody sent me something, and I was actually surprised that the FBI was unable to take my call about it, and was referred to some Child Protective agency. Isn't this something the FBI would want to be notified about?

"Well, it all depends. Are you saying pictures were sent to you, or somebody tried to entice you?"

Ray: It was a junk email leading to a website with pornography of little kids, not young adults, so I felt obliged to report it, but I was told that the FBI was not the right place to report it.

"Was that us?"

Ray: I would have looked up who was the local field agent at the time.

"In this area here?"

Ray: Yeah.

"Normally, our response should have been that we're interested in that site. It doesn't mean we're going to open up a case-again, very similar to the Nigerian scams or the internet frauds. We're interested in individuals who might be sending child pornography through the internet. There's child pornography through the internet, and something we call 'travelers'. It's not that child pornography through the internet is not serious, but one of the things our limited resources are geared towards are these 'traveler' cases-these individuals who are actually using the internet to entice young kids of both sexes to have sex and to meet somewhere. A good majority of our cases are that. The obscene material like child pornography is definitely something that we look at, and we should have taken that information. We might have gone back to ya and said, 'Ray, this is good stuff, but we might not do anything in terms of talking to the U.S. Attorney's Office on this, but we'll see what else comes up."

Q: There used to be several anti-drug commercials that claimed that buying illegal drugs through the black-market helps fund terrorism. Is that mostly referring to the opium from places like Afghanistan or cocaine from Columbia and Venezuela?

"I'm not an expert at this, but I would only say from my limited knowledge of that is that their talking not so much regarding activities here in the United States-although the derivatives of activities in Columbia, Southeast Asia, in Afghanistan-ya know, the poppy growth in Afghanistan creates opium which is then sold throughout Southeast Asia and throughout the world, and the proceeds of a lot of the drug trades in the world, some of the drug trade goes to terrorist groups, whether in Columbia where you're looking at the FARC [Revolutionary Armed Forces of Columbia - translated from Spanish] or you're looking at some of the terrorist groups down there who maintain their existence to some extent through the growing of poppy and growing of drugs down there, or at least the solicitation of drugs from there to out of the country. That's just a fact. It's something that the intelligence community and law enforcement community has known for years and years and years."

Q: If so, wouldn't we be able to deny the terrorists this revenue stream by decriminalizing drugs and simply holding people accountable for their actions?

"I don't know. You ask me again on that one, and I would just say you just legitimize their business, that's all. You're not stopping them from using the drug trade. They'll still grow the drug and sell the drugs."

Q: Why would we buy heroine or opium from Afghanistan if it was legal for people to grow it here?

"The best stuff's in Afghanistan. It's so intermingled that you're not gonna be able to say who is a legitimate dealer and who is the terrorist. That's the problem with any contraband. It legitimizes, and we're not talking philosophically now, and if you go back to the Prohibition [of Alcohol, 1920-1933] and you talk about the guys that were runnin' liquor with the mob, and all the sudden the prohibition's over, but did the mob go away? The mob was still in the liquor business and still making money. Okay, the ____ [20:13] were gone, but some of these turned legitimate and others remained illegitimate or they had business dealings that were on the legitimate side and the illegitimate side. So, I don't think it would end."

Q: As for the Prohibition, wasn't the mob taken out of the picture after it was removed?

"No (laugh). What they did is they laundered their money through legitimate liquor businesses and they still controlled many of the avenues, just like anything else. They had the contacts for Canadian liquor coming into Chicago or elsewhere, so it wasn't like all the sudden it was some legitimate business that all the sudden sprung up in Chicago after Prohibition and went up to Canada. It took a while for some legitimate business, but the organized crime still maintain themselves. Same for off-track betting in New York State. I mean, there's still loan sharking going on, and there's still, although there's still legitimate betting you can do at the track, as you can see from bets by, ya know alleged, ya know, you see in the news in the sports recently regarding, ya know, referees who, ya know, why don't they just gamble in Atlantic City? Why are they getting involved with the mob? Ya know, that's just the way life is."

Q: Given that throughout history, humans have used intoxicants of one kind or another, whether for personal pleasure or religious/spiritual purposes, isn't it likely that the "War on Drugs" will go on forever? Is the phrase 'War on Drugs' helpful, or is the word 'war' overused?

"Ya know, for me to say whether the word 'war', I don't get into terms like that. I mean, I want to give you my personal view on this, not the view of the FBI. My personal view of this is if we legitimize, if people think that the access to drugs is bad now, you can walk down the street and still not probably have someone run up to you and sell you drugs. Maybe if you find a corner, ya know, and you go. If you legitimize the drug trade now, every street corner, even you try to regulate it, it will be so prevalent. Forget about trying to regulate it because it will be everywhere. It'll be in your kids faces. It'll be in your schools even moreso than it is now. That's my own personal feeling. Ya know, everyone says we're losing the War on Drugs. Well, you know what, the war, you're right-it will always go on. I don't like the word 'war', but the idea of restricting access to highly addictive drugs is something that we should do for our families and our children for generations to come. And if we don't, then, ya know you will have the opium dens down the street. You will have the problems The Netherlands is having. They're trying to finally, if you read the recent newspaper reports, they're finally saying, 'We gotta restrict this. Everybody in New York is coming to our streets to get this. It's time to have our people walk down the streets without guys laying straight out on the deck Jonesing out [craving].' So, even countries that have legitimized, legalized, drugs-and again, if you read newspaper reports, and there was one in the New York Times, I think, about two weeks ago, just talking about this very issue. That's what happens if you just open the floodgates. It's just going to be so accessible that it would be like Blockbuster drugstore, and your kids will be like, 'What's the difference? I'll go experience that.' So, that's my personal opinion."

Q: Let's say a very skilled and talented individual wanted to serve their country by working in some capacity for the FBI. Would the FBI reject them if their one peccadillo was smoking marijuana?

"We have different levels of in terms of how we judge somebody for FBI employment. If you had, and as a matter of fact we were just talking about this the other day-If you are thirty-five years old and you smoked marijuana a number of times back in your college days, you'd probably be able to get in. If you took some of the hard drugs for a number of years-ten years, five years, or three years-you could have taken hard drugs many years ago and gotten into the FBI."

Paul: "It's usually isn't even the drugs. It's typically that people taking the drugs are lying about it, and we can't have people as FBI employees or agents lying. Obviously, we don't want people lying if they're testifying in court. We need people to be honest. The problem, generally, isn't flexibility of the rules. The problem we see is that people lie about that and are not forthcoming and later it comes out in the polygraph. We may lose talented individuals, but it's better than having someone who's deceptive."

John: "And we look at, over the last couple of years, we've gone to a 'whole person' type concept. We look at the prior maybe drug use, and so we have these guidelines in which we go by, but believe it or not, they're just not hard and fast. We look at the abilities of the person, the circumstances in which the person may have done certain things years ago. But, if you're saying, 'Yeah, I used LSD three weeks ago. Hire me. And I'm candid.' Well, ya know, you're an honest addict (laugh). That's great, but you can't join us. So, there is that. When people come into the FBI, particularly for the FBI, to become FBI agents, the average age is around twenty-eight or twenty-nine years old. So, they've been out of college for eight, nine, ten years. They've established themselves. They've worked for several years. Generally, not been in trouble with the law. But that doesn't mean in high school or college they did [not do] something stupid. In terms of drug usage, today there's a good portion of our target population has experienced drugs to some extent. There are individuals who have experimented in college and moved on, and there are other individuals who never let it go. And when I was at the Goo Goo Dolls concert last night I noticed a few that just might be regretting it further on down the line. But, we understand that. Again, it's a 'whole person' concept."

Q: What are the skill sets that you look for in an applicant?

"Right now, obviously science. We're looking for the hard sciences. We're looking at those individuals who understand computers. We have individuals who come in here who are software developers for companies out in Silicon Valley and elsewhere. They come into the FBI, take a great drop in pay, but they feel like it's more fulfilling to them, and that's why they turn that way. And we look at languages. Obviously, we're looking at languages of individuals in areas of the world in which we lack those languages, particularly Arabic. The major Chinese language-Mandarin is one of them. Russian. Farsi [common Persian]. We also have a number of different languages-Urdu from Pakistan-a number of languages that we look at that might not be a huge population of the world, but it's something that we need to be able to have more of a language proficiency in."

FBI Special Agent John Pikus

FBI Special Agent John Pikus
(Photo by Kimberly Feliciano)

Q: As you know from the recent Civil Rights forum where we met, the Yassin Aref/Mohammed Hossain (of Albany) case touches a lot of nerves around here, particularly because the case was partially decided based upon "classified" evidence that the defense and the public were not allowed to see. Does the FBI recognize that relying on secret evidence in the courts diminishes the public's trust in the integrity of the judicial system? If so, how can we alleviate that?

"That case, it was interesting because, I mean, we talked about it, okay there was no evidence that was released to the public, that's correct. But, for about a two and half year period through regulations and how it's done in the federal government, there was a release, a limited release of information so that the defense who were not cleared got to see this information. And the judge, who is generally not cleared, saw all this information. The question as to whether this information should be released to the public, we in the FBI would love to release everything we can to the general public We would have loved to release everything that we had in that case because we were prosecuting that case for the general public, for a jury of twelve, your peers. But, there were reasons why it was not released, although the FBI and the U.S. Attorney's Office-we tried to release as much as we could, but that goes then to a scene behind closed doors between the defense and the prosecution and the judge, as to what information should be released. It was mutually agreeable by the defense as well as the prosecution that the amount of information that should be released was released. So, it wasn't just that the government said not to."

Q: Terry Kindlon, the defense attorney, was okay with it?

"The defense understood how much information was to be released and agreed to that."

Paul: "I think the importance also is that the-not to speak beyond my pay grade, but-we elect public officials, we vote for politicians, and we have a legislature that makes laws that govern how this evidence is looked at in these type of cases. We have the Classified Information Procedures Act [CIPA], which the FBI did not create. It was created to prevent graymail, which is as you are probably aware, in criminal cases defense attorneys often have the ability, realizing that the FBI cannot give up our sources, to use that against us so that we have to drop cases. Although, it was a decision by our government, who we all voted for, ya know we had our day at the polls, to determine that ____[32:59] was necessary because in a case which protected our country, we didn't want to allow graymail to determine whether someone's guilty or innocent. So, it's important to realize that it's not the FBI determining unilaterally that you're not going to see this evidence because you're the defense attorney. What it is is a federal judge appointed for life reviews and makes a determination to whether it is valid evidence, and in certain types of evidence, they feel they can't release that to the defense. Now, I'm not suggesting that it engenders great confidence in those people who are naturally critical to a decision, but it's all we got to work with right now. If tomorrow you guys change the rules, you vote for somebody, or however you feel, and you elect someone who says CIPA's no good, we will play by those rules, too. Then we would turn everything over, and we would all have to live with the results of that. Our function, what we're looking to do, is just prevent the next terrorist attack, and working within the guidelines set up by the legislators. So, I'm all for everybody going out, however the chips fall we'll work within that framework."

John: Yes, CIPA. This information does not come from the FBI. It came from other intelligence agencies, other information from overseas. As you know, if I give you information before you release it, you go, 'Hey, John, are you okay with this because it's kind of singular to you, John. If it comes on out, then everybody will know you, John, said it.' That type of thing. So, we try to, and we do a good job I think, and it takes a long time to deal with the other agencies or with other countries and say, 'Listen. We'd like to put this in the public realm, in trial. Generally, it's singular in nature. You can get people killed if it comes out in trial. So, limit it. Let the judge see it to some extent. Let the defense see it. That type of thing. You might need to bolster, and that allows us to figure out, 'Okay, we need to bolster this part of our case. If we can't release this, we need to be able to do this. We need to bring this person in to testify.' That sort of stuff. So, it's a very difficult situation that goes over a number of years to try to bring this type of case into court. It really is a good example of how difficult it is to bring terrorism cases to federal court in the United States, where there's individuals who, ya know, we have information overseas from either other intelligence agencies or from countries overseas, and try to bring it into court here. It's just extremely difficult, and it's part of the whole review and issue of Guantánamo Bay and what do you do with these individuals, and what do you do with these individuals captured overseas. It's brought about by information that's really not ours. We didn't originate it, ya know. It effects governments, and it effects the lives of people."

Q: FISA [Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act] requirements for wiretapping allow investigators up to 72 hours AFTER a wiretap has been placed to seek approval from a FISA court. How is that not fast enough to satisfy investigators?

"This will be a short answer. I can only speak from my experience. I've never encountered anything other than the usual FISA procedures. I've never had to rush to get a FISA and then come back and report it to the FISA judge. So, I don't know. I just don't know."

Paul: "Again, if you have to realize, this is all defined statutorily. Again, it's all however the politicians and legislature decide to write it, and we'll follow it. But, there's a myriad of situations where we could meet something. I guess I'm confused on your question. Your question is 'How is it not fast enough that we don't have to talk to them for seventy hours?'

Ray: Yeah, that seems after the fact.

Paul: "Well, you have to realize we're not writing this on the back of a bubble gum wrapper. This is a sophisticated process with incredible hurdles to get a wiretapping. Ya know, the criminal ____[37:48]… So, it isn't just a form we fill in. This is tremendous support for that request. My example to you would be if we know that they were going to shoot a SAM [surface-to-air] missile at the middle school where your kids go, and we know this is going to occur, and we can't find out which school-now this is hypothetical, but here's a hypothetical answer-and we need to get a wiretapping, we can say to the court, 'They're going to blow up a school in the Albany area. Its' going to occur tomorrow, we don't know what school and there's five schools. We need to get up on their phones. Here's what we got. We need to go immediately, and we'll follow this with a FISA. The court will allow us then, if they agree the information is good, they'll allow us to go up on that, with the understanding that we have to follow-and I don't have the hours memorized, and I'm assuming, not sure if it's seventy-two or not, as I've only done a couple of those-but, we follow them with a paper. Now, if the court denies it, we can't use anything we got, and we lose. In that example, I would say it's more important I would think that we stop the terrorist attack. The point is that is the kind of pressure that we work under because your standards for us are to prevent any terrorist attack."

Ray: And that proves the point exactly to me. You're saying, 'We have a very dangerous situation where several schools might be under threat, so we're going to do what we gotta do as doing our investigation within the framework of the law, and ask of the court to give its approval, and if they don't we can't use the stuff, but let's stick to the rules-that's the whole argument, that this administration was skipping the rules. I'm referring to the warrantless wiretapping.

Paul: "All I'm suggesting to you is that the court would give us the approval to do it without submitting the papers so we're getting approval, and then we never do any wiretapping on any side of the house without the court review and approval."

Ray: Okay. So the violations that we've heard on the national level have not been from the FBI.

John: "That's why I said I don't have, I mean, I do sign off on requests for FISAs. It's on ongoing investigations that we've had and we have. They're not what we call the 'sixty minutes to boom', but if there was, we have procedures in place so that if we had a situation like the example that Paul brought up, very easily we'd contact the courts, provide them with an all briefing, follow it up with paperwork. I'm sure the courts would say, 'That's pretty good stuff. We're not gonna stop ya.' And we would do it. I know that Paul and I both know the issues on a national level, but it doesn't really effect us in Albany, NY and it doesn't effect you all as citizens in Albany, other than a greater good or greater issue. There are not those types of wiretaps that I have been involved in."

Q: In the post 9/11 world, we have been told to expect that some civil liberties may have to be curtailed in the name of national security. Isn't this exactly what Benjamin Franklin warned us against, and doesn't curtailing civil liberties hand the terrorists a major win?

"I guess it's how you word that question, or somebody had worded that, is that we have to curtail some civil liberties. I'm just like you guys. My civil liberties haven't been curtailed, as far as I know. Do you know if your civil liberties have been curtailed?"

Ray: As far as this warrantless wiretapping ____[41:25]…yes (laugh). We don't know if it effects us, but we publish a political paper, and for all we know we are tapped. But it's not about me. It's about the overall perception of the public and their trust that their government is following the rules they have set down for themselves. When we hear that this particular administration wasn't following those rules, you gotta wonder.

"I think you hit it. You hit it. Following the rules versus not following the rules. I mean, versus what you mentioned, that term regarding 'curtailing' civil rights. Knowingly curtailing civil rights that have been established for years and years and years, I think that's the issue that we have to bring out and talk about because following rules is one thing. If you're not following the rules, yeah! But, if the rules say we can do this, then change the rules. You gotta realize that your civil rights you thought you had before, you really didn't have. So, change the rules to conform with the civil rights you thought you had before. Paul and I know from personal experience just before 9/11 to after 9/11, I call it the 'Camp Jacket Principle'. You've probably heard this before. When I was in the Navy, we used to laugh-I was an Intelligence Officer in the Navy and I was a carrier air group and we were sittin' off of Camp Jacket, which is Russian territory. And, ya know, of course you have the three-mile international boundary into the water. You have the twelve-mile, and then you have maybe fishing, but generally that's their land and that's their water, but to make sure that the Navy didn't go any further than that, the Pentagon said don't go within twenty-five miles of Camp Jacket. Of course, the Commander in Chief of the Pacific said, 'I don't want to bust that line, so you can't go within fifty miles of Camp Jacket.' Then, the Commander in Chief of the Pacific Fleet said, 'Oh, I don't want to get in trouble with my higher ups. You can't go within a hundred miles.' Then, the Carrier Air Group Commander says, 'I don't want to mess with that. You can't go within two hundred miles. So, we literally just put a carrier air group there and we flew above the ship because we couldn't go hundreds of miles closer because everybody was afraid of that situation that occurs. For us, what happened in the FBI is that, particularly after the abuses of the FBI and other entities in the 60's and 70's, there were rules set in place by Congress rightfully so. No more black bag jobs, no more type of secret stuff that went on without regulation. Again, people thought they had their liberties, but they realized, okay, it was codified in the 70's after a congressional committee saw that we need to be able to develop these and establish these rules to protect your civil rights. But then what happened internally within the Justice Department and the subsequent administration is, 'Oh, you can't do that, but we don't want you to do this either.' So, it got to the point where when I sat out there as an Agent, if an individual had some, and I was sittin' on some terrorism squad, and I had some information regarding criminal activity, but I got that information off of FISA, I couldn't walk and turn my chair around say, 'Hey, Agent Smith (working criminal [division]), you need to know this. There's something bad going down.' I couldn't do that because the rules and regulations of the Department of Justice put a wall up. It wasn't physical, but it was there, that said, 'Whoah, wait a second. You got this information derived off an intelligence case regarding a criminal activity. You can't pass that on.' It has to be vetted through what they all a blue team or red team or white team instead of me turning around to a guy behind me because the rules were set up that says, 'Ya know, we abused the system in the 60's and 70's, these rules were set up, and then these rules on top of that.' I call it the Camp Jacket thing. It got to a point where I could not turn around, if I was working a terrorism case and I got information off of a FISA that was, again, maybe a wiretap that was intelligence oriented, I could not turn and say there was criminal activity going on that I heard on the air because I had to get it vetted through higher ups, and that took time and effort. And we thought it was so silly."

Ray: I'm trying to make sure I understand this correctly. Are you saying that if you were investigating a potential terrorism kind of thing, and that maybe they were selling drugs to finance it, that for the criminal act of selling drugs you could not turn around to somebody else?

John: "Because it was derived off an investigative method that was only approved by a FISA court for a particular reason, and you had to vet that information. It wasn't just for intelligence to criminal. It was intelligence to intelligence, too. So, these rules were set up and were sitting there, and that's why many people did not know, these rules were so unbelievable. Rule upon rule upon rule that really dampened the efforts of the agents. You really didn't want to do terrorism. You really didn't want to do it because there were so many rules. But we had dedicated individuals doing that, and trying to stand by every rule that had been set up. It was set up through Justice Department administration after Justice Department administration to the point at 9/11-It was like, 'Why can't you talk to them about that?' Well, because your Justice Department regulation says this, this, and this. 'What are you talking about? We set that up in the Justice Department?' Yes, you did. 'No, no, go talk to them.' So, there was a kind of leveling off. The pendulum swings both ways. And you say many people think too far to rules. It was way over on the other side, I believe. It was just kind of an evening out. Like one example, I could get, if there was a drug dealer out there, I can get what we call an administrative subpoena-I could-to get his financial records. I didn't need a court order. I didn't need a warrant because it's a drug king pen, or it's a drug dealer. But, if it was a terrorist out there, whoah, I gotta go through all this. But if it's a drug guy I can just ask the company to give me his financial information? But if it's a terrorist I gotta go through that? So, those are the type of things that were kind of uneven. It just didn't make sense to many agents working these cases, and it was very frustrating. So, when we talk about rights, etcetera, yes, we are very cognizant of civil liberties and doing what is according to the rules and regs [regulations]. You tell me that my agents have to stand on their heads by the rules and regs while their giving a warrant and sing Yankee Doodle Dandy, my agents will do it. I will do it. You just tell us what the rules are and we will abide by it. If that's you, as the American people, as Congress, dictate as the rules."

Q: We hear a lot about departmental turf wars over sharing information or who ends up getting credit for an arrest. How successful has the Department of Homeland Security been at consolidating and collating information from the various departments? Do turf wars continue to be a problem?

"You'll have to ask them regarding that, but we have great relations with the Department of Homeland Security. We have individuals on our Joint Terrorism Task Force from the Department of Homeland Security, so we share information. Their databases are sitting in there [in FBI offices]. Our agents can access those databases now. Same thing with the intelligence community at-large. You're talking about the CIA, NSA, Department of Defense, etcetera. We have great relations with them. I think everybody after 9/11 learned that you have to share this information. The ball field doesn't end for the FBI on the water's edge. We have over fifty legal attaches-so in fifty countries-working with the agency overseas. For us, particularly, the agency, we share. We have to share because we have a lot of information overseas. We have a lot of information domestically. Again, the same thing for the Department of Homeland Security. They're a very large organization. How would you like to have one day your card saying you're INS [Immigration Naturalization Service], the next day you're OBE, 'overcome by events'. Or, the plaque over your desk was one thing, and your sittin' there in a group meeting and the person says, 'I don't know what I am right now. I don't know if I'm part of this organization they're consolidating.' There's two supervisors of two groups that are consolidating. What do you do with the two supervisors? That type of thing. They went through some major changes. Personally, I think they get beaten on and I think they shouldn't. They do the best they can and in time they'll work out all the kinks."

Q: How can we best ensure that we don't have a London style homegrown attack here, where the terrorists aren't sneaking into the country, but may have been inspired by events around the world to attack soft targets here?

"Yeah, well, ya know that takes-and it goes back to this civil rights event as well as everything else we've done since 9/11 which is to work better between the agencies, like I just mentioned in my last answer. But also establishing and maintaining good ties in the communities that we operate in, in the communities that we have to have good relations. I don't know if you heard what I said last to the individuals assembled there at the ICCD [Islamic Center of the Capital District] that night [when the FBI spoke at the Interfaith Muslim Civil Rights event-see June 2007 issue of The Informed Constituent®], was that we won't identify these individuals, and we won't-to use that term 'win the war'-win the war on terrorism. It will come from the American people, and it will come from communities, and communities like this community, to work with us in an honest forthright fashion. And we will be as honest and as forthright as we can regarding what we know and to try to help each other out in terms of identifying where these individuals may be. I think that's really the key to success. If we don't do it we're not going to succeed. In the end, identifying home-grown individuals can only be done within the community in which they reside."

Q: The issue of Immigration and illegally crossing the border has received a lot of attention lately, but only in regards to the southern border. Why does our much larger border with Canada not receive as much attention as a potential Homeland Security risk as our border with Mexico?

"I think because it's long standing, in a sense that the immigration issue as well as the violence on the border as well. Say in Juarez [Mexico], south of El Paso [Texas], with the documented narco [narcotics] groups that are down there-always gets the press. But, I guarantee ya, our concerns because we're up here [in Northeast], we're always concerned about the border, working with the Canadians right across the border to make sure that people who shouldn't be slipping through are not slipping through."

Ray: Do you coordinate with the Coast Guard, for example, for port security and things like that?

"Yeah, we coordinate with the Coast Guard on the Great Lakes, St. Lawrence Seaway, Lake Champlain. We work with the Canadians, with the RCMP [Royal Canadian Mounted Police]. We work the provincial police on the border, say in Quebec and Ontario for us up here. We got the border patrol. We got ICE [Immigration and Customs Enforcement], we got the State Police of Vermont. We got the State Police that are on the border. I have a sub-office up in Plattsburgh that deals with, say the large POE's, Port of Entries, along there, as well as our office in Burlington, Vermont also deals with them. And Cornwall [Island], our searches office deals with the border facilities there. And liaison [units], we have frequent meetings with them, ongoing meetings to discuss topics that come up, any new issues, any stops on the border that we need to know about, are passed on to us fairly quickly. We pursue the information that we need to move our people to the right spot."

Q: We noticed that investigating Public Corruption was fourth on the FBI's list of priorities. Does the FBI investigate campaign contributions from certain parties and how much that influences politicians?

"Campaign contributions, I guess to answer your question, we may or may not. It all depends on whether it violates or there is indication that it violates federal law. I think federal election law is part our responsibilities as well."

Ray: I was thinking of the Tom Delay example, but I don't know if that was just limited to Texas-where he had supposedly skirted election laws to consolidate money.

"Yeah, and to tell you the truth, Ray, I'm not familiar with that as to what potential violations of federal law it might have, but there are federal election laws in which we enforce."

Q: How much does politics effect the FBI?

"It doesn't. I moved eleven times in my adult career. So, I move into an area, I'm the new guy, the NG, wherever I go, and so I've been here a year and my people are dedicated to just pursuing the truth wherever it may be. If there is evidence to suggest that there is some violation of the law, it doesn't matter who it is at the other end. We just pursue it, and if there is nothing there we move on. We don't get pressure from anybody. I think the FBI has been around almost a hundred years now. It's well established that in terms of the pursuit of justice-I hate to kind of put it that way, like 'mom and apple pie'-but that's the reason I got into the FBI. I think that's the reason why Paul did and everybody else. We wanted to do good, ya know, and just go where it goes."

Ray: So, it doesn't matter if it's Republican or Democrat that takes over as President, it pretty much stays the same?

"We're here, yeah. My job does not depend on-nor Paul's or anyone else's-depend on who we go after in terms of investigations and who we investigate and who we don't investigate."

Q: Is there anything else you want the public to know about the FBI?

"We're here to serve. We've got great opportunities for employment. We mentioned about the agent side of the house in terms of what we're lookin' for, but we have Intelligence Analyst positions within the FBI that we're hiring-those individuals who are graduating from college who might want a career in that area. We have opportunities on the Communications and Computer side of the house. We're always looking for sharp, young people. That's something we always want to give out. Whenever I'm doing interviews I try to promote the FBI and opportunities within the FBI."

Kim - Q: What has been your biggest challenge within the last year, and what have you enjoyed most about your job here in Albany since you started here about a year ago?

"I moved here from Washington D.C. last year. Actually, we got here mid-July last year, so it would be our one-year anniversary. I think it's the challenge of trying to address our investigations with limited resources. Always trying to 'rob Peter to pay Paul'. We've got some fantastic agents, but a lot of times you put a lot of burden on them to handle one investigation after another. It'd always be nice to have more agents and more resources. I think upstate New York and a lot of areas I've seen in the country, we're not a major metropolitan area, but the area coverage you have is about 3.2 million people. So, I have really not a lot of agents to handle that entire thirty-two counties in Northern New York and the State of Vermont. So, we try to do what we can, but resources for somebody who's a manager and a leader, it's difficult to ask my people to do more than what they've done. That's why I have that document there. It's 1951 about Attitude. It's from [President] Hoover. It basically says stop complaining about lack of resources. It says, '…I will not tolerate a defeatist attitude on the part of the Special Agents in Charge who are unable to meet the problems existing in their divisions with the personnel and equipment that they have will probably be replaced by men of enthusiasm, interest, initiative, and a desire to get the job done.' So, this has been going on for years and years and years-trying to do more. When Congress allocates a new law and they give it to the FBI, we salute and try to do it. It's always difficult to try to meet those needs."

Q: Is this still the attitude that exists, that from the top down, I don't want to hear your complaints?

"No, now that I'm into that level, ya know, every individual that I deal with, from the Director on down, occasionally with the Director, he understands and they all understand that we'd love to have more resources across the board. It's not just Albany. It's all fifty-six field offices. We have a number of agents and professional support personnel in Iraq right now. We had a couple of agents who just came back from Iraq from our divisions. They get drawn from divisions domestically here. They come back with a greater understanding of the big picture, and they help us out by having that experience. But we lose 'em and the draw continues overseas, whether it's Afghanistan, Iraq, and elsewhere. So, for us, we're always constantly being tasked with new responsibilities. We try to do the best we can with what we have."

Q: If you need more resources, how do you ask for them?

"We have a resource management office back at our headquarters. Unfortunately, they are the receivers of all the requests from each of the divisions as to what we need. It's done in a way in which at least it's done fairly. That's really what you look for. Just give me a fair shot. If there's only three agents for four divisions, tell me why I was the fourth division that didn't get it, ya know. They know our demographics. They know our crime problem. We say, 'Hey, we've had this going on. This is chronic in this area, not just a blip on the screen, but has been going on for several years. They also want to know what you've done as a manager and leader to try to resolve the issue by maybe becoming more efficient. So, at least we have somebody to cry to. They respond to us and say sorry we can't or we can. I know from my people back there that I deal with that they understand the plight. It's not that they don't understand. It's just that we're limited."

Ray: I'm thinking that as far as the Cybercrime, that you could get a lot of volunteers that would be happy to be out there looking for crap.

"Yeah, ya know on the Cybercrime, particularly on the Crimes Against Children, there are police departments that just do it independently. Then they pass on information to us and work with us. We do get a lot of help that way, and we kind of leverage-the way we've been doing it for the last several years is we leverage through task forces. So, we have a Crimes Against Children Task Force here in which we're workin' with the State Police and other state and local entities that try to leverage. Even though there may be only one our two agents workin' on it, we have four or five individuals who come in and sit at desks here and work that problem. But, definitely on the Cyber side of the house, just the intrusions-and you talked about the viruses and the worms-how we rely on it, and I may not have tremendous expertise up here, but I can rely on Cisco trained people down in headquarters. We have now got into partnerships with a lot of the high tech companies across the country who are on the cutting edge of a lot of the computer technology that's coming. Not only that we're on now, but as you know, I think six weeks sometimes for some of these generations to turn over so that a new generation comes on. I mean, that's how short the life cycle is on some of these technologies that are coming on board, and we need to stay up on it. So, we actually work with contractors from these companies who work with our people, and say, 'Listen, this is what we're developing. You gotta understand that the bad guys may get this, too.' So, if we don't have the expertise here, then how to become more efficient is to have it down at our headquarters and then rely on them. We'd say, 'We have a problem up here in Albany on a particular issue we've never seen before. None of my agents can handle it. Can you help us out?' That's how it works with us trying to make us more efficient."

Q: Do you have internships?

"We use to. We have a Presidential Internship where we have individuals nominated every year-maybe one or two from our district-and they actually go down for the summertime and work at our headquarters. I think we now have two from this area who have been nominated and I think are down there now. But internships here within this office we do not. It used to be a summer internship with each of our field offices but that had been stopped a number of years ago."

Q: If interested in a job, who's the contact?

"You can call our main line at (518) 431-7200. If you're looking for positions in general with the FBI, just ask for our applicant recruiter. That's how we do it so they have a local face. The program supervisors are back at headquarters. The individuals out in the field have the best knowledge about processing individuals that go through. We also have

Q: Please tell us about the Citizen's Academy.

"It's an academy that we put on twice a year and we invite citizens from the community to come in for three hours every Thursday night for six weeks to learn about the FBI and really how the FBI operates. We have our, part of our curriculum is a, they talk about terrorism and talk about recent cases that we can talk about in terms of terrorism. And to ask, say the Case Agents, what you've always wanted to ask them. We also have, say, a particular block on Crimes Against Children, and where we get on the Internet and we actually how law enforcement gets on the internet and actually 'trolls' through the internet to actually try to identify pedophiles and individuals who are trying to exploit children. And it's real time."

Kim: So training citizens.

John: And just to show the citizens how we operate, we're very transparent. The whole idea is to not only show citizens of the Albany how the FBI operates, but to get a greater understanding and networking between us and the community. So, it allows us to stay in touch with the community. We invite, we send out invitations, and we invite people that are sponsored by individuals within the organization. Say you want to talk to so-and-so and invite them. It's really word of mouth is how we operate."

Kim - Q: When is the next event?

The next one's this Fall. I believe it starts in October and it goes for six weeks. And, at the very end we have a nice time at the FBI range where you get to experience firing a Thompson machine gun, and enjoying that sort of stuff, with a picnic."

Q: Is there a cost?

"There is generally a cost, but it's only a cost just to feed. Working for the federal government we do not have a stipend or an account in which we can draw from, so we ask the citizens, ya know, who are invited and show up, that we just have a contribution, whatever, for foods for each week. That's to make sure, because on Thursday nights a lot of people come off work and they're kind of hungry. So, whole lot of food, and set up the drinks, etc."

So, we do evidence recovery. You see how we respond to crime scenes and how we process crime scenes, very much like CSI. It's really nice. This last one-since I've been here we've had one-and the response was, the feedback, was outstanding."

Kim - So we'll make sure we have the contact information's in there-for this FBI facility?

"Yes, and it's, Meryl Einbinder." [To Paul:] "Do you have a phone number?-It's (518) 431-7274."

Ray - We're definitely interested in scheduling that.

"Well, we sent out the invitations, and I should have thought. It came up when we were talkin' at that function at ICCD [Islamic Center of the Capital District - see June 2007 issue of TIC] that Saturday night, and wanted to extend the invitation to you. It's also something that you can put in your publication. I know Mr. Ference had put it on Channel 9 [News] the next day. He's one of the reporters. It was kind of funny because we also do a polygraph, ya know, we have a polygrapher polygraph somebody and we see who gets it right, to see if you can defeat the polygraph. So, there's certain aspects of the FBI that gets debunked, and in law enforcement. It's pretty good."

For other programs, events, tours, and speaking opportunities, check out the Albany Division of the FBI's website: