The Aldrich Alert
Gary Aldrich

A Publication of the Patrick Henry Center for Individual Liberty

FBI Headquarters

June 2, 2001

by Gary Aldrich - Volume 2, Issue 30

This article appeared on on Thursday, May 30, 2002.

FBI Headquarters’ Supervisory Special Agent David Frasca’s name has been leaked by "concerned" U.S. senators who swear everything they do is in the interest of the betterment of the FBI. Frasca is the manager at FBI Headquarters whom Minneapolis FBI Agent and Legal Adviser Coleen Rowley named in her 13-page letter to FBI Director Robert Mueller.

Rowley also sent copies of her letter to several U.S. senators, so we’ll assume she feared that the FBI director would never see it. Was Rowley worried that the "slugs" below the director’s 7th-floor suite would make her bad news "go away"?

Who could have ever imagined what happened on Sept. 11, 2001? But that doesn’t relieve the responsibility of the FBI to respond to threats. Something bad happened at FBI Headquarters, and we have yet to learn what, or who, is responsible. It’s too easy to assume that David Frasca is to blame just because Rowley didn’t leave any doubt in her memo about who she thinks "obstructed" the Phoenix and Minneapolis investigations.

But, is it as simple as Rowley claims? Is it true that SSA Frasca was in over his head and could not properly function in his job at FBI Headquarters for reasons related to a poor work ethic or abilities? I’m joining the chorus of people who insist – for our own future national security – that we learn what really happened at FBI Headquarters, and how this important terrorist threat inquiry was stifled.

To start with, let’s list the number of supervisory positions who could second-guess SSA Frasca. In Minneapolis, SSA Frasca interfaced with the field office supervisor who managed the squad that conducted the Moussaoui investigation. Immediately above the squad supervisor was an assistant special agent in charge and above him, a special agent in charge at the Minneapolis office.

All three of these individuals could have weighed in on the Moussaoui investigation if they objected to FBI Headquarters’ decisions or inaction. Did they object? If Rowley’s complaints are well founded, I would assume the case agent, his supervisor and Rowley went through the proper chain of command and complained to the ASAC and SAC. Rowley’s memo does not seem to address this, but I think we need to know the answer.

At FBI Headquarters, there is SSA Frasca, then above him is an assistant unit chief. Above his assistant is the unit chief, who reports to the assistant section chief. The assistant section chief reports to the assistant director for the division, and he reports to …

Lots of chiefs but not enough braves?

Many believe there are too many layers of management at the FBI overseeing the work of the "street agents" who do the real work. Recall the road-repair crew with one guy digging in the hole with his pick, and five guys standing around the hole watching him dig. When we drive by this kind of bureaucratic waste, we often laugh. But if it happens at someplace important like the FBI, it isn’t funny.

Then there’s the typical knee-jerk reactions by Headquarters denizens overly concerned with career advancement. Many are terrorized into timidity by the stories of others who came before, tried to be proactive by helping field offices, but "broke their pick off" in the process. On more than one occasion SSAs have remarked, "No good deed goes unpunished." They aren’t kidding, and that’s sad. The "best" advice at FBI Headquarters is usually, "Keep your head down, your mouth shut, and just do your time."

I first heard, "To get ahead, you have to get along; and to get along, you have to go along" from my supervisor when I was a fresh recruit to the Washington Field Office SPIN Squad, the group responsible for conducting investigations of White House appointments. We handled Supreme Court Justice cases as well as investigations into the lives of the president’s closest White House staff, including the chief of staff. It seemed very odd to me that FBI managers could adopt such dysfunctional attitudes, particularly with those involved in White House matters.

I guess some FBI managers would’ve accused me of having a bad case of the "for-reals," another cynical slogan I heard too often. Yet another was, "The trouble with you, Aldrich, is that you care too much." Well, perhaps too many FBI managers don’t care enough.

Director Mueller has a tough job ahead of him. He has proposed many changes, but the most important change may be the hardest one to make – the new FBI director has promised a positive change in FBI management attitude, starting at the top. The FBI needs this change desperately, and many of my friends – whether still in the FBI or retired from the bureau – suggest moving vast numbers of burned-out SSAs to the field offices and bringing fresh SSAs back to management – the ones who did not join the FBI so that they could "go along to get along."