The Threat: How the FBI Protects America in the Age of Terror and Trump, by Andrew G. McCabe

Eight stars

I have decided to embark on a mission to read a number of books on subjects that will be of great importance to the upcoming 2020 US Presidential Election. Many of these will focus on actors intricately involved in the process, in hopes that I can understand them better and, perhaps, educate others with the power to cast a ballot. I am, as always, open to serious recommendations from anyone who has a book I might like to include in the process.

This is Book #18 in my 2020 US Election Preparation Challenge.

When Andrew G. McCabe assumed the role of Acting Director of the Federal Bureau of Investigation in May 2017, he could not have known the full mess that he was inheriting. That he lasted only a short while was likely not a surprise to him, though it could have been a blessing in disguise. In this book, McCabe not only discusses some of his memories during that brief time on thin ice, but also his life within the Bureau and some of the interesting things he was able to accomplish in his two decades of dedication. Blunt and to the point, this is a great piece to shed some light on how far off the rails things got and how the current administration will stop at nothing to bastardise one of the key intelligence agencies in America. Recommended to those who have an interest in FBI history and are able to keep an open mind throughout.

McCabe seeks not only to tell his story, but to explore the importance of the FBI in the larger American intelligence community. He goes into great detail about the vetting he underwent and how he was forced to lay it all on the line and provide honest answers if he wanted to make any progress with his application. Ready to commit himself and eager to move wherever he was needed, McCabe and his wife took the plunge and prepared for an exciting life.

McCabe began in Organized Crime, dealing in the New York area. He recounts how he got his hands dirty by handling Russian mobsters who were setting up their own territory and trying to put pressure on those in the region for their own benefit. McCabe explores how he had to work within the parameters of the FBI to weed out those who were the bigger fish and might prove to be the most problematic, ushering them up the line and making sure that justice was met. His discussions are not only insightful, but help to educate on topics that seem only to appear in the latest headlines of newspapers and in magazines.

Thereafter, McCabe moved to counter-terrorism, where he was able to see some of the threats that could have crippled the country. These were crafty people, working both within the United States and on foreign soil. McCabe was able to work effectively to dilute the threats and to keep America as safe as possible, while also finding itself short on intelligence when it was needed most. The reader who has a great interest in this area can enjoy many stories and in-depth information about the role the Bureau plays in sharing intelligence and pushing it up the line within the Department of Justice.

When McCabe assumed a senior management role in Washington, D.C. he prepared for some of the roles little known or discussed with the general public. Preparing intelligence documents for high-level briefings and liaising directly with the Attorney General proved to be two areas that helped McCabe blossom, though it was also the start of his seeing where politics and the Bureau can walk a fine line. McCabe argues throughout that there should be a clear separation, even if some wish to meld the two. Frank comparisons from the Obama Era and into the Trump Administration are made and strong editorialising occurs, though it is well grounded to provide true contrasting with how the Bureau has been turned away from its intelligence role and into a personal army of brown shirts for the current president and his Attorneys-General lackeys.

There is a great discussion of the Russia Investigation and the Clinton email scandal, both of which McCabe found himself working within. This moves into how the Trump Administration sought to politicize the Bureau, as did Director Comey in some regard. The fallout from the Trump-Comey clash takes centre stage, which led to a sickening attempt at a loyalty pledge by the president. This, in McCabe’s opinion, may have been the beginning of the end. As Acting Director, McCabe sought to keep the lines clearly drawn, though his lack of sycophancy proved to be too much for the Egoist in Chief to handle. That McCabe refused a loyalty pledge and was too aligned with the views of Comey proved to be his downfall. Only Trump could have been so vindictive… or simply a dick!

There will be some who call this book sour grapes and riddled with fake stories. Those people have the right to their opinion, though I felt Andrew McCabe handled himself well and shot from the hip only when it was needed. His insight into life within the FBI helps to educate the curious reader, while also showing just how much pressure can befall someone who is gathering intelligence on a daily basis. The book is divided into strong chapters, all of which are full of great information, even if there are moments of editorialising. While I would have loved a more detailed memoir, this was likely not the time or place, as McCabe wanted to get his message out for all the hear. If I am to believe much of what McCabe says, the Bureau is but one pillar in the intelligence community that is in trouble, forced to reinvent itself when a megalomaniac seeks to pressure for things done his way and to forget those things that do not benefit him. As scary as this sounds, things will only get worse if something does not change soon.

Kudos, Mr. McCabe, for your honest opinions. I am eager to see what others have to say, though reading your book and that of Former Director Comey, I can see a lot hit the fan since January 2017!

A Book for All Seasons, a different sort of Book Challenge: