Book Review: DISRUPT, DISCREDIT, AND DIVIDE

How the New FBI Damages Democracy

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DISRUPT, DISCREDIT, AND DIVIDE
How the New FBI Damages Democracy
by Mike German

A well-documented exposé explaining how 9/11 transformed the FBI into an agency “using its enhanced national security powers to silence whistleblowers, suppress minority communities, intimidate dissidents, and undermine democratic controls over its operations.”

When he entered the agency in 1988, German (Thinking Like a Terrorist: Insights of a Former FBI Undercover Agent, 2007) found himself admiring many of his fellow agents. However, he gradually began to realize that the FBI top brass—including Robert Mueller and James Comey—presided over an organization rife with sexism, racism, xenophobia, and resistance to honorable agents who pointed out problems through the chain of command. After 9/11—which many believed could have been avoided if the FBI, CIA, and other entities had performed their jobs better—German watched as Islamophobia infected the FBI from the top down. He departed in 2004 but kept a close watch using his own knowledge and that of the whistleblowers still inside. In an unusual move for a former FBI agent, German joined the staff of the American Civil Liberties Union, where he gained a finely honed appreciation of how the FBI routinely violated the rights of Muslims, African Americans, Native Americans, and many other nonwhite citizens. The author developed an especially acute sense of how FBI leadership downplayed the widespread dangers of heavily armed white nationalists, many of whom took their cues from the domestic terrorists responsible for the 1995 Oklahoma City bombing. In addition to developing his theme of misplaced priorities within federal and local law enforcement, German returns frequently to convincing evidence that foreign terrorists who orchestrated 9/11 would strike again inside the United States through a hidden network of sleeper cells. German bemoans the fact that by successfully spreading fear within a dysfunctional federal government—and ineffective FBI—terrorists ripped the fabric of American democracy, perhaps beyond repair. “The FBI,” he writes, “cannot remain effective without public confidence in its work, and regaining this faith should be its top priority.”

Important reading for our current time, especially as the Mueller Report continues to circulate.

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