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Publisher's Summary

An intimate look at Robert Mueller, the sixth director of the FBI, who has just been named special counsel to oversee the investigation into ties between President Trump's campaign and Russian officials.

Covering more than 30 years of history, from the 1980s through Obama's presidency, The Threat Matrix explores the transformation of the FBI from a domestic law enforcement agency, handling bank robberies and local crimes, into an international intelligence agency - with more than 500 agents operating in more than 60 countries overseas - fighting extremist terrorism, cyber crimes, and, for the first time, American suicide bombers.

Based on access to never-before-seen task forces and FBI bases from Budapest, Hungary, to Quantico, Virginia, this book profiles the visionary agents who risked their lives to bring down criminals and terrorists both here in the United States and thousands of miles away long before the rest of the country was paying attention to terrorism. Given unprecedented access, thousands of pages of once secret documents, and hundreds of interviews, Garrett M. Graff takes us inside the FBI and its attempt to protect America from the Munich Olympics in 1972 to the attempted Times Square bombing in 2010. It also tells the inside story of the FBI's behind-the-scenes fights with the CIA, the Department of Justice, and five White Houses over how to combat terrorism, balance civil liberties, and preserve security. The book also offers a never-before-seen intimate look at FBI director Robert Mueller, the most important director since Hoover himself.

Brilliantly reported and suspensefully told, The Threat Matrix peers into the darkest corners of this secret war and will change your view of the FBI forever.

PLEASE NOTE: When you purchase this title, the accompanying reference material will be available in your Library section along with the audio.

©2011 Garrett M. Graff (P)2017 Hachette Audio

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    3 out of 5 stars
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    3 out of 5 stars

Best Bob Mueller book; still not worth your time

I'm going to go ahead and assume you're considering this book as a source of insight into Special Counsel Robert Mueller. That wasn't what the author had in mind when he wrote it of course. The book is intended as an exploration of the FBI's role in terrorism cases, dating back to the 1970s but with its primary focus on the post-9/11 GWOT. To a lesser extent, the book is a general history of the FBI as well, but if that's what you're looking for, you'd probably do better with Tim Weiner book "Enemies."

Frankly, there's just a lot of hours of book here for the amount of Bob Mueller insights you're going to get. The profile you get is the same as any brief sketch of the man: He's a serious guy who doesn't socialize much, a former marine who goes to church on Sundays. He works long hours and tells the same jokes over and over, which weren't that funny to begin with. The author clearly conducted hours of interviews with Mueller, and the narrative has a slightly odd relationship with its primary subject (for example, the book will state matter-of-factly that such-and-such a case was the most something or other--difficult, emotional, etc.--case of Bob Mueller's career, when it would feel more natural to say that Bob Mueller said in an interview that this case was the most whatever of his career), but not a lot of color really comes through. Apparently his cell phone rang the first time he met President Bush.

In any event, if you decide to go for it, consider skipping to chapter 10 (in the audible sectioning, not the actual tenth chapter of the book), time code 31:38. There's essentially no Mueller before that. The earlier part is about the fight over COINTELPRO in the 70s, the Pizza Connection case of the 80s (which is not really terrorism, but is about the FBI developing its international capabilites with Italian organized crime), and fights between Louis Freah and Bill Clinton in the 90s. I think Mueller comes up a little bit before this time stamp in connection with the Lockerbie case, which he prosecuted, but there's really not much about him there. Again, if this pre-9/11 FBI stuff is what interests you, you may do better with "Enemies."

The actual focus of the core of the book is on how the FBI was affected by 9/11, how it interacted with the CIA and military over this period, and the various bureaucratic fights that took place. There are some interesting stories here, such as the FBI interrogation of Saddam Hussein, the expansion of the FBI's operations overseas, and various cross-agency fights over torture and Gitmo. Some of it is interesting in the way recent history is, for making sense of things that were less clear in newspapers at the time. It's crazy to learn that for years George W. Bush got daily briefings on low-level intelligence about terrorist threats. At the time, many alleged that the administration was using the heightened fear of terrorism for political gain. In some sense, they undeniably did, but what hindsight makes clear is that they weren't just cynically trying to freak out the American people, they had clearly freaked themselves out too.

The most important recurring theme of the book is the complex interplay between law enforcement and intelligence gathering, and how the FBI is unique in being responsible for both. The forced separation between these two functions following COINTELPRO was likely responsible for some of the intelligence failures that led to 9/11, although it seemed to me the author overstated this somewhat to tell a cleaner story. After 9/11, many argued that the intelligence functions of the FBI should be separated out to form a new agency akin to Britain's MI-5. Many others though, including Mueller, argued that law enfocement and intelligence gathering are not as different as they seem: both are about gathering and analyzing evidence, and intelligence threats essentially always involve criminal activity. Clearly, this view won the day. To the extent that the book has a message relevant to the 2018 Russia investigation, this would seem to be it. Some critics of the Special Counsel's Office have argued that Russian interference in the election should be treated as an intelligence matter rather than a criminal one. This argument has always seemed disingenuous; it's also, apparently, a false dichotomy Bob Mueller has been fighting against for years.

14 of 16 people found this review helpful

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Amazing a must read

I could not put this down
One comes away from the book with a large respect for Mueller and the FBI

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Informative

Really informative book on how the FBI has fought crime over the last 100 years.