NPR Story
1:46 pm
Tue June 4, 2013

What's Next For The FBI

Originally published on Tue June 25, 2013 6:06 pm

Transcript

ARI SHAPIRO, HOST:

This is TALK OF THE NATION. I'm Ari Shapiro in Washington. Neal Conan is away. Robert Mueller has run the FBI for 12 years, through one of the most transformative times in the bureau's history. Now he's on his way out. Any day now, the White House is expected to announce that James Comey will take his place.

During Mueller's tenure, the FBI shifted away from a focus on domestic crime to a counterterrorism mission. His successor will take over at a time when the Obama administration is narrowing and refining the war on terror. Meanwhile, violent crime in U.S. cities went up in 2012 for the first time in six years, and new technologies are providing unprecedented amounts of electronic and biometric data about U.S. citizens.

Today we'll consider what all of this means for the future of the nation's top law enforcement agency. So if you've worked for the FBI or interacted with them in the last decade, tell us what's changed. Our number is 1-800-989-8255. Our email address is talk@npr.org. And you can join the conversation at our website. Go to npr.org and click on TALK OF THE NATION.

Later in the program, President Xi of China comes to the U.S. this week. But first: What's next for the FBI? Garrett Graff is the editor of the Washingtonian magazine. He's also author of "The Threat Matrix: The FBI at War in the Age of Global Terror." He joins us here in Studio 42. Welcome to TALK OF THE NATION, Garrett.

GARRETT GRAFF: My pleasure to be here, Ari.

SHAPIRO: So before we talk about what has changed and what will change, why should people care? Why does the FBI matter to typical Americans?

GRAFF: The FBI is the nation's leading federal domestic law enforcement agency. It has stunningly sweeping powers in terms of investigating everything from violent crime, gangs, drugs, organized crime, the Mafia, up through national security threats like cybercrime, counterterrorism and even foreign counterintelligence. I mean, it is the spy catchers that you see on TNT's "The Americans."

SHAPIRO: It seems like the first half of that list you gave is what the FBI was focused on before 9/11, when Robert Mueller took charge of the bureau just days before the terrorist attacks of September 11th. Describe what the FBI looked like in those days and what its focus was.

GRAFF: The FBI, as sort of we all know, largely thanks to the Leonardo DiCaprio movie, was sort of invented under the auspices, under the watch of J. Edgar Hoover during the course of the 20th century as the rise of interstate crime became a problem. Bank robbers became interstate criminals. You had the Ma Barker gang, Billy - Bonnie and Clyde, sort of all of those gangsters of lore.

And then that has given way in the last decade, in the last 15, 20 years, to international crime, which has been the FBI's big challenge. So you're dealing with counterterrorism, you're dealing with transnational organized crime groups like the Sicilian mafia, Russian organized crime, major drug cartels, and that has fundamentally reoriented the FBI from what was really a domestic law enforcement agency to something that is much more of an international intelligence agency.

The FBI today has agents stationed in about 60 countries overseas, and most of the threats that are - have been under Bob Mueller's watch are emanating from places like Pakistan, Russia, Yemen, much more than they are from across state lines.

SHAPIRO: So how much did 9/11 change the FBI's mission?

GRAFF: Fundamentally - in a way that the FBI is still struggling with today. If you go back to Bob Mueller's confirmation hearing in the summer of 2001, terrorism was nowhere on anyone's list. In two days of confirmation hearings, he received only a single question on terrorism, and everyone changed the morning of September 12th.

Bob Mueller and Attorney General John Ashcroft were given a mission by George W. Bush in that first meeting, the day after September 11th, that - to never let this happen again, and that has become the fundamental switch in the way that the FBI approaches this, which is it's not enough to go out and catch terrorists after they've committed their bombing or their attack of whatever variety, that the FBI actually has to fundamentally prevent these incidents from happening in the first place.

SHAPIRO: But does that mean you have an FBI full of, you know, Olympic skiers who were suddenly told they had to become Olympic basketball players?

GRAFF: It's not quite that dramatic of a change. One of the things that you do hear a lot from agents who had been working counterterrorism before 9/11, which was a very small group, is that they were always focused on preventing attacks. They were trying to catch people who were trying to do damage to the United States even if they had already done that damage once.

But what did change is this sort of tension between prosecution and prevention, where the FBI has to act on intelligence, which you have seen in the Boston Marathon bombings, the criticism that the FBI, that there were hints that these guys might be leading towards becoming terrorists and that the FBI didn't stop them from committing that attack in the first place.

SHAPIRO: We're talking about the changing mission of the FBI and how it's likely to change in the years ahead. And if you've interacted with the FBI or worked for the bureau in the last 10 years, we want to hear from you. Give us a call at 1-800-989-8255. Or email us at talk@npr.org.

And Garrett Graff, you talk about this shift from prosecuting crimes after they've happened to preventing crimes that are being planned. That means gathering a huge amount of intelligence. How did that change the FBI's mission?

GRAFF: It's changed it in a number of different ways. One is, as you mentioned in your introduction, the availability of technology today has given the FBI a tremendous ability to gather intelligence, to listen in on telephone calls, to intercept emails, to really have a much better understanding of what people are interested in and what people might be capable of down the road.

But it's also led to this very weird trend that we have seen play out over the last five or six years where the FBI is actually one of the bigger - biggest terror factories in the United States, where...

SHAPIRO: What do you mean by that?

GRAFF: On a - probably not every other month, but six to eight times a year for the last five years or so, the FBI takes down in a big way an aborted terror plot, sort of someone who was dead set on bombing the Capitol building or blowing up a federal building in a city somewhere across the country.

And it's almost always been a case where it was...

SHAPIRO: A sting operation.

GRAFF: A sting operation, where the FBI had an informant who was part of the plot who was sort of pushing the plot forward under...

SHAPIRO: We'll give you the bomb, we'll give you the vehicles, we'll give you the money.

GRAFF: Oh, you have expressed an interest in an online forum on - in, you know, procuring a car bomb? Well, I just happen to have a car bomb parked around the corner here that I'd be happy to provide you.

SHAPIRO: And so the argument goes that the FBI is encouraging people to carry out plots, fake plots, that they would not have had the wherewithal to carry out on their own.

GRAFF: They would not in any way have had the capability to procure a Stinger missile or a car bomb or to build whatever the type of device that they want to use is.

SHAPIRO: Let's take a call from Andrew in Hamilton, Ohio. Hi Andrew, go ahead.

ANDREW: Yeah, I was just mentioning earlier how in media it's always portrayed as, you know, a bunch of field agents, but I was talking to a woman at a banker's training, she's in the FBI, and she was with some recruits and had said that one of the women there had been a nurse and was now trying to get away from Medicare, and she told the woman, look, they're going to hire you and they're going to bring you in to do Medicare fraud.

And that just - it's exemplary of the diversity that I think they're looking for that a lot of people don't recognize, that they want people from different fields because their mission goes across so many fields.

SHAPIRO: Interesting, Andrew, thanks for the call. Garrett, what do you make of that?

GRAFF: The pool of FBI agents is in my mind actually one of the most fascinating groups of federal employees anywhere in the government because they are people who are very mission-driven, who come to this with the sort of sense of right and wrong from a variety of different backgrounds.

A lot of them are former military or former law enforcement of some sort, but they have a huge number of accountants and medical professionals, as the caller mentioned; a lot of scientists. The vast majority of FBI agents actually take pay cuts to join the FBI.

SHAPIRO: Really?

GRAFF: Because they are so...

SHAPIRO: Motivated by civic duty?

GRAFF: Yeah, exactly.

SHAPIRO: Wow, so you sort of brought us up to the present day, and now we have Jim Comey, veteran of the - you know, federal prosecutor, Justice Department for many years. What does he represent as far as the future leadership of the FBI?

GRAFF: There are very few people at Jim Comey's level who know the FBI as well as Comey does. He has been involved - he's primarily been a prosecutor throughout his career, beginning under Rudy Giuliani in the 1980s when Rudy Giuliani was the U.S. attorney in New York, and has been involved in Mafia prosecutions. He was a prosecutor of the Gambino crime family in the 1980s.

Later, when Comey himself was U.S. attorney, he helped prosecute the Khobar Towers bombers. And he also prosecuted Martha Stewart.

SHAPIRO: Martha Stewart, of course, and had this famous confrontation with President George W. Bush's chief of staff and White House counsel in the hospital room of Attorney General Alberto - of Attorney General John Ashcroft, where he really stood up to those White House officials and said, you know, tried to keep them from reauthorizing the program of domestic spying that he thought was operating outside of the law.

GRAFF: This is probably the defining moment, and it's certainly one of the only times that Comey's name has been widely known. This was in March of 2004, something that we didn't understand in the public had even occurred for two to three years after the fact, where Jim Comey took a strong stand as then-deputy attorney general in the Bush Justice Department against what he thought was an unconstitutional terrorist surveillance program codenamed Stellar Wind or Ragtime, depending on sort of what part of the program you're talking about, that was using NSA resources, the National Security Agency resources, to intercept communications domestically here in the United States, and he thought that this violated a number of constitutional provisions and was actually a criminal act that the Bush Justice Department and the Bush White House had been abetting.

SHAPIRO: I want to bring another voice into the conversation. We have Philip Mudd on the line, and he has served in senior leadership positions at both the CIA and the FBI. Most recently he was FBI's senior intelligence advisor, a position he left in 2010, and he joins us from member station WKNO in Memphis, Tennessee. Welcome to the program.

PHILIP MUDD: Thank you.

SHAPIRO: Phil, we have just a moment before we have to take a break, but I wonder if you have a short story that sort of illuminates from the inside the transition that Garrett's been describing from the outside.

MUDD: Sure. I remember back in about - I thinking about 2006, 2007, we were seeing a lot of cases of fundraising for a group called Al-Shabaab, which is a group, a terrorist group in the Horn of Africa, in Somalia. And what we figured out later was that not only was there fundraising in the United States, but a number of people, especially from the Minneapolis area, had gone to be suicide bombers.

SHAPIRO: Phil, we're going to suspend this story - a cliffhanger here and come right back after the break. We want to hear from folks who have interacted with or worked for the FBI in the last decade. The number is 1-800-989-8255. We're talking about the changing mission of the Federal Bureau of Investigation. Stay with us. This is TALK OF THE NATION. I'm Ari Shapiro.

(SOUNDBITE OF MUSIC)

SHAPIRO: This is TALK OF THE NATION. I'm Ari Shapiro. The FBI has just released preliminary crime statistics for 2012, and the numbers showed that reports of violent crime went up in the U.S. last year for the first time since 2006. The West had the highest jumps in the four violent crime categories: murder, rape, robberies and aggravated assaults.

In the Northeast, however, reported crimes were down in all four categories. And we're talking this hour about the FBI, where it may be headed over the next 10 years under a new director. So if you've worked for or with the FBI in the last decade, tell us what's changed. Call us at 1-800-989-8255. Or send us an email, talk@npr.org. You can also tweet at us, @totn.

Our guests are Garrett Graff, editor of Washingtonian magazine; and Philip Mudd, formerly of the CIA and FBI. Phil, I want to get back to the story that I interrupted you midway through, but before I do, those FBI numbers I just described, I want you to describe whether those are numbers that can be trusted. Are they reliable? Can we take them at face value?

MUDD: I think the numbers are trends. If you look at the trend over time, the trend down in violent crime in the United States is remarkable. It might be up here and there in the U.S. this year, but most Americans should recognize that compared to 10, 15 years ago, remarkable change.

SHAPIRO: All right, now you were telling us about an important investigation that sort of tracked money and showed the difference in the way the FBI has approached the issues that it confronts. Pick up where you left off, if you would.

MUDD: Sure, I remember just being personally frustrated. We had great cases on terrorism fundraising for this group, Al-Shabaab, which had supporters in the United States who were sending money to Somalia when the fighting was hot and heavy. What we didn't realize because those cases were very good cases, they should have been pursued, and they should have been prosecuted, we failed to ask the preventive question, which is: If we have this amount of fundraising, is there recruiting of American youth going on?

The answer turned out to, we found out too late, yes, the first American suicide bomber in Somalia, back years ago. So it underscores the fact that good prosecutions, good investigations, don't necessarily mean that you're doing the preventive work you should be doing. We should have asked the question whether that fundraising meant there was recruiting going on.

SHAPIRO: And are those kinds of questions now just automatic for the FBI? Has that culture entirely taken hold?

MUDD: I don't think they're automatic. I think they're becoming embedded. But this is one of the top I would say two or three challenges for Jim Comey if he comes in, that is ensuring that the momentum provided by Director Mueller, who, having sat beside him for four and a half years is no shrinking violet, to ensure that momentum continues, and to do that you're going to have to look people in the eye and say we will continue to go down this path, we will not turn back.

SHAPIRO: You talk about continuing that momentum, but President Obama talks about winding down the war on terror. What does that mean for the future mission of the FBI?

MUDD: There's a difference between saying do you look at the resources on terrorism and try to - and counterterrorism and try to figure out whether some of those might be applied, for example, to cyber- or to violent crime and saying if you're looking down a different path, cyber-, violent crime, do you maintain this mindset that says, as Garrett talked about, we're not only here to enforce the law, we're here to prevent bad things from happening in the United States, we're here to serve as a security and an intelligence service? So the transition relates not just to terrorism but how do you think about other problems, as well.

SHAPIRO: All right, let's take a call. We've got Jason(ph) in Austin, Texas, on the line. Hi Jason, go ahead.

JASON: Hi, yes, I've been in the hiring process with the FBI for about a year now, reached the end. My case was adjudicated so basically just waiting on a date to leave for the academy when we recently got a letter stating that there wouldn't be any more hires - or no more academy dates until February of 2015 due to the current fiscal climate going on right now in the U.S.

And I was just curious: How is the FBI planning on continuing their mission with the staffing levels being cut back?

SHAPIRO: Thanks for the question, Jason. Phil, Garrett, does one of you have an answer to that?

GRAFF: Yeah, the - this is a huge challenge both in the waning days of Mueller's time and then that Jim Comey will be inheriting, which are the sequestration cuts, or these mandatory budget cuts across the board. And Mueller has been very, very vocal on Capitol Hill saying that this has an extreme potential to harm the mission-readiness of the FBI.

What it has meant for the FBI is that the organization has to cut $2 million a day out of its operations, which is a tremendous amount of money and something that the FBI is planning to leave a lot of positions unfilled in the months ahead and wind down entire units focused on things like violent crime in order to ensure that it can continue focusing at the level that it needs to on something like counterterrorism.

SHAPIRO: You know, as this issue makes clear, the FBI is always fighting for federal dollars, and it's hardly the only investigative agency in town. Phil, you worked for the CIA in addition to the FBI. How would you describe where the FBI sits right now in this hierarchy where, you know, somebody's constantly moving up, moving down, shifting around, fighting for turf?

MUDD: I think most people would acknowledge that the FBI has done pretty well in the post-9/11 environment not necessarily in terms of perfect transition to intelligence, but if you drew the picture of where we are in attacks over the past 12 years, most people in this country would have said no way we'll get off that easy, and a lot of the reason is the FBI put a lot of resources on this problem.

I do think that this sequestration issue is going to raise a simple question that Americans and the Congress do not like to deal with, and that is risk. If you want to look at a transition to things like cyber-, to the worst thing I saw at the FBI, which is child pornography in the United States, it's epidemic; to white collar crime; then you have to accept some level of risk on counterterrorism. And the American people don't seem to be willing to do that.

SHAPIRO: Well as we've been discussing, technology is making unprecedented amounts of information available about U.S. citizens to the FBI, and how law enforcement collects and uses that data will be a key issue for the bureau moving forward. So we're joined now by Jennifer Lynch, a staff attorney with the Electronic Frontier Foundation. She's on the phone from her office in San Francisco. Thanks for being with us.

JENNIFER LYNCH: Thanks for having me on the show.

SHAPIRO: Well, when you look ahead at the next decade of the FBI, what are your biggest concerns?

LYNCH: I think my biggest concerns are the massive amount of data collection that the FBI is engaged in on all fronts. We've seen a real expansion in the last few years with the FBI's databases and access to information. So for example the FBI has been building out a very large biometrics database called next generation identification.

SHAPIRO: Describe what that is.

LYNCH: Well, it's a build-out of the FBI's fingerprint database, which contains over 100 million prints. And it includes the addition of biometrics like palm prints, iris scans and facial recognition with the capacity to expand to include biometrics that we might think of as pretty far-fetched, like voice prints or gait, how you walk.

And that's in addition to the FBI's other very large biometrics database, which is CODIS, the DNA database. So there's a big push to expand these databases and also to make the databases interoperable with other government databases like that controlled by the Department of Homeland Security and the Department of Defense.

SHAPIRO: But, you know, I have to say, Jennifer Lynch, it seems to me that if it is legal for law enforcement officials to collect the data, well then why shouldn't they be able to share the information across agencies?

LYNCH: Well, it really depends on how they're collecting data. So for example, much of the FBI's data collection occurs in a criminal context, and we have restrictions on how the FBI can collect data in that context, but some of the data is also gathered in a civil context. So for example if somebody applies for a job with the federal government, they're required to submit fingerprints.

Now that data collection standard is much different, but the FBI has proposed combining that data, that civil data, with the criminal data so that the civil data would be searched every time there's a criminal search. And that's true about the DHS database, as well. A lot of that data is collected under a non-law enforcement purpose but is being combined with criminal records.

SHAPIRO: Now you're talking about biometric data: fingerprints, retinal scans, perhaps DNA. What about what we sort of describe with the umbrella term eavesdropping, the FBI is obtaining emails, phone records, you know, Facebook messages and so on?

LYNCH: Yeah, I think that that's a big concern. Our laws that govern data collection were written - well, electronic data collection were written in 1986 and only updated minimally in the '90s. So they're written for very different types of data. Now we leave digital fingerprints behind us wherever we go. It's very difficult to control where that data is going. And the FBI is able to get access to it under pretty minimal restrictions.

SHAPIRO: It sounds as though you're saying the laws governing surveillance need to be updated. I'm sure that you and Phil Mudd do not see eye to eye on many issues, but I wonder, Phil, whether you agree that it's time to update those laws.

MUDD: I would take a step further and say there has to be a broader national debate on this. If you think of the digital exhaust or digital trail that you left 15 years ago as a citizen, and you fast-forward to today with email, phone, Facebook, ATMs, instant messaging, the job of the FBI is to look at conspiracies, and there's very few ways you can look at a conspiracy faster than to draw a net around a person based on that expanding digital trail.

The conversation has to be: What are Americans comfortable with in terms of the digital trail they leave, equivalent to the comfort they've found on their physical selves? If you walked outside a grocery store, you're not going to get searched. If you did, you'd say this is wrong. When you walk in an airport, you say that's fine. That's a physical search. We don't have that understanding in the digital world.

SHAPIRO: And Jennifer Lynch, I want to ask you about one other aspect of the future of the FBI, which is that they're allowed to fly drones in the United States. What do you see going forward on that front?

LYNCH: It's true. They are allowed to fly drones. They have an authorization from the FAA, and I think what's especially concerning is that the FBI hasn't been forthcoming on how they're flying drones and where they're flying them. We literally just yesterday received records of the FBI's drone flights in the United States from the - we received FBI records from the FAA, and they're entirely redacted. So where the Army has provided us with quite a bit of information on how it flies drones and what types of drones it flies, the FBI will not reveal this information to Americans.

SHAPIRO: Garrett Graff, does that surprise you, or is that kind of secrecy sort of embedded in the FBI culture?

GRAFF: It's certainly embedded in the FBI culture, but to tie together a couple of these different threads, Ari, one of the things that I think Phil raised was the risk assessment, sort of how much as a society we're comfortable with this idea of the FBI being in charge of preventing crimes. And I think where probably Jennifer, Phil and I all agree is that none of us actually want to live in a society where the FBI is able to prevent all acts of terrorism, where that would be the invasion of privacy that would be necessary for them to execute their jobs perfectly would be so invasive and so troubling as to undermine the entire foundations of our free society.

And that's where we as a society really need to begin to have this conversation about what level of risk we're comfortable having with the FBI and terror attacks in the United States going forward.

SHAPIRO: That's Garrett Graff, editor of the Washingtonian magazine, and we also had Jennifer Lynch in the conversation, staff attorney with the Electronic Frontier Foundation, with us from her office in San Francisco. Jennifer, thanks for joining us.

LYNCH: Thanks for having me on the show.

SHAPIRO: Let's bring in another caller. We have Vic(ph) from San Francisco on the line. Hi, Vic. Go ahead. You're on the air.

VIC: Yeah. Hey, how are you?

SHAPIRO: Fine, thanks. Go ahead.

VIC: Yeah. I was a police officer in the 1970s in the San Francisco Bay Area. Of course, we did have some acts of terrorism along that area, domestic, and then worldwide, there was acts of terrorism. And I left police work in 1980, and I just before I left, the FBI came in, and they were briefing local police departments, anticipating that the 1980s was going to be the decade of terrorism in the United States...

SHAPIRO: Hmm.

VIC: ...and that they were gearing up for that. So we had a briefing on that, and I thought that might be a little historical perspective for you.

SHAPIRO: That's really interesting. Phil Mudd, what do you make of that?

MUDD: People don't recognize in this country that the level of domestic terrorism in this country in the '70s - Symbionese Liberation Army, Patty Hearst, all that kind of stuff, Black Panthers - was higher than it is today. Because we've been living in the post-9/11 world, we focus more on terrorism today, but it's not as high as it was 30, 40 years ago.

GRAFF: We really forget how many bombings there were in the United States in the 1970s and '80s. It was just that they were not politically minded foreign organizations. It was groups like the Black Panthers. It was groups like the Weather Underground.

SHAPIRO: We're talking about the future of the FBI, and you're listening to TALK OF THE NATION from NPR News. Phil Mudd, before we knew that the White House was planning to pick James Comey to be the next FBI director, the agents floated their own name. That seems pretty unusual. What kind of a message were they trying to send?

MUDD: I think the message was they're talking about somebody whom they trust, partly because he's a former agent. I would say - and I'll be blunt about this - I don't think this is a good idea. An organization should not be choosing who their leader is. The generals in the Pentagon should not be choosing who the secretary of defense is. So I looked at this. I understand the agents' association wants to represent its people. I'm sure I'll take some heat from agent friends for this, but I think it's bad politics, and it's bad leadership to try to press the politicians and the president to pick your own leader.

SHAPIRO: Well, if they were to steer the FBI in the direction of their choice, where would the agents take it?

MUDD: You'd find a mix among agents. A lot of them are post-9/11, so most of my men are extremely committed and capable people. I think there'd be a split between those who said we're frustrated in some ways with the direction that Director Mueller took us, and some who would say keep - please keep going. We have to become a more intelligence-driven organization. There's a transition underway, and it's going to happen - continue to happen under Jim Comey if he's there.

GRAFF: Ari, a data point for you, about 52 percent now of the FBI workforce, the agents, have joined the FBI since 9/11. So there is still a good chunk of the agent core who came in with a different expectation of the job that they were assigning up for where they really thought they were coming in to chase bank robbers, to chase kidnappers, to go after white-collar criminals or the Mafia. Now, though, the agents who have come in since 9/11 understand that they're joining what is primarily a counterterrorism organization, and particularly - and it's something that Phil's raised a couple of times here - the agents who have come in the last couple of years are coming in partially to help fight this looming threat on the horizon of cybercrime, which is...

SHAPIRO: We haven't discussed cybercrime at all. How big is that going to be in the next decade?

GRAFF: ...which I think in many ways is going to be the defining problem for Comey going forward is how we as a society, how the FBI as an organization struggle with the rising tide of cybercrime. This has been something that has been very much on Bob Mueller's radar for the last couple of years. And if you had asked him probably as late as March of this year, he probably would have told you that he thought that the biggest threat facing the FBI and the United States was cybercrime, not counterterrorism.

SHAPIRO: Phil Mudd, do you think the FBI is prepared to take on the level of cybercrime we're going to see in the next decade, or will it require a pivot in the FBI similar to the post-9/11 pivot?

MUDD: I don't think it's ready to take this on, not because the FBI but because of the magnitude of the problem, which I think is ill understood. I think the pivot is underway. Director Mueller has been pretty clear in the past - I'm going to guess year two - about starting to talk as much about cybercrime as he does about terrorism. But this is going to take a pivot not just in the Federal Bureau of Investigation but in America itself where companies are still reluctant to talk about the threats and the thefts they're facing from overseas in the cyber world.

GRAFF: It's a huge challenge, Ari, because you have a problem that like counterterrorism is very hard to put back in the bottle, that once a cyber crime has been committed, it's now too late to really do anything about that. But from the FBI's perspective, who is responsible for really playing defense on something like cyber crime in the United States, that you really have to solve the cyber intrusion to understand whether you're dealing with a foreign government, a foreign intelligence organization, a transnational organized crime group like Russian mafia, a group of hacktivists like Anonymous, or a teenager down the street.

SHAPIRO: That's Garrett Graff, editor of the Washingtonian magazine and author of "The Threat Matrix: The FBI at War in the Age of Global Terror" with us today in Studio 42. Thanks, Garrett, for joining us.

GRAFF: My pleasure.

SHAPIRO: And we also have Phil Mudd, director of Global Risk at SouthernSun. He served as the senior intelligence advisor for the FBI until 2010. He joined us today from member station WKNO in Memphis. Phil, thanks for being on the program.

MUDD: My pleasure.

SHAPIRO: And this weekend, at a mid-century modern estate with Mexican lava stone walls and topped with an iconic pink pyramid, President Obama and Chinese President Xi Jinping meet for informal talks. We'll get a preview after a short break. Stay with us. I'm Ari Shapiro, and this is TALK OF THE NATION from NPR News. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.