John S. Pistole ‘81 Becomes FBI Deputy Director
On October 1st John S. Pistole, ‘81 became Deputy Director of the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI). FBI Director Robert Mueller says, “John Pistole is a major asset. Our counterterrorism and counterintelligence capabilities are significantly stronger today because of his leadership. He successfully steered two critical programs through periods of heightened threat and institutional change, and he has been instrumental to our overall transformation efforts.” As Deputy Director, Pistole will oversee all operational and investigative matters, with a particular emphasis on oversight of the FBI’s reengineering efforts. Pistole says his job will entail assisting in the agency’s move toward becoming an “intelligence-driven, threat-based” organization. He has served as Executive Assistant Director for Counterterrorism and Counterintelligence for the FBI since December, 2003, and previously served as Assistant Director of the Counterterrorism Division.
When John Pistole finished law school in 1981 he wanted to go into practice and did so for two years in his home town of Anderson, Indiana. After talking to a friend and a family member, both of whom had worked for the FBI, he says he decided he had nothing to lose in applying for a “Special Agent” position. That was more than two decades ago and now he finds himself second-in-command at a government agency that has often been in the spotlight since September 11, 2001.
Pistole says his legal background has been one of the keys to his professional success. He cites “the discipline of analysis and the ability to communicate effectively” as critical when faced with analyzing terrorism information or testifying before the 9/11 Commission, which he did three times.
To anyone interested in a career at the FBI, Pistole says you need to distinguish yourself from the other applicants. He says that currently only 1.7% of qualified applicants are actually hired by the agency. A law degree, he says, is a good place to start. International experience and foreign language proficiency are also extremely helpful in today’s world, according to Pistole.
Pistole has worked on a wide range of assignments during his 21-years with the FBI. He began his career in 1983 as a Special Agent assigned to the Minneapolis Division, where he investigated organized crime and violent crimes. In 1985, Pistole was transferred to the New York Division, where he focused on La Cosa Nostra investigations. In 1990, he was promoted to Supervisor in the Organized Crime Section at FBI Headquarters. In that capacity, Pistole distinguished himself by coordinating FBI efforts to assist the Italian National Police in finding those responsible for the assassinations of two prominent Italian Magistrates.
In 1994, Pistole was promoted to field supervisor of a white collar crime and civil rights squad in Indianapolis. The following year, Mr. Pistole was the FBI representative to a State Department delegation sent to Sofia, Bulgaria to assess their laws and police response to Russian/Eurasian organized crime and financial crime. He also led FBI training on three occasions at the International Law Enforcement Academy in Budapest, Hungary.
In 1999, Pistole was promoted to the position of Assistant Special Agent in charge of the Boston field office. In November 1999, he led one aspect of the investigation into the Egypt Air 990 crash off the coast of Rhode Island.
In July of 2001, he was promoted to the position of Inspector in the Inspection Division at FBI Headquarters, where he led teams conducting evaluations and audits of FBI field offices and Headquarters Divisions. That same year, Pistole led a team that addressed security issues in the wake of the arrest of Robert Hanssen.
In April 2002, Pistole was appointed by Director Mueller to the position of Deputy Assistant Director for the Counterterrorism Division, where he oversaw operations in international and domestic terrorism, and terrorist financing. He was also responsible for directing the National Joint Terrorism Task Force, the Foreign Terrorist Tracking Task Force, and the Terrorism Reports and Requirements Section. His authority was expanded to include leadership and oversight of the FBI’s overall counterterrorism efforts when he was named Assistant Director of the Counterterrorism Division in September 2003. He was appointed Executive Assistant Director for Counterterrorism and Counterintelligence in December 2003.
Pistole says he is both “honored and humbled” by his selection for his new position. “No one sets out to become deputy director,” he says. He credits his being a candidate for the position to his “good fortune in assignments” at the FBI and with “working for and with so many great people.”