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FBI And Petraeus Affair: Back The 'Bad Old Days'?


The scandal ensnaring General Petraeus has raised new questions about the CIA and the FBI. For more, we're joined by Tim Weiner. He's the Pulitzer Prize-winning author of two books on security services - one, "Legacy of Ashes: The History of the CIA"; the second, "Enemies: The History of the FBI." He joins us from New York; thanks so much for being with us.

TIM WEINER: My pleasure, Scott.

SIMON: It's been a week of revelations, ruined careers, shaken families. Any crimes revealed?

WEINER: The FBI's investigation of this whole sordid affair revealed no violations of federal law, no dangers to national security. But it has, in my opinion, turned up one possible serious crime. The conduct of the FBI agent who took this information to Congress - that is way outside the way we are supposed to do business in this country, and it hearkens back to the bad old days of J. Edgar Hoover.

SIMON: Well, let me ask: Could this be the example of a conscience-stricken public servant, who sees what he considers to be evidence of a security risk that for one reason or another, his superiors were not following up on; and he felt honor-bound to bring it to somebody's attention?

WEINER: It could, and that would a make a good movie. But that is not quite what appears to have happened here. The leaking of raw files, from the FBI, is a kind of a blood sport that was practiced during the Cold War, in J. Edgar Hoover's FBI. And it is a practice that should have died when Hoover did, 40 long years ago.

SIMON: Let me go off in another direction, if I could. You've spent some time examining the history of the FBI and the CIA. They - famously - have not always gotten along. But in the years following 9/11, there were vows on all sides to try to work together. Does this controversy, scandal - whatever we call it - call some of those vows into question right now?

WEINER: If it does, that would be a tragedy for the United States. The present director of the FBI, Bob Mueller, took office - God help him - a week before the 9/11 attacks. And he has done - really, by all accounts, including mine - a very, very good job at focusing the agency on job one, which is serving as an intelligence and national security service; which is what it really always has been, and was during and after World War I and World War II and the Cold War.

SIMON: Is it too late to wrap things up in a way you would find more satisfying?

WEINER: To unscramble this egg? I think the damage to the career of David Petraeus is grave. There is no damage to national security that anyone has seen here; but there is a strange silence from the FBI, that is even more embarrassing than the private conduct of David Petraeus. Now, this kind of backstabbing should not be part of the 21st century FBI. And Bob Mueller, the head of the FBI, ought to come out of the building and tell the American people that this is not J. Edgar Hoover's FBI anymore; and it is none of the FBI's business what any American does in bed, in his or her own free time, and of his or her own free will.

SIMON: Tim Weiner, author of "Legacy of Ashes" and "Enemies," speaking from New York. Thanks very much.

WEINER: You're more than welcome.


SIMON: And you're listening to NPR News. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.