Andrew McCabe tells the story of his FBI career in The Threat: How the FBI Protects America in the Age of Terror and Trump. And the last two main elements of the title are the salient points in his story. First, he fills us in on the way the FBI changed in order to begin dealing with 21st-Century terror. Then, he covers all the ways the current GOP administration is damaging America’s confidence in the FBI. Maybe that sounds dull to you. On the other hand, I found it mostly riveting.
McCabe talks about his early interest in joining the FBI. But when he graduates college, they aren’t hiring. So he goes on to law school and private practice. He marries a physician so they navigate her training as well. But this part of the story moves very quickly, and McCabe spends the bulk of his book talking about FBI policy and practice.
His first assignment is working a Russian mob investigation in the New York City area. Seems pretty prescient, considering the final case he worked on as acting director. McCabe explains how FBI investigations are categorized. And, within allowable bounds, he explains the details of running one.
And then 9/11 happens, and the FBI must adjust and refine its counterterrorism processes. McCabe explains some of the 9/11 investigation. However, he focuses more on the Boston Marathon bombing case which he managed. Much of his work in this time frame was done under Director Robert Mueller. Just as I was reading McCabe’s stories about the Director, Mueller was testifying to Congress. The juxtaposition made this book even more engaging.
Of course, McCabe spends substantial time discussing the administration of President Trump. He covers the campaign time frame, with the investigation of the Clinton emails. And he also details the beginnings of the Russian election interference case. There’s a lot to unpack and discuss here.
Reading this book gives me another valuable perspective on the events of the last few years. Early in the year I read James Comey’s book. Unlike Comey, McCabe doesn’t discuss broader philosophical issues of leadership. Recently I read Seth Abramson’s book about whether Trump and his campaign colluded with Russia. McCabe’s book doesn’t have as much detail, but it’s significantly more personal than Abramson’s.
I am headed towards reading The Mueller Report, and I never fully intended to delay it this long. But when my library holds for Abramson and McCabe came in first, my plan shifted. Reader problems, right?
McCabe’s writing style is easy to read. He doesn’t overwhelm readers with minutiae, but balances overview with detail. By telling a few personal stories, and always taking that angle to events, he shares his unique perspective. That’s everything I hope for in a memoir about complex political and world events.
If you’re reading the wide range of memoirs and nonfiction on these issues, I encourage you to add Andrew McCabe’s book to your list.