Mike German - Disrupt, Discredit, and Divide (San Francisco Ferry Building Store)

Tuesday, September 24, 2019 - 6:00pm

After sixteen years working as a Special Agent in the FBI, including undercover operations in neo-Nazi and militia groups, Mike German left the bureau in 2004 as a whistleblower. His new book Disrupt, Discredit, and Divide: How The New FBI Damages Democracy provides a unique contemporary history of the FBI, showing how its operations in the wake of 9/11 exploited the nation’s fear of terrorism to demand expanded authorities that it used to target the most vulnerable communities in America. Yet, even with its new powers and with far less government oversight, the FBI failed to monitor burgeoning white nationalist movements or crack down on white collar crime and foreign intelligence operations that compromised the 2016 election.

Drawing on personal interviews with former FBI agents, analysts, and whistleblowers, German offers an at once thrilling and troubling account of how the FBI refused to acknowledge its mistakes leading up to 9/11 and adopted a “disruption” strategy targeting communities of color, immigrants, religious minorities, and political dissidents. As German explains, this misinformed hunt for terrorists based on a discredited theory of “radicalization” would lead to a reallocation of vital resources that further threatened national security. For example, the FBI transferred about 500 agents from white collar crime to terrorism, leaving only one hundred agents to address the growing mortgage fraud crisis which the FBI had been warned of in 2004. Agents within the bureau also became targets. Foreign-born agents whose knowledge, experience, and language skills would have otherwise made them prime candidates for counterterrorism subjected them, instead, to internal investigations and polygraph exams. Religious converts, especially to Islam, found their careers blocked. And any agents who reported misconduct or discrimination, if not punished, found themselves in a bureaucratic maze.

The new FBI, as German explains, also crucially failed to view white nationalist violence as a security threat although far-right extremists kill more people in the US in an average year than any other terrorist groups. Additionally, white collar crime is treated as “too big to jail,” a blind spot exemplified in James Comey’s failure to pursue allegations that Russia was illicitly supporting Trump campaign in 2016.

Disrupt, Discredit, and Divide is an engaging and unsettling contemporary history of the FBI and a bold call for reform, told by a longtime counterterrorism undercover agent who has become a widely admired whistleblower and a critic for civil liberties and accountable government.

Mike German is a fellow with the Liberty and National Security program at the Brennan Center for Justice at NYU Law School. He has worked at the ACLU and served sixteen years as an FBI special agent. He co-wrote the feature film Imperium starring Daniel Radcliffe based on his undercover assignments in neo-Nazi groups. He has appeared on all major network and cable news channels as well as PBS Frontline, Democracy Now! and C-SPAN. He is also the author of Thinking Like a Terrorist.

1 Ferry Building
San Francisco, CA 94111
Disrupt, Discredit, and Divide: How the New FBI Damages Democracy Cover Image
ISBN: 9781620973790
Availability: Usually Ships in 1-5 Days
Published: New Press - September 10th, 2019

"A powerful argument against idealizing the F.B.I. and overlooking its troubling record for the sake of short-term political convenience."
--The New York Times Book Review