The FBI is probably going to go to the suburbs. The likelihood of the feds staying in town when they vacate Pennsylvania Avenue’s garish J. Edgar Hoover Building has all but evaporated with the District’s top economic official effectively pulling the city from contention.
The FBI’s preferred criteria for a new headquarters renders ineligible any sites the District might have proposed, Victor Hoskins, the deputy mayor for planning and economic development, wrote in a letter last month to Dan Tangherlini, the head of the General Services Administration, the agency that manages federal real estate. Hoskins’s letter was first obtained by the Washington Post.
In a Request for Expressions of Interest published last month, the GSA wrote that the FBI is looking for a plot of about 50 acres on which to build a 2.1 million square foot headquarters, plus parking. The site also needs to be able to fit the bureau’s security needs without making “significant impacts on the quality of the human and natural environment.”
Those and other requirements appear to disqualify the District’s proposal for putting the FBI on a 40-acre plot at Poplar Point, a tract Southeast DC along the Anacostia River that is currently used by the National Park Service but has been eyed for redevelopment in the future. Even with Poplar Point seemingly out of the mix, the District is unlikely to suggest a different location for where the FBI might land.
“Poplar Point is what we have,” Pedro Ribeiro, a spokesman for Mayor Vince Gray, told the Post.
UPDATE: Dan Cruz, a spokesman for the GSA, writes in an email that the agency still wants the District to compete for the FBI relocation.
"The ad states that GSA anticipates approximately 50 acres would be needed to satisfy this project based on assumptions regarding building height, density, and security requirements," Cruz writes. "However, the language regarding the acreage is not a minimum nor a maximum requirement; it is a general ballpark figure. Smaller sites that satisfy all minimum requirements of square footage, security, access to public transit, and access to the Capital Beltway will be considered."
The GSA is taking submissions through December 17, and any landowner—public or private—can express interest.
Aaron Alexis, the Navy veteran suspected of carrying yesterday's shooting spree at the Washington Navy Yard, entered Building 197 with a valid identification pass while carrying a shotgun he purchased legally at a gun shop in Virginia, the FBI said in the latest update from law enforcement on the massacre that left 13 people dead, including the assailant.
The dead suspected gunman in the Navy Yard shootings, Aaron Alexis, joins a long and growing list in America of mass shooters, particularly lone males. There have been 15 this year alone, former FBI profiler Clint Van Zandt said in an MSNBC interview. In the 24 hours since the Navy Yard shootings occurred, claiming 13 including Alexis and injuring another eight, information about Alexis has developed quickly. The picture being painted of him by police, forensic profilers, and friends is of a man with possible mental health, anger, and violence issues.
Here’s what we’ve gleaned so far from a variety of sources, including the FBI, police, and media stories:
• He was 34 years old, stood 6-foot-1, and weighed approximately 190 pounds, according to public records.
• He moved to DC from Fort Worth in the past month. Authorities said that as of September 7 he lived in a Residence Inn near the Navy Yard.
• He was pursuing an online aeronautical engineering degree from Embry-Riddle Aeronautical University in Daytona Beach, Florida.
• The Washington Post reported on Tuesday afternoon that while he was in the Navy “Alexis was cited at least eight times for misconduct for offenses as minor as a traffic ticket and showing up late for work but also as serious as insubordination and disorderly conduct,” quoting a Navy official who asked for anonymity. The paper reported, again quoting the anonymous source, that Alexis was arrested in 2008 in DeKalb County, Georgia, and held for two nights in jail. The story includes a link to the citation.
• His prior police record includes a 2004 malicious mischief charge in Seattle for shooting out the tires of another man’s car. He was also arrested in 2010 in Fort Worth for discharging a firearm at the Orion Oak Hill apartments, where he lived.
• Seattle police, investigating the 2004 handgun incident, talked with Alexis’s father, who said his son had anger problems and post-traumatic stress disorder after being an “active participant” in the rescue efforts at the World Trade Center on September 11, 2001.
• Alexis served in the Navy Reserves from May 2007 through 2011, according to the Navy. He left the service on his own decision and entered into private contracting work. He was decorated twice by the Defense Department, with a National Defense service medal and a Global War on Terrorism service medal.
• He had converted to Buddhism, enjoyed meditation, and was fascinated with Thailand. He was learning the language and had visited the country. He occasionally worked as a waiter at the Happy Bowl Thai restaurant in a suburb of Fort Worth, speaking Thai with the customers.
• In a wide range of interviews, friends and acquaintances of Alexis described him as friendly but also reclusive and shy.
• Law enforcement authorities told the Associated Press that Alexis suffered from paranoia and sleep disorder, and that he said he was hearing voices. He was treated by the Veterans Administration, but the Navy did not declare him mentally unfit.
• Friends said Alexis was drawn to playing video games, including some that skew particularly violent, such as Call of Duty. A Fort Worth, Texas, friend and on-and-off roommate, Nutpisit Suthamtewakul, who described Alexis as being like his “big brother,” said Alexis would sometimes play video games “all day and all night.”
• His family lives in New York, where he also lived before moving to Seattle. Alexis also had relatives in Seattle and Georgia.
See below for a biography of Alexis released by the Navy's Office of Information.
The SUVs and helicopters arrived one by one all morning at Camp David, the presidential retreat hidden deep within the Catoctin Mountains on Maryland’s border, assembling on September 15, 2001, the men who would lead the nation into war. There was President Bush, Vice President Cheney, Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld and his deputy, Paul Wolfowitz, Secretary of State Colin Powell and his deputy, Richard Armitage, National Security Adviser Condoleezza Rice and her deputy, Stephen Hadley, General Hugh Shelton, CIA Director George Tenet with the agency’s head of counterterrorism, Cofer Black, and Attorney General John Ashcroft with the head of the FBI, Robert Mueller. Sitting at a large conference table in casual clothes—the President wore a parka—they spent the morning and afternoon plotting the nation’s response to the devastating terrorist attacks and by day’s end settled on a course that would lead the country first into Afghanistan and, later, into Iraq.
Twelve years later, they’re all gone from the government—their war on terror over, their memoirs written, their speaking tours mostly wrapped up, their consulting firms up and running. The George W. Bush presidential library opened this spring in Dallas, and the former president has now taken up painting.
They’re all gone, that is, except one.
Robert Mueller’s war on terror has continued.
On the day of Barack Obama’s 2009 inauguration, Mueller, who started as director just a week before 9/11, watched from the seventh-floor windows of the Hoover Building as the new President and the inaugural parade passed below on Pennsylvania Avenue—one of just two senior national security officials, along with Secretary of Defense Bob Gates, who carried over from one president to the next. He’s gotten used to the revolving doors around him. In his roughly 4,000 daily terrorism threat briefings—give or take a few hundred—he’s worked with four attorneys general and six CIA directors. Internally, he’s seen five deputy directors and nearly a dozen heads of counterterrorism rotate through.
In 2011, he became the longest-serving FBI director since J. Edgar Hoover himself—and undoubtedly the most influential since. Later that year, his mandatory ten-year term poised to force him from office, Mueller was considered so vital to national security that Congress at President Obama’s request passed unprecedented special legislation allowing him to extend his term an additional two years. In almost any meeting now, he’s the senior and most experienced voice. “He’s the grownup around the table,” says one senior Justice Department official. “He’s like EF Hutton—when he talks, people listen. He can redirect a whole conversation, because he’s been doing this the longest. Everyone respects him.”
But today, after nearly 4,400 days, Bob Mueller’s war on terror is set to end.
At midnight tonight, he’ll hand over the reins of the nation’s premier domestic law-enforcement agency to newly confirmed FBI director Jim Comey, his longtime friend and onetime companion in the trenches of the war on terror.
Mueller has remade the Bureau from top to bottom, transforming its intelligence capabilities, focusing it on counterterrorism and cybercrime, and growing it internationally in ways Hoover never could have imagined. With little public note, the FBI under Mueller has become the first truly global police force, transforming the domestic agency created to combat interstate crime into one focused increasingly on transnational crime, especially in the arenas of cybercrime and counterterrorism. Whereas Hoover in his lifetime never crossed either the Pacific Ocean or the Atlantic Ocean, Mueller has become a global diplomat. A world map in the deputy director’s office shows more than 60 locations abroad where FBI agents are now posted, and Bureau leaders talk of its reach “from Indianapolis to Islamabad.” As Mueller says, “The FBI has never faced a more complex threat environment than it does today, whether one considers terrorism, espionage, cyber-based attacks, or traditional crimes.”
Indeed, Mueller’s final year has been especially difficult—perhaps his most challenging since the year after 9/11. In March, he personally fell victim to the rising tide of online identity theft when the details of his life—along with those of celebrities like Beyoncé, Jay-Z, Arnold Schwarzenegger, Britney Spears, and Donald Trump—were leaked by a Russian hacker website. It was as disruptive to him as it was to anyone else, with Mueller spending evenings and weekends reassembling the mundane details of modern life, changing credit cards and bank accounts, and so forth.
The following month, the Boston Marathon bombing—the first successful terrorist attack on US civilians since 9/11 itself—tested the agency, first with the initial attack, then with the subsequent citywide lockdown and manhunt, then finally with the public questions surrounding whether better investigation in previous years might have stopped the attackers earlier. In the weeks after the bombing, too, in a confusing incident that still remains murky publicly, an FBI agent in Florida shot and killed a Chechen immigrant being interrogated about his connection to the Tsarnaevs.
Amid the 35 proposals to relocate the FBI’s headquarters on Pennsylvania Avenue—the area’s biggest economic development gem in years—is a surprising plan that might just keep the Bureau in downtown Washington, constructing a new building close to Union Station and answering the dreams of many senior FBI leaders.
The Union Station proposal—not previously reported—is backed by Republic Properties and renowned DC architect Arthur Cotton Moore and would provide the FBI with the full required 2.1 million square feet (2,107,242 to be exact) of new space. Republic Properties proposes to build on an empty lot—bordered by North Capitol Street, Massachusetts Avenue, Northwest, and New Jersey Avenue—currently used as parking for the Government Printing Office, which occupies the eastern portion of the block. The neighboring GPO building, which handles the printing of the Congressional Record and passports, among other projects, is underused and in need of renovation itself. Republic Properties is proposing renovations to the GPO facility, the addition of underground parking, and the construction of a new FBI headquarters.
While much of the attention around the headquarters move has focused on the suburbs—suggested sites include Springfield, Virginia, and Greenbelt, Maryland—many senior FBI officials have longed for a viable solution that would keep the Bureau’s 11,000 headquarters staff in downtown DC. The Hoover Building, built nearly 40 years ago and aging badly, has forced the FBI to split its headquarters staff across more than 20 annexes in Washington. Yet FBI officials are wary of moving to the suburbs, which would complicate relations with Congress, the White House, and especially the Department of Justice—currently just across Pennsylvania Avenue from the existing Hoover Building. FBI officials also hope to reopen its public tour, closed since 9/11, in a new headquarters, allowing the building to once again be a major stopping point for tourists.
Dear Mark Owen (a.k.a. Matt Bissonnette),
On Tuesday, I wrote a review of your new book, No Easy Day, about your role in the raid that killed Osama bin Laden. There are few easy days ahead of you. The government apparently is considering whether to take legal action against you for allegedly violating the terms of two nondisclosure agreements you signed while still in uniform that the Pentagon says remain in force today. And this administration, as you may already know, is not too fond of employees who talk about sensitive national security operations without asking permission.
The Pentagon says there are secrets in your book. It seems officials are preparing to move against you, possibly with an eye to indicting you. (They’ve already determined they can’t stop the sale of your book.) I’m not a lawyer, but I’ve written about leak investigations, the government prosecutors who run them, and the pledges government employees often sign to keep quiet about their work. We journalists also have to be cautious these days about whom we talk to and what secrets we publish. So here are some tips learned in the field that you might keep in mind as you mount your defense.
The French say it like “Plus ça change, plus c’est la même chose.” The more things change, the more they stay the same.
This week unfortunately has brought a fresh reminder—two, in fact—that the FBI and the CIA continue to struggle to get along, more than a decade after the 9/11 attacks exposed a glaring—and deadly—lack of communication between the two cornerstones of the US national security apparatus.
A Washington Post story this week reports that the office of director of national intelligence, a post created after the September 11 attacks, has handed the FBI an “expanded role in coordinating the domestic intelligence-gathering activities of the CIA.”
Coincidentally, the National Security Archive at George Washington University released a trove of decade-old CIA documents dealing with the hunt for Osama bin Laden. While much of the media’s attention today has focused on the Counterterrorism Center’s budget woes before 9/11, one of the most striking documents is the CIA’s inspection report of its Counterterrorism Center from the summer of 2001 (PDF). Conducted while, unbeknownst to the agency, Mohamed Atta and the 9/11 hijackers were finalizing their plans to attack Washington and New York, the CIA inspector general’s routine investigation discussed the overall effectiveness of CTC. After generally giving the center good marks—despite its budget and staffing shortfalls—deep into the report, the IG raises the agency’s working relationship with the FBI, listed on an earlier page as one of its key relationships. “CTC described cooperative relations with the FBI,” the report said. “The growth in joint activities and cross assignments suggests that the relationship is now more institutionalized and less personality dependent.”
By Shane Harris
Think tanks and law firms in Washington, experts say, are targets of pervasive espionage by cyber spies who are stealing sensitive information on business and policy matters and are using their unwitting victims to better understand the intricacies of Washington decision-making. The FBI and computer security analysts have investigated intrusions aimed at dozens of organizations, including human rights groups, trade associations, and public relations firms, and the organizations share a common theme: They all work on issues of economic and political interest to the Chinese government.
One prominent organization that found itself an unwitting target of cyber spying is the Brookings Institution, which runs a policy center on China. Brookings' computer systems were penetrated last summer by an intruder who tricked a still-unknown number of employees into installing back doors on Brookings' networks, according to several people with knowledge of the incident.
"I can confirm that we did have an incident, and that we did take steps to address it," says Laurie Boeder, a spokesperson for Brookings, who declined to discuss details of how the intrusion was discovered and whether federal authorities were alerted to the breach. She also wouldn't comment on whether China was presumed to be responsible.