I learned only recently that the CIA, which doesn’t always out looking golden in “The Threat Matrix,” reviewed the book for its in-house journal, “Studies in Intelligence,” Volume 55, Number 3, September 2011. Surprisingly, they liked it overall:
In large measure, this is, as author Garrett Graff puts it, the story of the “Muellerization” of the FBI after Robert Mueller took the Bureau’s reins one week before 9/11…. Graff has adopted an interesting approach: This is not a formal history of the Bureau, which might have detailed footnotes, though for perspective he includes considerable historical background with general references….
It was not all smooth going as the challenges implementing the Patriot Act illustrate, (503) but Graff shows that progress was continuous and positive, and the Bureau of today bears little resemblance to Hoover’s organization. Along the way, Graff does more than reprise challenging Bureau cases. He includes biographical details about special agents and illuminates the often frustrating bureaucratic culture in which they operate. The John O’Neill tragedy—he died in the South Tower of the World Trade Center on 9/11—is one instance. Another is the case of Coleen Rowley, the whistle-blowing special agent from Minneapolis, who wrote a memo after 9/11 that attacked “Mueller and other Bureau leaders for pre-9/11 failures.” While its accuracy was not challenged, she had embarrassed the Bureau, an act that violated “the number one precept of the FBI.” Her retirement followed. (417) A chapter on operations in the Iraq war zone includes the engrossing story of George Piro, whose interrogation of Saddam Hussein illustrated the Bureau’s approach to dealing with high-value enemy targets….
The Threat Matrix is based on hundreds of interviews Graff conducted throughout the government and the New York Police Department, plus various books and articles. Graff admits he has recreated some conversations, an increasingly common practice in such histories. The result, nevertheless, is a well-told story and a reading pleasure. J. Edgar Hoover would be proud of the result.