60 Minutes: James Comey FBI Director
Scott Pelley introduced 60 Minutes viewers to the director of the FBI, 53-year-old James Comey, in his first television interview since taking the job in 2013. Pelley had plenty of questions about terror, hackers, and the man himself.
60 Minutes: Americans in ISIL
Maybe you had heard rumors that some Americans have joined the fight in Syria for terrorist causes like ISIS. Comey confirmed that the FBI has identified about a dozen Americans who are actively engaged.
Since these people have American passports, they could come back after fighting for ISIL. But he said that the FBI would be carefully monitoring them. He also spoke about the Al Qaeda-related Syrian group Khourasan, which was and could still be preparing to attack America.
“We have to act as if it’s coming tomorrow,” Comey said of a potential threat from a terrorist group such as this. The groups the US is engaging with now in Syria are what Comey referred to as remnants of Al Qaeda. Another group, Al-Nusra, could also prove to be dangerous.
60 Minutes: Al-Nusra Terrorists
Comey said that Al-Nusra is experienced in bomb making, planning, and murder. They have had an eye on international expansion, whereas ISIL has a sophisticated media campaign and has been somewhat successful in online recruiting efforts.
It would seem that the story of a man who beheaded a coworker after failing to convert his colleagues to Islam was following ISIL training, though an FBI investigation is ongoing. But are these so-called “lone wolves,” working alone, really a looming threat?
Comey said that these tend to be “troubled” people in search of meaning who stumble upon propaganda and attempt to stage their own jihad. However, Comey rejected the term “lone wolf,” preferring instead “lone rat.”
60 Minutes: FBI Elite Hostage Rescue Team
Comey told 60 Minutes that the situation now is probably less dangerous than the peak of Al Qaeda, because the intelligence community is more organized and active, as are relationships on the international scene.
“The transformation since before 9/11 is striking,” he said. For example, the FBI Elite Hostage Rescue Team has doubled in size since the 2001 attacks. 60 Minutes got a rare glimpse at the training center, where special agents work with live ammunition and explosives. The HRT budget has also more than doubled, to over $8 billion.
The HRT has gone on missions to Libya to nab a suspect in the 2012 Benghazi attack. They are now often tasked with bringing terrorists to justice, and have participated in hundreds of missions in Iraq and Afghanistan.
60 Minutes: James Comey Hostage Situation
Comey is very tall, at 6’8”. He grew up in suburbs outside New York City, the grandson of a police chief. As a high school senior, Comey recalled being home with his brother when a gunman kicked in the door of their home.
They were held captive until they escaped, but the suspect caught them once again. They escaped a second time, and looking back, Comey recalled believing that he would die at the hand of the gunman, who escaped.
Comey told Scott Pelley that it informs his job by giving him a sense of what crime victims feel, and that a lack of physical harm does not mean there was no harm. “I think it’s made me a better prosecutor and investigator, for being able to feel better what victims of crime experience,” he said.
60 Minutes: James Comey Resume
Comey’s resume includes work as a federal prosecutor and a 2003 appointment to deputy attorney general at the Justice Department. He left after two years, telling his wife it was her turn to pursue a dream. Then came the 2013 phone call asking if he would consider being interviewed for the position of FBI director.
Initially, his instinct was to say no, but he slept on it. When he woke up, his wife was researching homes in the Washington, D.C., area. Her advice to him was to take the interview, since it was work he loved.
Comey met with the president, landed the job, and is now serving a 10-year term that he hopes will help to bring the FBI to the forefront of online crime and spying.
60 Minutes: FBI Organized Cybercrime
Cybercrime is growing, since more and more of our lives and personal information are contained on devices that connect to the Internet. That makes it easier for people to steal money, credit card numbers, and more.
Then there are the threats of organized crime and terror, as well as from hacktivists and commonplace criminals. Countries targeting the US in cyberspace include China (and the People’s Liberation Army), according to Comey, who said they are looking for insider information that could help in negotiations, or competitive advantage in industry.
Though the Chinese have hacked most companies, they are not good at hiding their steps. They are just everywhere, and with attacks on so many fronts, it would seem impossible to stop them all.
60 Minutes: Cybercrime Vs Bonnie and Clyde
Chinese cybercrime could be costing us billions annually, and Comey told 60 Minutes that means times have changed for the FBI. “Bonnie and Clyde could not do a thousand robberies in the same day, in all 50 states, from their pajamas, halfway around the world,” he said.
The good news is that the FBI and the government in general are getting better at coordinating technology and investigations, but there is still progress to be made. He also said that we take for granted the personal information we manage online, from banking to healthcare to social networking.
Comey compared it to a dark mall parking lot late at night, adding that taking personal precautions could make it more difficult for cyber criminals to be successful. His biggest piece of advice seemed to be that we should not open attachments we are not expecting, especially from people we do not know.
60 Minutes: FBI Since 9/11
Despite all the threats out there, FBI director Comey said that Americans should sleep easy knowing that the government has made great strides since 9/11. “We are better in every way,” he said. “We’re not perfect. …But we are in a much better place than we were 13 years ago.”
Comey’s conversation will continue on a future edition of 60 Minutes, when the conversation will cover government snooping on American citizens and the potential security threat from the latest iPhone update.