FBI Albany leader taking over Insider Threat Office
The special agent in charge of Albany’s FBI office is leaving the position to lead the agency’s Insider Threat Office. FBI Director Christopher Wray has tapped Janeen DiGuiseppi to be the Office’s assistant director.
A former Air Force officer, DiGuiseppi joined the FBI in 1999 and has been assigned to offices in Salt Lake City, Iraq, Afghanistan, Memphis and Denver with experience in civil rights, public corruption and organized crime. She took over the Albany Field Office, which covers 32 upstate New York counties and Vermont, in 2021.
Before leaving Albany, DiGuiseppi spoke with WAMC's Jim Levulis about her time in New York and her new post.
DiGuiseppi: What appealed to me about this position is when you look at what's happened across the US government as a whole, and the amount of damage that somebody who misuses their position to threaten national security or even impact businesses in our country, I felt like this was would be a great way to end my career, and to help further develop the Insider Threat program for not only the FBI, but to partner with the Department of Justice and other agencies to secure our information as best as we can.
Levulis: And to that terminology of insider threat. I think you alluded to it there, but how does the FBI define that term?
So there's a lot of different components to it. But what it really comes down to, it comes down to an employee who is going to misuse their position, either wittingly or unwittingly, to release sensitive information or to pass it on to someone. So you look at and this may not be the best example for the FBI, but let's just say for nuclear submarines, right. There's a lot of technology that goes into that, if somebody has access to critical, sensitive and top-secret information that they could take and sell to a foreign adversary that could impact our national security in the United States.
So as it pertains to the FBI in this sense, the employer is the federal government.
When it comes to then the main objectives of the Insider Threat Office, I have to imagine sort of surveillance is one of the main objectives there?
I wouldn't say surveillance. So the Insider Threat Office is kind of like the office where all the different divisions where it's either the counter intel division, the cyber division, the inspection division, that where like that one button to make sure that anytime there's an individual that may be doing something that's inappropriate or improper, that we are coordinating, and helping to obtain the information that they would need to one either confirm that the employee is doing something they're not supposed to be doing, or to show that they're not doing the wrong thing. But maybe we have an area in security that we need to tighten up or put more procedures in place.
What is the rough number of agents and staff within that office, if you're able to share that?
I can't really go into specifics, but we have agents, we have intel analysts, we have professional support staff and contractors that support the Insider Threat Office. But the biggest piece of the insider threat is really to help partner with other internal divisions as well as other US government agencies.
I understand the office itself, headquartered in Washington, DC, are the dedicated staff just for the Insider Threat Office, or is that a duty that is spread throughout the agents across all the field offices?
So it's a dedicated group of individuals that are in the Insider Threat Office. But as far as the insider threat, that's everybody's role in the FBI. Whether it's somebody's seeing somebody doing something that's suspicious, or your chief security officer sees something, it's everybody's job, to identify and to report if they see somebody doing something suspicious.
Moving to your time at the Albany Field Office, leading that office since 2021. We spoke back when you took on this role, you said you wanted to see a regional approach across law enforcement agencies when it came to issues like violence and gun violence. Do you think you were able to improve or expand upon that during your time?
I do. And I think the reason I was able to is one, throughout my bureau career, our state and local law enforcement partners have been key to every position I've ever held in the FBI. And when I came here, and I started meeting our state and local law enforcement partners and our other federal partners, and the US Attorney in the Northern District of New York, Carla Freedman, and Nikolas Kerest, who's the US Attorney in Vermont, everyone had the same goal to work together to make our community safer. So when you have a group of professionals that have the same goal that you have, it makes it easier and makes us able to move the ball forward. And I know I've said this in other interviews in my two plus years here, but the law enforcement partners that the FBI has in New York and in Vermont, are some of the best I've seen in my 24-year plus career. And I started my career on a task force in Salt Lake City as a brand new agent, and spent many years working on all types of task forces, whether they were a district attorney task force in Salt Lake City, or a DEA task force, or an international task force. And the partnerships and the support here are unlike anything I've seen in my career.
We also in 2021, spoke about the leadership turnover at the Albany Field Office. And now with your new position, obviously, there will be another special agent in charge of the office. In your mind is such turnover, even if it is the norm for such positions in the FBI, have a negative impact on the field offices?
I think it can, obviously if the wrong person is filling that seat. But I look at it this way, that if we're putting the right people in, then it may have some impact or not some, it will have an impact on the employee. But if the employees and the people in this office are getting a leader that cares about them, cares about the communities and cares about really doing the right thing for the right reason, and not making decisions based on their own personal beliefs, or their own desires, or ego, then it's okay. Unfortunately, in an organization like this, there is a lot of turnover. And right now, there's turnover because we have a lot of people at the senior leader level that are retiring. And so we have to bring people back to headquarters. Because if we don't get people who have, it's easy to find someone who maybe has 10 or 12 years in that wants to get promoted. But is that the right person to bring back? Probably not when we're talking about senior leader level positions. So bringing someone back like myself, who's got 24 years of experience in the bureau over a lot of different programs, helps the greater good. And I think people in the office understand that. So look, if I could spend another four or five years here, and I've told the office, I've told, when I was up in Saratoga County, with the sheriff on Friday, I told him the same thing. I would stay here if I could stay here. But I also believe that the two years I've been here, there have been a lot of change, positive change in the office, but change that needed to happen. And now I think the office is in a position where the next SAC can really help just move programs forward and have more positive impact on the community that maybe I didn't get to spend as much time as I would have liked with the community and with our partners.
And then so the reason why you in this case might need to shift positions is it has to do with the retirement age for a Special Agent in Charge of a field office?
That's part of it. With any agent you have to retire at the age of 57. And because the SAC position is a very coveted position and it's something that I don't think there's any position in the FBI that can beat this, because this is your team. You make the decisions. You are there. You are the person for the FBI in your territory. And so this is a position that a lot of people strive towards, and you work towards so as we promote individuals to senior executive positions as section chief, that's the entry level and then they want to promote up and have opportunities to be SAC, so to leave me here past my mandatory retirement age, as much as I would love to do it, I 100% support what the director and the deputy directors’ positions are that if you want to extend past 57, and we do that for line agents, we do extend agents past the age of 57, if they can pass their fit test, if they are in good standing, and are able and our value add to the organization, then individuals are getting extensions past 57. So as a senior agent, as much as I would love to stay here and get an extension, I fully support the answer that I continue to try to get to yes, I understand and support the no, because if I want to continue in the organization, I should be looking at other areas that the organization needs.