Disrupt, Discredit, and Divide

How the New FBI Damages Democracy

A former FBI undercover agent and whistleblower gives us a riveting and troubling account of the contemporary FBI—essential reading for our times

“Mike German served as an FBI agent who carried out . . . dangerous assignments infiltrating violent white nationalist organizations. Now, having resigned, he tells how the bureau has downgraded such efforts. . . . An absorbing and interesting read and a useful warning.” —Frederick A.O. Schwarz Jr., author of Democracy in the Dark and chief counsel for the Church Committee

Impressively researched and eloquently argued, former special agent Mike German’s Disrupt, Discredit, and Divide tells the story of the transformation of the FBI after the 9/11 attacks from a law enforcement agency, made famous by prosecuting organized crime and corruption in business and government, into arguably the most secretive domestic intelligence agency America has ever seen.

German shows how FBI leaders exploited the fear of terrorism in the aftermath of 9/11 to shed the legal constraints imposed on them in the 1970s in the wake of Hoover-era civil rights abuses. Empowered by the Patriot Act and new investigative guidelines, the bureau resurrected a discredited theory of terrorist “radicalization” and adopted a “disruption strategy” that targeted Muslims, foreigners, and communities of color, and tarred dissidents inside and outside the bureau as security threats, dividing American communities against one another. By prioritizing its national security missions over its law enforcement mission, the FBI undermined public confidence in justice and the rule of law. Its failure to include racist, anti-Semitic, Islamophobic, and xenophobic violence committed by white nationalists within its counterterrorism mandate only increased the perception that the FBI was protecting the powerful at the expense of the powerless.

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.