Ronald Iden Title:

Assistant Director in Charge

Organization:

Federal Bureau of Investigation, Los Angeles division

Born:

1947, Chicago

Education:

B.A. in criminal justice at University of Illinois; master's in public administration at Illinois Institute of Technology

Career Turning Point:

Joining the FBI in 1978

Most Admired Person:

His father

Hobbies:

Baseball, his son

Personal:

Married, 14-year-old son

A career in law enforcement has brought Ronald Iden to lead the L.A. office of the FBI during trying times for the nation

While some offices came to a virtual halt in the days after the Sept. 11 terrorist attack, Ronald Iden has overseen one of the busiest in the city. Iden was recently named assistant director in charge of the L.A. office of the Federal Bureau of Investigation. As such, he is responsible for 650 special agents.

Before being named, Iden was special agent in charge of financial crimes, terrorism, foreign counterintelligence and civil rights matters in Los Angeles. During his 23 years at the bureau, he helped dismantle a terrorist organization in Puerto Rico, investigated the murders of two federal judges, and was chief of the FBI's Public Corruption Units at FBI headquarters.

Question:

Can you describe what your days have been like since Sept. 11?

Answer:

The first day, I worked around the clock, went home, got some sleep and went back to go at it again. But there were a lot of folks who are responsible for organizing and directing the investigation who worked around the clock for the first couple of days.

From the moment these attacks occurred, this office has directed all its resources to working the case. Since the morning of Sept. 11, that's pretty much all we've done.

We've established an emergency operations center, and out of that center we run the investigation. We established an adjacent office for representatives of other law enforcement agencies who are involved with us in the investigation.

Q: Have things changed now that the U.S. has struck Afghanistan?

A: We've been anticipating this for some time and preparing for it, and the activities of Sunday (Oct. 7) increased the probability that another terrorist attack will occur. But it's something we have to deal with. We have been on a high level of alert since Sept. 11 and will remain at that level. We have been meeting all along with law enforcement authorities and representatives of the business community and will continue to do so.

Q: Does the terrorist threat remain the main focus of the office?

A: We've been able to reassign some agents to more critical work they were doing in other areas, but for the most part the office continues to work almost exclusively on this case. What we're doing is determining who all is involved in the (Sept. 11) attacks, who might be connected with the hijackers, who might have assisted them. We're also working hard to try to identify any other people who might be in the U.S. for future attacks, and we'll attempt to disrupt those plans, if there are those plans.

Q: Have you ever worked an investigation like this?

A: Quite a few times, I'm afraid, as many agents in this office have. The difference for me is in approaching it from a different position. I'm directing, overseeing, trying to take care of these people. I have different responsibilities than a case agent or someone covering a lead. So I have broader responsibilities.

Q: How susceptible is L.A. to terrorist attacks?

A: I'm not going to get into where I think L.A. would be vulnerable, but I think we've seen since Sept. 11 what could be done. Clearly any city is a high-profile target. I'm not trying to predict that something might happen, and I don't know when and don't want to raise concerns, but the important thing is that people need to be more aware of their surroundings.

I don't know that L.A. is any more vulnerable than any other place in the U.S. We saw a terrorist in late 1999 cross the border in Seattle. Where you're vulnerable depends on what the objectives of the terrorist might be.

Q: How has this investigation changed your cooperation with local law enforcement?

A: Most every law enforcement agency is working in some fashion with our investigation. We have a Los Angeles joint terrorism task force composed of a number of federal, state and local law agencies and the county. That task force has been in place for 17 years, since the 1984 Olympics in Los Angeles.

In this case, they're investigating leads of terrorist attacks. I suspect we probably have representatives from a few other agencies, who in the past have not been permanent members, who are now part of this effort.

Q: In terms of resources, what impact does this investigation have on other major crimes in L.A.?

A: We are addressing the most significant investigations in other areas. I'm not sure how many people we've placed back into white collar cases, but we recognize that life goes on and crime goes on. We have to prioritize the investigations we conduct. We work the cases that involve the greater dollar loss or involve the greater threat to the community.

You also need to support the prosecutions of those cases already in trial. I don't want to convey or suggest we're not going to be working a particular type of crime problem over the long-term because of our work on these terrorism acts.

Q: But have you had to drop some cases to focus on the terrorism attacks?

A: No, I wouldn't say that. We will address all our investigative priorities in the long-term.

Q: Have you changed how you plan to inform certain industries or locations in L.A. of potential threats?

A: If information comes to our attention that suggests the possibility of a specific target, and that information is such that we judge it should be passed on to that target, we do that. We've followed the same protocols in that regard for a long time and continue to do that.

Q: What are the leading ongoing types crimes your office is faced with, other than the terrorist threat?

A: Since I've been here, financial institution fraud has been highest priority with health care fraud becoming a high priority at No. 2. We've seen that elevated in terms of significance because of the health care system being defrauded at a greater extent than ever, and in California it's a particularly serious problem. We're also seeing the use of the Internet to facilitate white-collar crimes more today than we did 10 or five years ago. So we have continued to train agents to investigate those crimes and move agents to address those kinds of crimes.

Q: You were at the Elk Grove Village Police Department in Illinois for 10 years before joining the FBI. What made you want to join?

A: My father was a police captain at the Chicago Police Department. When we discussed my future, I wanted to be a law enforcement officer, and he suggested the FBI because it's the best in the world. I had been a cop for 10 years. As do many people who come into government service, I gave up tenure and seniority and a pension and took a pay cut I gave up a lot. But I believe my dad was right. The FBI is the best law enforcement agency in the world.

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