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A Writer Investigates the FBI

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FOUR months have passed since author Ronald Kessler helped bring down William Sessions, the director of the Federal Bureau of Investigation, with damaging information unearthed while he researched his book on the FBI.

But the fruit of Kessler's labor, ``The FBI: Inside the World's Most Powerful Law Enforcement Agency,'' contains more than just a blow-by-blow account of the improprieties of Mr. Sessions, his wife, and his assistant.

It is also a must-read for anyone who has ever wondered how FBI agents do their job and how they have, with total confidence, been able to find the proverbial needle in a haystack in such cases as last February's World Trade Center bombing in New York and the 1988 Pan Am 103 bombing in Scotland. Kessler has also, through access to agents and FBI officials, brought to light some of the agency's unfortunate moments, such as the time a Boston agent insisted on taking the footprint of a black lawyer who was about to be nominated for a federal judgeship, even though it was not required.

For anyone considering a career in the FBI, the book provides a multidimensional portrayal of life in the agency. Kessler devotes serious attention to the subject of female agents, though annoyingly, he tends to identify them by physical attributes.

Perhaps most interesting are descriptions of the little tricks of the trade that at times give the FBI an aura of invincibility. When the FBI took on the case of the killings of Atlanta schoolchildren that began in 1979, the FBI's top ``profiler'' said that the killer would be black, single, and between the ages of 25 and 29.

Conventional wisdom had it that the killer must be a white man who hated blacks. But FBI profiler John Douglas, immortalized in the film ``The Silence of the Lambs,'' concluded that a white couldn't have gone into black areas unnoticed. Douglas also surmised that the killer sometimes posed as a policeman and was extremely interested in media coverage of the case.


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