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August 2009


How to Become a Bounty Hunter

Deputy FBI Director John Pistole Appears to be Lead Candidate to Head DEA: White House Vetting Him, Source Says

John Pistole/fbi photo
John Pistole/fbi photo

By Allan Lengel
WASHINGTON —  Deputy FBI Director John Pistole appears to be the leading candidate to head the DEA  and is being vetted for the job by the White House, according to a source familiar with the selection process. reported a month ago that Pistole, who has declined to comment during the selection process, was one of four people interviewed by the White House for the job.

The others include  Boyd M. Johnson III, an assistant U.S. Attorney in N.Y., who was just promoted to the office’s second spot;  former San Diego U.S. Attorney Greg  A. Vega and Michele Leonhart, the DEA’s acting chief. She is generally well regarded within the agency, but has been criticized by some  agents  for being too indecisive in the interim post.

DEA spokesman Rusty Payne said Friday evening: “I can’t comment on personnel issues. It would be more appropriate for the White House to comment.”   The White House press office did not immediately return a call for comment.

The prospect of an FBI agent taking over the DEA has been met with mixed reviews from current and former DEA agents. Some  have speculated that  the appointment of an FBI agent might spell the end of the DEA, which would be folded into the FBI.

Some other agents don’t believe that will happen, and  have said they think an FBI agent at the helm might bring the DEA more clout with the White House.

William Coonce,  a retired DEA agent who headed the Detroit office,  is a critic of putting an FBI agent at the helm. In a recent column for, Coonce wrote: “To consider a current FBI official is an insult to ever DEA agent either on duty or retired.”

“What expertise does an FBI bureaucrat bring to the table that has the expertise, experience and proven track record to conduct major international drug cases?

But Coonce conceded that the best administrator the DEA ever had was  John “Jack” Lawn, a former FBI agent, who headed the agency from 1985 to 1990. Other DEA agents as well have held Lawn up as the gold standard for the agency’s top spot.

Pistole has a legion of fans within the FBI who often speak glowingly of him. They also say he’s easy to get along with. One criticism that’s been voiced is that he can be too indecisive at times.

Pistole practiced law for two years before joining the FBI as an agent in 1983.

He worked as an agent in Minneapolis and New York before becoming a supervisor in the Organized Crime (OC) Section at FBI headquarters, according to an FBI press release.

He later went on to Indianapolis to work as a field supervisor of a white collar crime and civil rights squad. After that, it was off to Boston as a special agent in charge.

In 2001, he became an Inspector in the Inspection Division in Washington, D.C. After Sept. 11, 2001, he was named deputy assistant Director for Operations for the Counterterrorism Division and later went on to become Executive Assistant Director of Counterterrorism and Counterintelligence.

In October, 2004, he assumed the number two spot in the FBI as deputy director.

He is a graduate of Anderson University (Indiana) and the Indiana University School of Law – Indianapolis, according to the press release.

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