Many in the media, including me, bristled when first invited to meet Laura Bucheit, the new special agent in charge of the Las Vegas FBI.
No one had ever invited the local news media to a meet-and-greet that required us to sign six pages of documents making all kinds of promises, such as never to divulge sensitive information and threatening that if we violated a nondisclosure agreement, we might become criminals.
Hey, lady, you invited the news media. We live to disclose information. It’s our job.
The need for the news media to sign three different documents to enter the building Monday wasn’t a positive start. Seemed a tad heavy-handed but was reversed after objections were raised.
I came to Monday’s meet-and-greet with a smile on my face and a snarky inner self.
I left thinking the team might be better than OK despite their limited knowledge of Las Vegas, with the exception of Bucheit.
When she was assigned here between January 2005 until September 2007, she was the top FBI supervisor at the Joint Terrorism Task Force. She coordinated the efforts of 48 people representing 26 federal, state and local law enforcement agencies. So she’s no stranger to the FBI’s priority: terrorism.
She left Las Vegas to return to FBI headquarters in D.C., where she moved up the ladder, snagging a plum job in 2010 as special assistant to then-Director Robert Mueller. She traveled with him to more than 70 countries and 60 cities in the United States and sat in meetings with him. Truly, she was inside the FBI’s inner circle.
Bucheit’s law enforcement career began with five years with the San Diego Police Department and also serving as a consultant for the SEAL Training Center in Coronado, Calif.
Her first FBI assignment began in 1996 in Baltimore, where she became the first female SWAT Team member and the second certified female sniper in FBI history. She also went undercover to infiltrate a motorcycle gang’s meth operation. She must have been good at that because in 2003 she was promoted to oversee the FBI’s Criminal Undercover Program, her first D.C. job.
Two years later she was in Las Vegas, then back to D.C., then in 2009 she became an ASAC in San Francisco.
It was obvious with that SWAT-SEAL-sniper background, she could take me out without breaking a sweat.
I started off asking whether she were here to follow the pattern of many Las Vegas SACs, who serve several years and then retire, often to a cushy security job making buckets of money in the gaming industry.The previous SAC, Kevin Favreau, broke the mold by going to work for a nonprofit organization after his three years here.
She smiled and replied, “I’m here to lead.”
I believed her.
“I’d like to stay for as long as Director (James) Comey wants me here,” she said. Bucheit started here in July, and he was appointed in September.
The Las Vegas SAC has mastered the humorous non-answer to common questions.
Is the mob still in Las Vegas? She smiled and said, “We’re keeping an eye out on it.”
Is Las Vegas a terrorist target? Again, the smile. “We’re keeping an eye on that as well.”
Bucheit, 48, is a woman with purpose. She selected three new assistant agents in charge, one more than the office had previously. Among Randall Bolelli, William Stern and Dean Phillips there’s plenty of experience in public correction, intelligence, terrorism, counterterrorism, cybercrime, organized crime and civil rights.
There’s not a lot of familiarity with Las Vegas, just a few months for Bolelli and Stern and not quite three years for Phillips. But they all competed to come to Las Vegas to work for Bucheit, who has been described as “tough,” “no nonsense” and “all business.”
Give Bucheit and her new management team time to show what they can accomplish by leading 150 agents and working with other agencies to prevent acts of terrorism and aggressively rooting out the baddies and the corrupt.
Then judge her effectiveness as a leader.
Jane Ann Morrison’s column appears Monday, Thursday and Saturday. Email her at Jane@reviewjournal.com or call 702-383-0275.