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Posted at 1:22 PM ET, 11/23/2010

FBI taps former aviator to run big explosives lab

By Jeff Stein

Twenty years ago this winter Army Capt. Rafael J. Garcia, Jr. was piloting an Apache attack helicopter against Iraqi radar sites, part of the first wave U.S. forces that would swiftly evict Saddam Hussein’s troops from Kuwait.

Later he would write a book about it, “Paladin Zero Six: A Desert Storm Memoir,” whose focus is “leadership principles in action,” as one reviewer put it.

He’ll need those skills in spades in his next assignment: running the FBI’s Terrorist Explosives Device Analytical Center, or TEDAC, in Quantico, Va.

Founded amid the spike in Iraqi roadside bomb attacks in 2003, TEDAC's workforce includes "top electronics specialists, explosives experts, engineers, and counterterrorism agents and analysts from the FBI, the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives and the Federal Air Marshal Service, as well as assets from the U.S. Intelligence Community and the Department of Defense," according to its Web site.

Garcia, an FBI special agent for about 15 years now, may be a very fine man, but veteran bomb experts are complaining that he comes to the new job without any first-hand experience with explosives.

He has served as an administrator, however: For the past few years he has been an assistant special agent in charge of the FBI’s very large office in Philadelphia.

Garcia's appointment should not reflect badly on him, say the anonymous critics -- hewing to the organization's hoary tradition of "don't knock the bureau in public" -- but rather on the FBI's selection of managers.

Some critics wanted the job to go to Greg Carl, head of the FBI’s explosives unit for the past eight years. (TEDAC, an FBI-led multiagency group with hundreds of employees, is a big step up.)

"He's been a bomb tech since at least 1993," a former colleague said. "He worked [on] the first World Trade Center bombing, and has been a field supervisor in Seattle. Carl has even briefed the White House with the director [Robert S. Mueller] on both the Christmas Day underwear-bombing attempt and the recent printer bombs.”

"Garcia,” this person continued, “is not a bomb technician, has no background in IED work, and no forensic background. As an interagency organization, this seems to say the qualifications of the director are not important.”

That’s not entirely true, said a government official familiar with TEDAC’s operations, who declined to be quoted. With an organization of that size, he said, experience with explosives is important, but does not trump leadership qualities.

And according to Curtis J. Maloy, who commented on the Amazon web site for “Palladin Six” that he had “the pleasure of serving with” him in the army, “Garcia has a great flair for making the reader share his discomfort and loss after his aircraft crashed on a training mission and how he coped with the loss and uses those emotions only a few months later to lead troops into combat during Desert Storm.”

FBI spokesman Michael Kortan said Garcia "was selected as TEDAC Director because of his proven record of effective leadership within the FBI and among other government partners in the military and intelligence communities."

Garcia had "experience in Iraq with IEDs," Kortan added, and a "distinguished record in the intelligence field."

By Jeff Stein  | November 23, 2010; 1:22 PM ET
Categories:  Homeland Security, Intelligence, Justice/FBI  | Tags:  Jr., Rafael J. Garcia  
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Unqualified. No credibility. In time of war. How could this happen? Mueller, this is wrong. Fix it.

Posted by: techtech1 | November 23, 2010 4:02 PM | Report abuse

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