Alumni Profile: Frank Figliuzzi '84

Alumni Profile: Frank Figliuzzi '84

Headshot photo of Frank Figliuzzi '84

A Vocation in the FBI

Steeped in the ethics that govern the Bureau’s inner workings, Figliuzzi’s later assignments informed large sections of his new book, The FBI Way: Inside the Bureau’s Code of Excellence.

— Pull Section From Figliuzzi’s New Book

When Frank Figliuzzi ‘84 applied for a job with the Federal Bureau of Investigation, an FBI agent sat down to have a heart-to-heart...with his wife.

Figliuzzi and the former Coleen Button ’84 attended Fairfield together and had been married for years, but the Bureau needed to make sure she was prepared for what was to come.

“It’s not a job; it’s a vocation,” said Figliuzzi, who retired as an assistant director after 25 years with the agency in 2012. “It’s a calling.”

In fact, at age 11, Figliuzzi was spurred on by a spate of popular TV shows about law enforcement, and knew he wanted to bring bad guys to justice. From his home in New Fairfield, the pre-teen wrote to the FBI’s New Haven field office to ask how he could best prepare to become an agent.

“And I got a response!” he said, laughing. “They said, ‘Here’s what you’ve got to do...’”

At Fairfield, Figliuzzi explored the relationship between rules and community, snagging a job as a resident advisor and paying close attention in courses on politics and propaganda with veteran professors such as Carmen Donnarumma and Philip Eliasoph, PhD.

“The Fairfield education was astounding,” he said. “And the Jesuits were masters at it.” After earning his BA in English literature with minors in communication and sociology, he headed to the University of Connecticut for a law degree, completing an FBI honors summer internship and a plum assignment with the Federal organized crime strike force in New Haven. He had top- secret clearance and argued motions against mobsters in court.

“I just absolutely ate it all up,” said the father of two.

After training at the FBI Academy at Quantico, Virginia, Figliuzzi stood before his entire class in a time-honored ceremony – and opened the envelope that would reveal his first full-time assignment and determine the course of his career.

He was assigned to counterintelligence and counterterrorism in Atlanta, Georgia. And so, the little boy from Connecticut who had dreamed of catching bad guys began tailing spies and terrorists, from the 1988 Democratic National Convention to the Olympic Games in Albertville, France and Barcelona, Spain.

Figliuzzi went on to lead intricate double-agent operations that pitted him against the Russian Foreign Intelligence Agency (“the SVR”). He was hand-picked for the post-Cold War economic espionage unit headed by Robert Hanssen, who was later exposed for secretly working with the Soviet Union and its successors. Sentenced to life in prison without parole in 2001, Hanssen is considered the most damaging spy in FBI history.

Figliuzzi remembered hearing about the arrest of his unit chief while driving on the Florida Turnpike. Stunned by the betrayal, the veteran lawman had to pull his car over and collect himself. It was clear that Hanssen had exposed the double-agent case Figliuzzi had helped create.

“I was shocked,” he said. “He was directly responsible for the deaths of 10 Russian individuals who were working for the U.S.”

In the latter part of his 25-year FBI career, Figliuzzi worked in counterintelligence in Palo Alto, and led investigations from the San Francisco office into crimes against children. Called back to the nation’s capital, then-Director Robert Mueller appointed Figliuzzi chief inspector overseeing internal affairs. He eventually rose to assistant director in charge of the counterintelligence division.

Steeped in the ethics that govern the Bureau’s inner workings, Figliuzzi’s later assignments informed large sections of his new book, The FBI Way: Inside the Bureau’s Code of Excellence (Custom House, January 2021). His singular experience also led to a five-year post as assistant chief security officer for investigations and insider threat for General Electric’s 300,000 employees in 180 countries, and his ongoing stint as a national security contributor for NBC and MSNBC News.

Figliuzzi’s time in the agency prepared him well for the turmoil of the past few years — from foreign relations to domestic extremism. Whether tracking child pornographers or hunting down terrorist movements in south Florida after the 9-11 attacks, he learned to remain focused on and committed to the gatekeeping, the “code keeping” that is the cornerstone of the FBI.

“It’s the intersection of values and leadership,” he said. “It’s preserving what matters most.”

Other Articles in the Spring 2021 Issue

Alumni Profile: Jodi Sommers '97

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The Love Bugs

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Stags For Hire

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A Real Keeper

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A Titanic Dream

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Life Changing

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Letter from the President

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