On May 30, USA Today reported that Pistole was being interviewed at the White House
Pistole hasn’t been in government since he resigned from leading the Transportation Security Administration in December 2014. He is currently the president of Anderson University, a private Christian university in Anderson, Indiana.
The 60-year-old Pistole served under both the George W. Bush and Barack Obama administrations, so he could be considered an establishment pick. He served as Deputy Director of the FBI from October 2004 to May 2010. Obama nominated him to be the TSA Administrator and he was confirmed in June 2010.
Pistole is married to Kathy Pistole and they have two adult daughters, Lauren and Jennifer.
Here’s what you need to know about Pistole.
1. Pistole Is a Close Friend of Vice President Mike Pence
Despite working in the Obama Administration, Pistole does have one thing other than his resume that could help him get the job to lead the FBI. He’s close friends with Vice President and fellow Hoosier Mike Pence. When Fox News reported that Pistole’s name is being floated around, the network noted that he has a “pretty tight relationship” with the former Indiana Governor.
Like Pence, religion is very important to Pistole. His father was a Church of God minister who taught at Anderson, notes the Indy Star. Pistole himself also earned his bachelor’s degree at Anderson in 1978.
Lou Gerig, a Republican public relations consultant, told the Star that Pistole’s faith has helped him face the toughest decisions in his life. “He’s not afraid to make a tough decision,” Gerig told the Star. “It’s his faith. He has a strong faith that carries him through all the difficult situations. It kind of came through that accident. … it’s what carries him through.”
After graduating from Anderson, Pistole earned his J.D. from the Indiana University Robert H. McKinney School of Law and practiced law. He joined the FBI in 1983. As his Church of God Youth Ministries bio notes, Pistole worked for the FBI in Minneapolis, New York, Indianapolis, Boston and FBI headquarters in Washington D.C. before the attacks on September 11, 2001. He was then assigned to lead the FBI Counter-terrorism program.
2. Pistole Once Said ‘Enhanced’ Interrogation Techniques have ‘Huge’ Benefits’ & ‘Insignificant’ Costs
After the 9/11 terrorist attacks, Pistole led the FBI’s counter-terrorism program. In March 2010, Judicial Watch obtained a previously “top secret” memorandum that included transcripts from a closed hearing the House Permanent Select Committee on Intelligence had on enhanced interrogation techniques with Pistole in attendance.
When Rep. Jane Harman asked Pistole what he felt the value of these controversial techniques were, he said the “befits are huge.”
“In my view, the benefits are huge and the costs are insignificant,” Pistole said. “Very few detainees don’t provide us with good information, in our small part of the universe, the clandestine CT would.”
Pistole also testified before Congress to describe how changes were made to the FBI after the 9/11 Commission report was released.
“At the FBI we are taking full advantage of our dual role as both a law enforcement and an intelligence agency,” Pistole told Congress in August 2004. “As we continue to transform the FBI to address the priorities articulated by the Director, a number of steps have taken place to enhance operational and analytical capabilities and to ensure continued sharing of information with our partners at the federal, state, local, tribal, and international levels.”
3. Pistole Met His Wife Kathy During His Freshman Year at Anderson & They’ve Been Married Since 1978
Pistole told the Washington Post in December 2014 that he met his wife Kathy Harp during his freshman year at Anderson. In 1979, a year after he graduated, the two tied the knot and have been married ever since. They have two daughters, Lauren and Jennifer.
“I grew up a block and a half from campus, my dad was a professor there, my sister was a professor there, all six of us in the family went there, I met my wife there 40 years ago as a freshman, she married me five years later,” he told the Post when asked why he returned to Anderson after leaving the TSA.
“I value all aspects of my time at Anderson University, especially meeting my future wife, Kathy Harp, there as freshmen in Marie Strong’s Old Testament class forty years ago,” Pistole told Church of God News in 2014. “Kathy and I just celebrated our thirty-fifth wedding anniversary, so we obviously learned something in class.”
4. Pistole Defended Invasive TSA Searches as Necessary & Dismissed Horror Stories as ‘Frankly Inaccurate’
After Pistole became TSA Administrator in 2010, he spent a great deal of time defending the controversial pat-downs that the administration had become known for. In a November 2010 interview with CNN, he insisted that they were completely necessary.
“We’re not changing the policies, because of… the risks that have been identified,” Pistole told CNN. “We know through intelligence that there are determined people, terrorists who are trying to kill not only Americans but innocent people around the world.”
He later said that some “horror stories” are “frankly inaccurate” and noted that only a few passengers are ever put through enhanced physical screenings.
“The advanced imaging technology is designed to detect non-metallics,” Pistole told CNN. “So you just have to make sure you take everything out of your pockets. So if there’s no alarm, there’s no pat-down.”
The TSA has recently made changes to its screening process, but not under Pistole’s watch and they still include rigorous screenings. Bloomberg reported in March 2017 that the TSA is hoping to streamline the screening process by using only one “comprehensive” physical screening technique that is “more thorough and may involve an officer making more intimate contact than before.” The goal was to stop incidents of weapons making it through security.
Pistole also tried to push the “Pre Check” program to cut down security lines. Americans can apply to have an in-person interview and then go through a shorter line at security in airports. According to the TSA, just 4 million people are enrolled. It costs $85 to apply.
5. Pistole Still Has a Security Clearance in Washington & Contacts in the FBI
Even though he’s been out of Washington since 2014 and hasn’t worked in the FBI since 2010, Pistole told Fox 59 that he still has contacts within the bureau and has a security clearance in Washington.
“I am also doing some work on some advisory committees, advisory panels,” Pistole told the network, adding that he has meetings with Homeland Security officials.
He still has not commented on the possibility that he could replace Comey. His brother-in-law, Ed Greenwalt told the Indy Star that Pistole might not be interested in returning to Washington after the scrutiny he faced while leading the TSA.
“I think he had enough of the controversy and everything when he was out there in D.C. as TSA director and deputy director of the FBI,” Greenwalt told the Star. “At this point in his career, I don’t think he’s interested. But I don’t know.”
Greenwalt also told the Star that he things Pistole wouldn’t bow down to political pressure. “He would probably get fired. John would go ahead and investigate,” Greenwalt said.
The Associated Press reported in 2011 that Pistole was a candidate to lead the FBI then, but Obama ended up asking Robert Mueller to serve two more years before Comey took over in 2013.