FBI’s Counterterror Chief to Leave Post
The FBI’s top counterterrorism official announced his retirement Wednesday after just three months on the job, marking the latest in a series of departures from the senior ranks of the FBI since the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks.
Larry Mefford, a 24-year FBI veteran who became executive assistant director for counterterrorism and counterintelligence in July, will leave at the end of the month to take a top security job for a large casino firm in Las Vegas, FBI officials said.
Mefford is the third person in the last 18 months to hold the counterterror position, which FBI Director Robert S. Mueller III created to oversee terrorism and intelligence investigations. All the senior posts at the FBI have turned over at least once since the Sept. 11 attacks.
The steady stream of departures has left the bureau “extremely thin in the experience department,” one FBI official acknowledged Wednesday.
The bureau has struggled to hold on to personnel amid long work hours, intensive congressional scrutiny and a dramatic effort to remake the FBI into an agency focused on preventing terrorism.
“These are just high burnout jobs,” said Robert Blitzer, a former FBI counterterrorism official who has worked with Mefford and others who have left in recent months. “The pressure is incredible, given everything that’s going on around the world. You can only take that pounding, emotionally, for so long.”
One FBI official said Mefford, 53, left in part because of family ties in Nevada and because of the lucrative offer to be a top security official at the company controlled by casino magnate Steve Wynn. Mefford declined to comment through the FBI press office.
Mefford joined the FBI in 1979 and worked at field offices in Sacramento, Los Angeles, Minneapolis, San Diego and San Francisco before coming to FBI headquarters.
“Larry Mefford has been a valued colleague whose experience both as an agent in the field and as a manager at FBI headquarters will be greatly missed,” Mueller said.