Carol Lee appointed to lead New Mexico’s FBI

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By Carol A. Clark

ALBUQUERQUE – Director Robert Mueller appointed Carol Lee Special Agent in Charge (SAC) of the Albuquerque Division of the FBI in April. She was hired to replace Thomas McClenaghan who retired earlier this year.

Lee brings a rich combination of knowledge and experience to her new post. She most recently served as a section chief in the Office of International Operations at FBI Headquarters in Washington, D.C.

Lee recounted a few experiences from her 23-year career during an interview in her spacious Albuquerque office. One of the most difficult times was losing her cousin in the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks.

“I was working at headquarters and we were on our way to a meeting at DEA headquarters near the Pentagon,” Lee said. “We were waiting for the metro when everything stopped…I received a call from my aunt and she was in search of her daughter who was a chef at the Top of the World in the World Trade Center in New York City. That was when the professional and personal came together.”   

Lee entered on duty with the FBI as a special agent  in 1986.

“I was in law school when I met with recruiters and they laid out a picture of being in law enforcement with the diversity work, investigative angle, civil rights and policy aspects and as a law student that interested me,” Lee said.

Upon completion of training at the FBI Academy in Quantico, V.A., she reported to the FBI’s Honolulu Division, where she investigated national security, violent crime, organized crime and drug matters. In 1993, Lee transferred to the San Francisco Division, where she investigated Asian criminal enterprises.

In 1999, she was promoted to the Asian/African Criminal Enterprise Unit in the Criminal Investigative Division at FBI Headquarters, where she served as a supervisory special agent. Lee’s responsibilities included management of the Asian Criminal Enterprise, African Criminal Enterprise, Drug Smuggling and Alien Smuggling investigative programs.

She returned to the San Francisco Division, Oakland Resident Agency in 2002, where she supervised national security matters.

In 2005, Lee was named Assistant Special Agent in Charge (ASAC) of the San Diego Division. In that capacity, she managed the office’s National Security Branch, which included the counterterrorism, counterintelligence and intelligence programs.

Lee served in that role until 2007, when she was appointed section chief of the International Operations Section II within the Office of International Operations. As section chief, her responsibilities included oversight of the FBI’s legal attachés around the world.

“There are 75 legal attaché offices and sub-offices and we handled any aspects of cases and partnerships for the FBI globally,” Lee said. “I oversaw management of those offices including resource management, hiring, training and overseeing a multi-billion dollar budget.”

Lee was responsible for FBI personnel and their families around the world.

“Last year four agents were involved in a terrorist bombing incident in Pakistan,” she said. “So we flew them to London to ensure their medical needs were taken care of and flew their families in to be with them until they could be medivaced back to the U.S.”

On the administrative side, Lee developed policies and procedures for the offices and worked with protocols covering 200 countries, she said.

“I want the public to know that the FBI is here to serve the citizens of New Mexico and the citizens of the nation,” Lee said. “We’re not just interested in protecting people’s property or safety but we’re interested in making sure that our national security is strong. We’re doing this in partnership with the citizens of New Mexico and we invite them to tell us how we’re doing and we want them to know we are open to ideas on how to ensure that everyone is safe.”

She also praised the solid partnership she’s found to exist with the FBI and local law enforcement throughout the state.

“Investigating, putting people in jail and protecting the national security – if you know you are doing that every day and throughout your career – that’s incredibly rewarding,” she said. “It’s not a lot of money and not often heralded in the press and it can be hard when people criticize, but at the same time we’re working through programs to make the public aware that we protect them and the Constitution.”

Lee, 48, is the only Asian American female SAC in the country. Her father was born in China and served as a police officer there in the 1930s, she said. He traveled to Oregon to attend Oregon State University and met Lee’s mom who was studying theology at Northwest Christian University.

He remained in the U.S. and the couple later married.

Lee was born in Eugene, Ore. Her husband is a retired FBI agent who has two adult sons.

She is the recipient of the FBI Director’s Award for Outstanding Criminal Investigation and the U.S. Attorney General’s Award for Excellence in Law Enforcement.

She holds a bachelor’s  degree in Political Science and International Studies and a Juris Doctorate from Willamette University in Salem, Ore.

Contact Carol A. Clark at lanews@lamonitor.com or (505) 662-4185 ext. 25. Read her newsblog at