"Drug deals affect street corners. Bank robberies, they affect communities. Espionage affects whole generations," a counterintelligence alumnus of Western Maryland College told a group of more than 100 at McDaniel College Saturday.
Steven Carr has been working for the FBI for 17 years, and was the lead agent in a case which was the first to have a possible death sentence since Ethel and Julius Rosenberg were executed in 1953.
A retired Air Force intelligence analyst, Brian Regan, gathered sensitive information he was planning to sell to Iraqi and Chinese embassy officials in 2001. He was arrested prior to boarding a flight to Zurich on conspiracy to commit treason.
Carr, 50, joked he was handpicked for counterintelligence work nearly 20 years ago, but he entered a diversity program which allows "regular old Joe's" like himself. Prior to entering the FBI, Carr flew helicopters for the Army and National Guard for 12 years.
He graduated in 1984 from the college which would later become McDaniel College, with a dual degree in economics and business.
"I really needed a job, is the absolute truth," Carr said on landing his position at the FBI. "I kept my nose clean, which means I just didn't get caught doing some of the things I did."
Saturday, Carr joined the ranks of speakers who talk in a university-led program called SmartTALK. The university finds successful alumni from McDaniel who speak to how their liberal arts education has been useful in their successful careers, said Joyce Muller, the associate vice president for communications and marketing.
The talk coincided with McDaniel's family weekend, which Muller said is great because it shows a return on the investment parents make into a liberal arts education. Carr said his liberal arts education gave him a thirst of knowledge he has used in his career.
"The discipline to see problems, to analyze problems and to look at them from different perspectives ... are skills that I developed here," Carr said. "I have the opportunity to develop high tech investigative techniques that I can't talk about."
Carr is unable to speak about many of the high profile and interesting cases he has worked on, beyond what is in the indictment, of course. When McDaniel College President Dr. Roger Casey asked what currently is the biggest threat to the United States, Carr joked Lindsay Lohan believes she is.
His inability to talk specifics of his career in counterintelligence is proof of his loyalty to the United States and the Constitution. Carr keeps a copy of the Constitution at his desk and at his home, and said the FBI adheres only to the Constitution and its laws.
"The beauty of a secret, if you will, is in its keeping," Carr said.
The brightest moments of the United States are in the secrets the FBI and other intelligence agencies such as the CIA and NSA have kept and prevented crimes. Regan had been under surveillance for months when he was caught in August 2003, which prevented him from selling thousands of documents with information about Libyan missile sites, Iraqi air defenses and spying operations in China and Iran.
Carr said while his job can be exciting, and is often portrayed in a glamorous fashion, he does a fair amount of paper pushing and preparation work. At the end of the day, it's still a job, he said.
Like anyone else, Carr said he has an expectation of the work he'll be doing on any given day, but his days can take unexpected turns. On the morning of Sept. 11, 2001, Carr said he was ready to do briefing with the CIA and other members of the intelligence community for Regan's upcoming trial. By the afternoon, he was at the Pentagon and the whole day, week and ensuing weeks, no one could have predicted, he said.