FBI agent Jennifer C. Boone, a 22-year veteran and a native of Centreville, is the new special agent in charge of the bureau's Baltimore field office.
When Jennifer C. Boone was a teenager growing up in Maryland, it was on the bucolic Eastern Shore. She studied at Queen Anne’s County High School and served as a page in the General Assembly, where her tasks included cutting up bits of paper for confetti to celebrate Sine Die, the end of the session.
In between her departure and return, she pursued Latin American studies at Georgetown University, traveled to five continents and developed expertise in counter-terrorism, counter-intelligence, cyber-crime and “big city” crime.
Over the course of her FBI career, “It took 22 years, but I came home," Boone said in a recent interview at her new office in Woodlawn.
Current and former colleagues laud her professionalism, grasp of detail, foresight and leadership -- all of which may come into play as her office works with other agencies on cases of public corruption and complex criminal enterprises.
“I’ve been very impressed with how quickly she comes up to speed on detailed matters."
Maryland U.S. Attorney Robert K. Hur
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“I’ve been very impressed with how quickly she comes up to speed on detailed matters,” said Maryland U.S. Attorney Robert K. Hur. He said Boone will serve as an important law enforcement partner, especially with Baltimore facing high levels of violent crime. He said he and Boone are in constant contact about cases.
He noted her expertise and previous leadership roles in the FBI’s Los Angeles and Philadelphia offices. Those locales also have “big city crime problems" and give Boone “a great balance of prior experience," he said.
Boone won’t talk about ongoing cases. But shortly before Boone’s arrival, the FBI raided City Hall and Pugh’s house, with agents in dark blue jackets carrying out boxes related to Pugh’s “Healthy Holly” children’s book scandal. No one’s been charged, and the investigation continues.
The FBI is also investigating a ransomware attack on Baltimore’s computer network that shut down the city’s email system and its ability to perform basic services such as accepting online payments and conducting real estate operations.
Boone’s new role also puts her at the forefront of the city’s efforts to curb drug violence. The FBI, local law enforcement agencies and the Maryland U.S. Attorney’s Office recently announced a new “strike force” to investigate foreign drug suppliers that have flooded Baltimore with heroin, fentanyl and other illicit drugs for years. This summer, federal prosecutors announced sweeping indictments against 90 defendants, allegedly members of violent drug crews that authorities say were responsible for running guns and drugs across the city.
Boone says the agency is also responsible for protecting 1,800 defense contractors and premiere research facilities in the area, of which “foreign adversaries would like to get a hold of some of the work, research and expertise.”
Boone’s drive manifested itself early on. After graduating from high school, she earned bachelor’s and master’s degrees in Latin American studies from Georgetown University. At the time, a family friend who worked for the FBI persuaded her to apply. She started training at Quantico in 1997.
Georgetown professor Anthony Clark Arend, who taught Boone, said he recognized her leadership abilities early.
“She always had this maturity and professionalism."
Anthony Clark Arend, Georgetown professor
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"She always had this maturity and professionalism,” he said. “She seemed perfectly situated to move into law enforcement. She is one of these people who comports herself in such a way that you have immediate respect for her.”
As an agent at the FBI’s Southern California West Covina satellite office, Boone investigated public corruption and complex financial crimes. She later transferred to investigating bank robberies, fugitives and crimes against children.
Some cases, particularly child kidnappings, made a deep impression on her.
“There’s something about seeing a child reunited with their parents that will stay forever with you," she said.
Along the way, she’s had a global education. Already fluent in Spanish, she started studying Arabic (Boone smiled while recalling an Arabic instruction session when she slipped into Spanish, eliciting chuckles from her instructor.). She has traveled to Asia, Australia, Europe and South America for cases or training.
The Sept. 11, 2001 attacks forever changed the bureau, she said, and many agents were diverted to investigating terrorist organizations. Boone went to work on counter-terrorism efforts in Washington, D.C., and investigated how terrorist groups funded themselves.
Boone said her work has taught her that counter-terrorism, counterintelligence and cyber crimes must often be investigated together.
“It’s a globalized environment now,” she said. “If we are going to understand the totality of the threats faced by our communities and by our country, we can’t look at it through blinders."
Her work at the FBI has led to interesting positions, including serving in an advisory role to the Senate Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Committee, and later as the director in intelligence programs for the National Security Council at the White House. A picture of her and President Barack Obama in what appeared to be the Oval Office hangs in her office.
Boone headed counterintelligence and cyber programs at the Philadelphia office for about two years under Ed Hanko, former special agent in charge there.
Now that she’s in charge of overseeing such broad efforts in Baltimore, Boone knows cooperation with all federal, state and local agencies is key.
“You set the path, missions and goals for everyone else to follow. She’s great at that," said Hanko, now vice president of global security for Aramark Corp. "She has good intuition and foresight.”
In early 2016, Boone was named the deputy assistant director in the Counterintelligence Division at FBI headquarters, leading the agency’s investigations of “foreign adversaries” seeking to acquire technology, intellectual property and manufacturing processes.
“Some of those countries are trying to sow discontent within the U.S.,” she said. Agents rely on collaboration with companies, such as social media corporations that now screen for and flag illegitimate accounts possibly by "a foreign country that is seeking to do something that would hurt the United States.”
Boone took part in the investigation of Harold Martin of Glen Burnie, a National Security Agency contractor who pleaded guilty this year to stealing about half a billion pages of secret government documents over nearly two decades. It was one of the largest cases of its kind, and Martin was sentenced to 9 years in prison.
Boone largely declined to identify specific cases. At that time, the bureau was investigating the Russian interference into the 2016 presidential election.
Boone’s work did overlap with Bill Priestap, the assistant director of the FBI’s counterintelligence division that investigated Hillary Clinton and the Trump campaign.
Priestap, who has since retired from the bureau, said Boone is thoughtful, “knows the issues well,” and brings a wealth of management experiences to the Baltimore office. But he said she also makes an effort to know her employees.
“She always went the extra mile,” he said.
In 2018, Boone returned to Los Angeles to oversee counterintelligence operations, including the case of a computer programmer allegedly working for the North Korean government. Park Jin Hyok was charged in the 2014 Sony Pictures Entertainment attack and the WannaCry ransomware crisis that affected nearly 150 countries.
When Baltimore former Special Agent in Charge Gordon B. Johnson retired this year, Boone said, she jumped at the opportunity to return to Maryland where she still has family, and she can root for the Orioles. She said she hopes to retire from the office.
She jokes she’s from a “split household,” as her father hailed from the Baltimore area while her mother was a Eastern Shore native. Though she grew up in Centreville, she said she spent time in Annapolis and Baltimore.
She said she’s glad she made it back for crab season.
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Education: Graduated from Queen Anne’s County High. Bachelor’s and master’s degrees in Latin American studies from Georgetown University.
Career: She’s led many global counterintelligence investigations, including the 2014 hack of Sony Pictures and the worldwide WannyCry ransomware attack, both orchestrated by the government of North Korea.