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Davis, California

Sunday, March 3, 2024

Students question local FBI Special Agent

Last week, students of UWP 104C taught by Stephen Magagnini, had the opportunity to ask questions with Drew Parenti, a 25-year veteran FBI agent and head of the department’s Sacramento division. The following is a selection of the questions asked by various students to Special Agent Parenti.

You have previously worked on the frontlines of the war on drugs. What is your position on the legalization of marijuana?

I am not in favor of relaxing drug laws. People can argue what drugs are more harmful, but what it really comes down to is a question of what you value in society. People say, “Hey cigarettes and alcohol are legal and they are just as or more harmful.” They are right, cigarettes are deadly and if misused, so is alcohol. My question is, why add another destructive drug to the list? By legalizing marijuana, the government is condoning it and saying, “It’s OK, it’s acceptable.” It is a slippery slope. You start with legalizing marijuana and pretty soon people will be making a case for other drugs, saying “Hey cocaine isn’t really that bad in small quantities,” and “Amphetamines are found in diet pills and other prescriptions, they can’t be that harmful.” Eventually, people can make a case for any of these drugs. I am just not comfortable with it.

If a UC Davis student wanted to become an FBI special agent, how would they go about doing so?

Well, first of all, you must be a naturalized citizen between the ages of 23 and 37, although it is very rare for the FBI to hire someone under the age of 26. The average age of a new hire is 30. You should also be in good physical shape, have good eyesight and hearing. You would need a four-year college degree and obviously no felonies on your record. We will likely throw out applications immediately if people have a history of drug use or financial mismanagement. We also turn down applicants for issues of bad judgment like arrests and public drunkenness. We want people with lots of initiative and self-restraint.

Over time, FBI will look for different kinds of backgrounds. Right now, we are especially interested in looking for people who speak certain languages, specifically Middle Eastern languages like Arabic and Urdu, as well as Chinese and Russian. We are looking for people with information technology and hard science backgrounds, and we always look for people with law degrees and accounting degrees. My advice is to do what it is that interests you. Also, know that it is really hard to come straight out of college and compete against people with much more experience both in a profession and in life.

How did the FBI not foresee 9/11?

I think a lot of it had to do with the legal impediments of sharing information between various overlapping agencies and law enforcement at that time. Simply put, things fell through the cracks and didn’t get communicated between these various departments. The Patriot Act helped to improve this a lot. I think there was also a degree of rivalry and interpersonal conflicts between the different agencies that contributed to a lack of communication. Fortunately, since 9/11, these relations have strengthened nine-fold.

ERICA LEE can be reached at campus@theaggie.org.


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