The Georgetown University School of Foreign Service hired former FBI agent Peter Strzok (SFS ’91, GRD ’13) as an adjunct professor this semester to teach a course on counterintelligence theory and practice, a move that has received public scrutiny from conservative media outlets in recent weeks after the hiring.
Strzok was the lead investigator on the FBI’s 2015 inquiry into Hillary Clinton’s use of a private email server while she was secretary of state, and he also served as the most senior FBI agent on special counsel Robert Mueller’s investigation into Russian interference during the 2016 presidential election. Strzok was removed from the Russian investigation and later fired after text messages between him and an FBI lawyer surfaced that were critical of then-presidential candidate Donald Trump.
Strzok pushed back against those who questioned whether his new teaching appointment is appropriate.
“It’s an unfortunate side-effect of our current political environment that some extreme partisans have raised questions about my teaching, but I’m proud of Georgetown’s Jesuit culture of academic excellence and fearless diversity of opinion, for recognizing the value of my deep career experience and academic history, and allowing me the opportunity to bring that to our classrooms,” Strzok wrote in an email to The Hoya. “I’m really enjoying teaching the course, and I look forward to continuing teaching in the future and encouraging and preparing Georgetown students for careers in public service.”
Strzok’s career in counterintelligence provides students with a professor who has firsthand experience in the field, according to an SFS spokesperson. The spokesperson wrote that students at the SFS have the ability to engage critically with Strzok, especially because they know the identity of the instructor before registering for the course.
“SFS has always provided students with a unique experience where they can learn from faculty that include former and current global policymakers, regulators, and diplomats from different administrations and political parties, and with different political ideologies,” the spokesperson wrote. “Faculty positions are filled on the basis of expertise and the SFS faculty has always included representatives of widely different political backgrounds and views.”
Strzok teaches an upper-level seminar that surveys the theory behind how U.S. counterintelligence fits into national security practices, drawing examples from his own experiences. His new teaching role has also drawn attention from right-wing media outlets, with articles from Fox News, the Daily Caller and the National Review reviving discussion online about the Russia investigation and Strzok’s subsequent falling-out with the Department of Justice.
In 2018, Strzok rose to national attention when testifying before the joint House committee, during which he was criticized by Republicans for showing a bias against Trump in texts publicly released by the DOJ. Trump and his supporters have often casted Strzok as a corrupt actor in an attempt to delegitimize the Russia and Clinton investigations. Strzok himself took the FBI and DOJ to court in December 2019, when he alleged they violated his rights to free speech and privacy.
SFS Dean Joel Hellman welcomed Strzok’s return to the SFS as a professor and acknowledged that, while his appointment is controversial, it is a testament to his school’s commitment to free speech and hearing different viewpoints.
“At SFS, we give our students access to leading practitioners in an increasingly polarized political arena,” Hellman wrote in an email to The Hoya. “As a result, many of our faculty have invited controversy over the years from all sides of the political spectrum. We do not shield students from political divisions, but encourage discussion and debate.”
Strzok has had a long history with the Georgetown community. He graduated in 1991 with a bachelor’s degree from the SFS and then served in the Army before embarking on a 22-year career with the FBI, during which he rose to the rank of deputy assistant director of the FBI’s Counterintelligence Division. Strzok returned to Georgetown and completed a master’s degree in 2013.
Strzok said that he has always enjoyed mentoring students interested in careers in counterintelligence and the FBI, so returning to Georgetown allows him to continue work he finds rewarding.
“It’s great to be back teaching at Georgetown. As a double Hoya, I really appreciated Georgetown’s faculty, especially the wealth of experienced practitioners the University attracts,” Strzok wrote in an email to The Hoya, “After a career working some of the nation’s most significant counterintelligence work at the FBI, it’s been great to convey that knowledge and real-world experience to another generation of Hoyas.”