|“||I did you a favor once. Consider this repayment.||”|
— Axelrod in "Internal Affairs"
Tony Axelrod is a minor recurring character who first appeared in Mr. Scratch.
Axelrod became an official for the National Security Agency and supervised several of its lower-level employees, including those who handled the computers. He somehow became familiar with Hotch and Garcia, the latter apparently after he considered giving her a job at the agency. No other details have been revealed about Axelrod's life.
After one of Axelrod's employees, Peter Lewis, hacks into the BAU headquarters and accesses sensitive information in the witness protection database, Hotch calls Axelrod and instructs him to meet him in the building parking lot. Upon arriving, he is asked by him for assistance in identifying the hacker. He quickly denies that any of his employees are responsible for the hack, but Hotch intimidates him by building a detailed description of the unsub. Axelrod immediately deduces who the hacker is from the given information. Knowing that he could get fired for giving the name, he writes Peter's name down on a notepaper and gives it to Hotch, all the while pretending to shoot his request down. As Hotch leaves, Axelrod says, "Tell Penelope I said hi."
Axelrod is first seen having a conversation with NSA Director Brian Cochran. As he shakes hands with Cochran, Hotch appears. Axelrod tells Hotch about a joint NSA-DEA investigation into the Libertad Cartel, a Texas-based drug cartel with an online component. Then, he says that one undercover agent for the DEA is dead and two others are missing, indicating their covers were blown. He then requests Hotch and the BAU to investigate. In regards to the person who uncovered the agents' secret identities, Axelrod points Hotch to Assistant DEA Director Bernard Graff as a suspect. When Hotch asks Axelrod why he did not report Graff, he replies that it will raise some flags and Graff would suspect an internal affairs investigation, giving him enough time to destroy any incriminating evidence. He then reasons that Graff is a suspect because he knows technical details beyond the scope of his job and there is a flash-drive that never leaves his wrist, which has the access codes to the Libertad Cartel servers. During the investigation, Graff is killed. Axelrod believes he killed himself since Hotch was going to expose him, but Hotch says he doesn't have anything. He then asks Axelrod if he found the flash-drive, but Axelrod says that Graff doesn't have it on him.
Later, as more information is uncovered by the BAU, Hotch meets with Axelrod and tells him that Graff didn't commit suicide because he found evidence pointing towards otherwise. He then tells Axelrod that the head of the Libertad Cartel is a mole for the NSA, which points to Axelrod himself. However, Axelrod quickly denies any involvement with any details of the crime, including what happened a year ago about someone from the NSA requesting a file transfer from the El Paso Police Department. about a serial killer investigation that started in Mexico. Axelrod gives an alibi, having been in France at his niece's wedding when the file transfer happened. When Hotch asks Axelrod who tipped him off about Graff, he replies that it was his boss, Brian Cochran.
Later, after the serial killer is fatally shot by Morgan and his latest victim is rescued by Lewis, Cochran is exposed as the leader of the Libertad Cartel by Hotch. When Axelrod and DEA agents appear, they take a pen from Cochran, which exposes Graff's flash-drive. This gives the agents concrete proof of his involvement in the crimes, and they arrest him as he protests against this to Hotch. Afterwards, Axelrod invites Hotch for a drink, which Hotch accepts. Then, he tells Hotch that as long as he is not threatening to take him down again, they can be friends.