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9-11: FBI futility and failure: FBI agents have testified that FBI headquarters has blocked investigations of certain terrorists with connections to 9-11. Why? The bureau itself appears to need investigation. (Terrorism).

"September 11th is a direct result of the incompetence of the FBI's International Terrorism Unit. No doubt about that. Absolutely no doubt about that."

These words were spoken by FBI Special Agent Robert Wright during the December 19th edition of ABC's Prime Time Live. Wright and his partner, Special Agent John Vincent, described in agonizing detail how their superiors shut down a 1998 investigation tying a suspected terrorist cell in Chicago to Yassin al-Kadi, a Saudi Arabian financier suspected of funneling millions of dollars to the al-Qaeda terrorist network.

Following the summer 1998 bombings of U.S. embassies in Kenya and Tanzania, Wright and Vincent, as part of a terrorism task force, began building a case against suspected terrorists in Chicago. FBI HQ was willing to let the agents follow suspects and file reports, but adamantly refused to allow them to make arrests. "The supervisor who was there from headquarters was right straight across from me and started yelling at me: 'You will not open criminal investigations,'" Wright told Prime Time Live.

According to federal prosecutor Mark Flessner, who had been assigned to build a criminal case against al-Kadi and other terrorist suspects, "There were powers bigger than I was in the Justice Department and within the FBI that simply were not going to let it [the criminal case] happen." According to Wright, in January 2001, his supervisor responded to his repeated efforts to open a criminal investigation by telling him: "I think it's just better to let sleeping dogs lie." "Those dogs weren't sleeping," Wright ruefully remarked. "They were training. They were getting ready."

Subsequent to Black Tuesday, the CIA ironically validated Wright and Vincent's investigation by placing al-Kadi's name on its "dirty dozen" list of suspected terrorist financiers. Further validation came on December 6th--about two weeks prior to the Prime Time Live interview with Wright and Vincent--when the U.S. Customs Service raided Ptech, a Boston-area software company suspected of having ties to al-Kadi. The company, incredibly, provides computer software to the FBI and other key U.S. military and security agencies.

Assembling the Pieces

In our March 11, 2002 cover story entitled "Did We Know What Was Coming?" THE NEW AMERICAN quoted an active federal counter-terrorism investigator who stated that the impending terrorist strike had been provided to FBI Headquarters by "some of [the Bureau's] most experienced guys, people who have devoted their lives to this kind of work. But their warnings were placed in a pile in someone's office in Washington.... In some cases, these field agents predicted, almost precisely, what happened on September 11th." That description certainly fits the story told by 12-year FBI veteran Wright and 27-year veteran Vincent. (Vincent retired from the bureau shortly after going public in the Prime Time Live interview.)

Another detail offered by Wright and Vincent provides an unsettling context for a remark made by FBI whistleblower Colleen Rowley. In her May 2002 memo to FBI Director Robert Mueller, Rowley--the chief attorney for the Minneapolis FBI office--referred to roadblocks thrown up by FBI Headquarters to impede the investigation of Zacarias Moussaoui, the so-called "20th Hijacker." "HQ personnel never disclosed to the Minneapolis agents that the Phoenix division had, only approximately three weeks earlier, warned of al-Qaeda operatives in flight schools seeking flight training for terrorist purposes!" complained Rowley.

This curiously specific oversight was just one of many acts of "sabotage" committed by FBI Headquarters, contended Rowley. "Why would an FBI agent(s) deliberately sabotage a case?" she wrote. In the weeks leading up to September 11th, frustrated field agents in Minneapolis bitterly joked that key officials in Washington "had to be spies or moles ... working for Osama bin Laden."

While no al-Qaeda "moles" have yet been identified, a Muslim FBI agent named Gamal Abdel-Hafiz obstructed the investigation. According to Wright, AbdelHafiz refused to wear a "wire" during a meeting with a terrorist suspect, insisting that "a Muslim doesn't record another Muslim."

Wright recalls that he immediately called FBI HQ to protest: "The supervisor from headquarters [said], 'Well, you have to understand where he's coming from, Bob.' I said no, no, no, no, no. I understand where I'm coming from. We both took the same damn oath to defend this country against all enemies foreign and domestic, and he just said no? No way in hell."

If the agent had a legitimate issue of conscience regarding investigations of fellow Muslims, he should have been given an assignment in which such conflicts of interest would not occur. Yet the bureau promoted agent Abdel-Hafiz and assigned him a counter-terrorism post at the U.S. embassy in Saudi Arabia.

Is Failure the Objective?

The Wright, Vincent, Flessner, and Rowley disclosures paint a portrait of the FBI as an agency perversely determined to fail in its counter-terrorism mission. But the most striking illustration of the FBI's inverted priorities came on December 4th when Bureau Director Mueller, in a ceremony held in Des Moines, Iowa, presented an award to Marion "Spike" Bowman, head of the FBI's national security law unit, for "exceptional performance."

Along with nine other recipients, Bowman was given a framed certificate signed by President George W. Bush and a cash bonus amounting to 20-35 percent of his salary. Bowman's most notable accomplishment, as commentator Doug Grow of the Minneapolis Star-Tribune points out, was to head the FBI unit "that blocked Minneapolis agents from pursuing their suspicions about [suspected al-Qaeda agent] Moussaoui." During the Des Moines award ceremony, Mueller pointedly said that the honorees "are strongly linked to our counter-terrorism efforts"--which, given its context, may be one of the most terrifying statements ever uttered by a federal official.
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Author:Grigg, William Norman
Publication:The New American
Geographic Code:1USA
Date:Jan 27, 2003
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