FBI Agent Wright formally accuses the FBI of deliberately curtailing investigations that might have prevented 9/11. He is threatened with retribution if he talks to Congress about this. [Fox News/Reuters, 5/30/02, more]
In the 1990s, Special Agent Robert Wright of the FBI’s Chicago field office spearheaded an investigation into terrorist financing codenamed Vulgar Betrayal. The investigation uncovered information about Yassin Al-Qadi, a terrorist financier who would go on to be designated a global terrorist financier by the U.S. treasury in the wake of 9/11. Vulgar Betrayal led to information about the African embassy bombings in 1998 and resulted in the seizure of $1.4 million of terrorist financing. Despite the investigation’s remarkable success, however, Wright was taken off of Vulgar Betrayal in 1999 and reduced to a paper pusher. In May 2002, Wright went public with information about how his investigations had been systematically starved for funds, hindered and obstructed by FBI management and revealed that he believes 9/11 could have been prevented if he had been allowed to continue his investigation. The Bureau prevented him from releasing a book about his experience. He was threatened by corrupt FBI Director Louis Freeh with legal action if he revealed any details about what he had been investigating.
Wright began crying as he concluded his remarks at a Washington press conference Thursday.
“To the families and victims of September 11th – on behalf of [FBI Special Agents] John Vincent, Barry Carmody, and myself – we’re sorry,” Wright said before walking out of the room. Vincent and Carmody have also expressed a desire to expose information regarding alleged FBI missteps prior to Sept. 11.
Wright’s June 9, 2001 “Mission Statement” memo warned that, “Knowing what I know, I can confidently say that until the investigative responsibilities for terrorism are transferred from the FBI, I will not feel safe.
“The FBI has proven for the past decade it cannot identify and prevent acts of terrorism against the United States and its citizens at home and abroad,” he continued. “Even worse, there is virtually no effort on the part of the FBI’s International Terrorism Unit to neutralize known and suspected international terrorists living in the United States.”
The summary of Wright’s attempts to expose the alleged failures of the FBI’s anti-terrorism efforts ended with a solemn conclusion.
“Unfortunately, more terrorist attacks against American interests – coupled with the loss of American lives – will have to occur before those in power give this matter the urgent attention it deserves,” he wrote.
by Kevin Ryan
In the summer of 2001, Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) agent Robert Wright, a counterterrorism expert from the Chicago office, made some startling claims about the Bureau in a written statement outlining the difficulties he had doing his job. Three months before 9/11, he wrote: “The FBI has proven for the past decade it cannot identify and prevent acts of terrorism against the United States and its citizens at home and abroad. Even worse, there is virtually no effort on the part of the FBI’s International Terrorism Unit to neutralize known and suspected terrorists residing within the United States.”
Revelations since 9/11 have confirmed Wright’s claims. FBI management did little or nothing to stop terrorism in the decade before 9/11 and, in some cases, appeared to have supported terrorists. This is more disturbing considering that the power of the FBI over terrorism investigations was supreme. In 1998, the FBI’s strategic plan stated that terrorist activities fell “almost exclusively within the jurisdiction of the FBI” and that “the FBI has no higher priority than to combat terrorism.”
A number of people are suspect in these failures, including the leaders of the FBI’s counterterrorism programs. But at the time of Wright’s written complaint, which was not shared with the public until May 2002, the man most responsible was Louis Freeh, Director of the FBI from 1993 to 2001.
Agent Wright was not FBI leadership’s only detractor, and not the only one to criticize Freeh. The public advocacy law firm Judicial Watch, which prosecutes government abuse and corruption, rejoiced at the news of Freeh’s March 2001 resignation. Judicial Watch pointed to a “legacy of corruption” at the FBI under Freeh, listing the espionage scandal at Los Alamos National Laboratories, as well as “Filegate, Waco, the Ruby Ridge cover-up, the Olympic bombing frame-up of Richard Jewell, [and] falsification of evidence concerning the Oklahoma City bombing.”
Judicial Watch said that Director Freeh believed he was above the law. The group went on to say that Freeh was “a man so corrupt he destroyed the office he led, and a man so cowardly he refuses to face the music for the illegalities he has allegedly committed.” To this was added a claim that the FBI under Freeh was being directed by sinister yet unknown forces. ”In case after case throughout the 1990′s, the FBI seems to have tailored its investigative efforts to fit somebody’s pre-arranged script. The question is, who wrote that script — and why?”
Freeh became FBI Director on July 19, 1993, just five months after the first WTC bombing, three months after the Waco siege, and one day before the alleged suicide of Hillary Clinton’s former Rose Law Firm associate, deputy White House counsel Vincent Foster. Freeh’s predecessor was William Sessions.
Prior to his appointment by President Clinton, Freeh was a federal judge. He had been selected for that position by President George H.W. Bush in 1991. Before that, Freeh had been an Assistant District Attorney for the Southern District of New York and an FBI field agent.
Freeh was involved with U.S. counter-terrorism efforts for many years prior to his appointment as FBI Director in 1993. As an FBI agent he worked for the New York Field Office, which led the FBI’s counterterrorism effort. It was later the lead field office for Bin Laden investigations and was the first to establish a Joint Terrorism Task Force (JTTF) of state and federal law enforcement and intelligence personnel. Freeh worked there for seven years until he was promoted to Assistant U.S. Attorney in 1981. Throughout the 1980s, Freeh worked with or for U.S. Attorney Rudy Giuliani, who was mayor of New York City on 9/11.
Although Clinton was a Democrat, after his appointment as FBI Director Freeh immediately began forming alliances with Republicans in Congress. This apparently caused difficulty between the FBI and Clinton’s White House. Freeh also developed a secret relationship with his former supporter, former President George H. W. Bush. He used that relationship to communicate with the Saudi royal family without Clinton’s knowledge.
Ignoring or facilitating domestic terrorism
Just five months before Freeh’s appointment as FBI Director, the World Trade Center (WTC) was bombed in an attack that killed six people and wounded a thousand others. It was blamed on a Pakistani-Kuwaiti by the name of Ramzi Yousef, along with about half a dozen others. However, as the New York Times reported, it was clear that the FBI was somehow involved as well.
“Law-enforcement officials were told that terrorists were building a bomb that was eventually used to blow up the World Trade Center, and they planned to thwart the plotters by secretly substituting harmless powder for the explosives, an informer said after the blast.
The informer was to have helped the plotters build the bomb and supply the fake powder, but the plan was called off by an F.B.I. supervisor who had other ideas about how the informer, Emad A. Salem, should be used, the informer said.”
The 1993 WTC bombing was a terrorist operation that had been infiltrated by the FBI but the role that the FBI played in trying to prevent that operation, or allow it to go forward, has never been revealed. What has been revealed is that forensic data was falsified and “conclusions were altered to help the government’s case.” These facts were revealed by Frederick Whitehurst, the chemist and supervisory special agent in charge of the FBI’s crime lab who became a whistleblower. The altered conclusions that Whitehurst described were made under the leadership of Louis Freeh.
A similar case occurred in April 1995, when the Murrah Federal Building in Oklahoma City (OKC) was bombed, killing 168 people including 19 children. Investigators have since learned that the FBI played a role in that bombing as well. Reasons that the OKC bombing was suspicious include the fact that there were secondary explosives found in the building that were not reported as part of the official account. And as with the events of 9/11, the FBI immediately confiscated, and refused to release, security videos that would have revealed what actually happened.
Freeh’s colleague and personal friend, Larry Potts, was the FBI supervisor who was responsible for the tragedies at Ruby Ridge in 1992, and Waco in 1993. Potts was then given responsibility for investigating the Oklahoma City bombing. Later it was claimed by one of the convicted conspirators that lead bomber Timothy McVeigh was actually acting under the direction of Potts. As an apparent reward for Potts’ performance, in May 1995 Freeh promoted him to be his number two man as Deputy Director of the FBI. Two months later, Freeh removed Potts from that position due to public outrage at the appointment.
On the FBI links to the OKC bombing, author Peter Dale Scott wrote — “One such case of a penetrated operation “gone wrong” in 1993 might be attributed to confusion, bureaucratic incompetence, or the problems of determining when sufficient evidence had been gathered to justify arrests. A repeated catastrophe two years later raises the question whether the lethal outcome was not intended.”.
The result of the OKC bombing in governmental terms was the passage of a new anti–terrorism law in April 1996. This was a bill that would be mirrored by the USA Patriot Act six years later, and it was described as representing an assault on civil liberties. The Houston Chronicle called the bill a “frightening” and “grievous” attack on domestic freedoms. But Louis Freeh supported it.
Because many Congressional representatives opposed the bill, it was passed only after having been watered down. In Freeh’s words, it had been “stripped… of just about every meaningful provision.” Freeh’s call for this legislation to be more restrictive of civil liberties must be considered with the fact that his agency was accused of facilitating the event that precipitated the legislation.
One of the obstacles often cited as a root cause for the FBI not doing its anti-terrorism job effectively was “the Wall.” This was a set of procedures that restricted the flow of information between law enforcement officers pursuing criminal investigations and officers pursuing intelligence information via the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act (FISA). The procedures, set out in a 1995 memo from deputy attorney general (and future 9/11 Commissioner) Jamie Gorelick, were seemingly intended to prevent the loss of evidence, due to technicalities, that might be obtained via a FISA warrant. Because such losses were never actually experienced, later claims about “the Wall” appear to be weak excuses to explain why information was not shared or actions were not taken.
In July 1996, TWA Flight 800 crashed into the Atlantic Ocean just after taking off from JFK Airport in New York, killing all 230 people on board. Freeh later claimed that “No one knew what brought it down.” Curiously, the FBI took over the investigation despite the fact that the National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB) had priority over the investigation as established by law. FBI agents then blocked attempts by the NTSB to interview witnesses.
One month after the explosion, chemists at the FBI crime laboratory in Washington found traces of PETN, an explosive component of bombs and surface-to-air missiles, in the wreckage. Despite this, in November 1997, the FBI closed its investigation and announced that “No evidence has been found which would indicate that a criminal act was the cause of the tragedy of TWA flight 800.”
This reversal of findings was led by Freeh and Jamie Gorelick. After meeting with Freeh and Gorelick, James Kallstrom, the agent in charge of the New York office where the TWA 800 investigation was being handled, produced several unlikely explanations for the detection of the PETN. Although none of these hypotheses was probable, the FBI was able to convince the media to change the story.
Louis Freeh was leading the FBI during the investigation into the 1993 WTC bombing, at the time of the OKC bombing, and at the time of the crash of TWA Flight 800. All of these events suggest the facilitation, or cover-up, of terrorist acts by the FBI. However, these were not the only indications that Louis Freeh was leading an agency that facilitated terrorism.
Ignoring or facilitating “Islamic” terrorism
Before leaving his position in the summer of 2001, Freeh was responsible for overseeing more than a dozen failures related to “Islamic” terrorism and the alleged 9/11 hijackers. Here are the first nine.
- Between 1989 and 1998, Ali Mohamed was an FBI informant. He was also a U.S. Army Special Forces sergeant and al Qaeda’s primary trainer. According to U.S. Attorney Patrick Fitzgerald, Mohamed “trained most of al Qaeda’s top leadership – including Bin Laden and Zawahiri – and most of al Qaeda’s top trainers. He gave some training to persons who would later carry out the 1993 World Trade Center bombing.” Mohamed had been an FBI informant, since at least 1992, and was previously a CIA “contract agent.” In a move indicative of U.S. oversight, he transitioned directly from the U.S. Special Forces to fighting and training the Mujahideen in Afghanistan. When he was arrested in 1998, Mohamed was allowed to plea bargain and, to this day, he has never been brought to trial.
- In early 1995, Freeh was behind the cancelation of a raid on a suspected terrorist-financing organization. Recent legislation had enabled plans for the raid and prosecution of The Holy Land Foundation in Arlington, Texas, a suspected terrorist financing operation. But Freeh stopped the raid using the dubious excuse that it would alienate Arabs in the United States. Holy Land was finally raided just after 9/11 and, years later, it was convicted of providing material support to a terrorist organization.
- In May 1995, FBI agents wrote a memo about what they had learned in their interrogation of Abdul Hakim Murad, a Kuwaiti who allegedly helped bomb the WTC in 1993. Murad told the FBI about another plan to hijack multiple airliners in Asia and crash them into buildings in the U.S., including the WTC. Inexplicably, the FBI memo omitted all of the details the agents had learned about this plot, called Operation Bojinka. In 1996, Murad was convicted of crimes related to Bojinka yet, as author Peter Lance wrote, the FBI seemed to be “go out of its way to avoid even a hint of the plot that was ultimately carried out on 9/11.”
- Gregory Scarpa Jr was an organized crime figure who, when imprisoned for an unrelated crime in 1996, was located in a cell between Ramzi Yousef and Abdul Hakim Murad. Working undercover for the FBI, Scarpa was able to gain significant information about an active al Qaeda cell in New York City, and a “treasure trove of al Qaeda plans.” After working closely with Scarpa to gain the intelligence, Freeh and his subordinates ended up calling the whole thing a “hoax” and buried the information. 
- On May 15, 1998, an FBI pilot sent his supervisor in the Oklahoma City FBI office a memo, warning that he had observed “large numbers of Middle Eastern males receiving flight training at Oklahoma airports in recent months.” The memo went on to suggest that these people were planning terrorist activities. It was sent to the Bureau’s Weapons of Mass Destruction unit but no action was ever taken.
- In September 1999, FBI agents showed up at Airman Flight School in Norman, OK, to investigate the school’s training of Ihab Ali Nawawi. A suspect in the 1998 embassy bombings who was allegedly the personal pilot of Osama bin Laden, Nawawi had been arrested in Orlando four months before. He has been in U.S. custody ever since but has never been brought to trial. Despite the investigation of Nawawi and the 1998 warning from an OKC FBI pilot, the FBI apparently never thought to keep a closer eye on Airman Flight School. Zacarias Moussaoui and several alleged 9/11 hijackers trained or were seen at the school in 2000 and 2001.
- In October 1999, Hani El-Sayegh, a suspect in the 1996 Khobar Towers Bombing, was deported from a prison in Atlanta to Saudi Arabia. This was the result of an agreement between Freeh and Prince Naif, Saudi Arabia’s interior minister. After his deportation, El-Sayegh was reportedly tortured as FBI agents watched and submitted questions to his Saudi interrogators. David Vine from the Washington Post remarked — “Such practices are sharply at odds with Freeh’s oft-stated message about the FBI’s need to respect human dignity and the tenets of democracy while fighting crime.” Another problem with this incident was that the U.S. had control over a suspect in the 1996 terrorist murder of 19 U.S. servicemen and yet, instead of bringing that suspect to trial, they sent him back to Saudi Arabia. A reporter from Time magazine expressed the problem this way: “Run that one by again: The United States doesn’t want to try a man suspected of a bomb attack that killed Americans—and they’re sending him home?!” It is presumed that El-Sayegh was ultimately executed by the Saudis.
- In April 2000, a Pakistani from England named Niaz Khan told the FBI that he was recruited by al Qaeda, trained in Pakistan to hijack planes and sent to the U.S. for a terror mission, as were several pilots. Khan said that he told the FBI, about a year before 9/11, that al Qaeda planned to hijack airliners in the United States. The FBI confirmed that Khan passed two polygraphs. Yet FBI headquarters supposedly didn‘t believe Khan and sent him home to London.
- When two of the alleged 9/11 hijackers, Khalid Al-Mihdhar and Nawaf Al-Hazmi, came to the U.S. in January 2000, they immediately met with Omar Al-Bayoumi, a suspected Saudi government spy and an employee of a Saudi aviation company. Al-Bayoumi, who had been the subject of an FBI investigation in 1998 and 1999, became a very good friend to the two alleged hijackers, setting them up in an apartment and paying their rent. Al-Mihdhar and Al-Hazmi then moved in with a long-time FBI asset, Abdussattar Shaikh, who had been working closely with the Bureau on terrorism cases since 1994. Apparently the FBI was not able to make a timely connection between its suspect Al-Bayoumi or its informant Shaikh and the two alleged 9/11 hijackers they supported for two years prior to 9/11. In 2003, the FBI gave Shaikh $100,000 and closed his contract.
From these nine incidents, we know that FBI management under Freeh was not working to prevent “Islamic” terrorism in the years before 9/11. These examples also suggest that the FBI was suppressing and ignoring information about terrorism, perhaps for the purpose of protecting or co-opting the related terrorist networks. As for al Qaeda, author Lawrence Wright wrote that, in the late 1990s, “Director Freeh repeatedly stressed in White House meetings that al Qaeda posed no domestic threat. Bin Laden didn’t even make the FBI’s most wanted list until June 1999,” nearly a year after the embassy bombings.
Robert Hanssen, a veteran FBI counterintelligence agent, was arrested for espionage in February 2001. Freeh claimed the CIA and FBI worked very well together to catch Hanssen. Apparently there was no difficulty, of the type later cited by the 9/11 Commission, that prevented collaboration between the two agencies.
It was claimed that Hanssen, while betraying his country for financial gain, sold a special software program called PROMIS to the Russians. William Hamilton, the president of Inslaw, the company that manufactured PROMIS, said that the Russians then sold the program to Osama bin Laden and that it might have played a part in facilitating the 9/11 attacks. This claim was also reported by The Washington Times and it was said that the software would have given Bin Laden the ability to monitor US efforts to track him down and also the ability to monitor electronic-banking transactions, enabling money-laundering operations.
PROMIS had a history going back over two decades. In the 1980s, Oliver North of Iran-Contra fame had used the software to create lists of national security threats in conjunction with the secretive Continuity of Government (COG) program. In an interesting coincidence, before his death British Foreign Secretary Robin Cook told the House of Commons that “Al Qaeda” was not really a terrorist group but a database of international Mujahideen and arms smugglers used by the CIA and Saudis.
The Justice Department oversight committee on the use of PROMIS included Rudy Giuliani and, therefore presumably, Louis Freeh. The lawyer for Inslaw, in its legal dealings with the Justice Department, was Roderick M. Hills, who would shortly thereafter be Frank Carlucci’s boss at Sears World Trade.
Investigator Michael Ruppert and his colleagues have proposed that software programs evolving from PROMIS were used on 9/11 to disable the U.S. air defenses. This hypothesis involves Mitre Corporation and its contractor PTech, which were known to be operating at the Pentagon on projects that affected the operability of Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) systems.
After 9/11, the FBI did not report known links between PTech and its Saudi investor Yassin al Qadi to the U.S. Customs Department investigation into terrorist financing. This concealment was despite PTech having contracts with many U.S. agencies controlling sensitive information, including the FBI, and Al-Qadi being declared a terrorist financier. It is also known that PTech director Yaqub Mirza had contacts at high levels within the FBI.
Working for the Bush Administration
The month before Hanssen’s arrest, George W. Bush was inaugurated as President. The only cabinet-level figure to be retained from the outgoing Clinton administration was CIA Director George Tenet, who was said to be a long-time friend of George H. W. Bush. But Freeh stayed on as well until his unexpected resignation in May that year. Freeh did not give specific reasons for leaving at the time and he remained in the position until June 25.
Having been FBI Director for eight years, Freeh had put most of the FBI’s leadership in place. This included his deputy as of 1999, Thomas Pickard, who would go on to be acting director of the FBI from June to September 2001. It also included Dale Watson, head of the FBI’s counterterrorism program as of 1999, and the people in his organization. Watson had worked with Freeh in the New York FBI office years before and had worked on the investigations into the U.S. embassy bombings and the bombing of the USS Cole. Between FBI assignments, in 1996 and 1997, Watson had been the Deputy Chief of the CIA’s Counterterrorism Center.
Working for Watson in the FBI’s counterterrorism division was Michel Rolince, the head of the International Terrorism Operations Section (ITOS). Under Rolince were the heads of the Usama Bin laden Unit (UBLU) and the Radical Fundamentalism Unit (RFU).
Three major FBI failures relating to “Islamic” terrorism occurred during the early months of 2001.
- The first was on March 7, 2001 when, during trial proceedings for the 1998 U.S. embassy bombings in Africa, FBI agent Stephen Gaudin read aloud in court a phone number that had been used by the alleged al Qaeda plotters to plan and execute the embassy attacks. This was the phone number of the “Yemen Hub,” which doubled as the home phone of Ahmed Al-Hada, the father-in-law of alleged 9/11 hijacker Khalid Al-Mihdhar. According to U.S. officials, the same phone was purportedly used for planning the USS Cole bombing and, later, the 9/11 attacks. The phone number was also published in the British weekly the Observer, just five weeks before 9/11. As author Kevin Fenton wrote: “Any of the Observer’s readers could have called the number and asked for a message to be forwarded to Osama bin Laden.” This widely reported FBI gaffe should have alerted al Qaeda to U.S. knowledge of its secret Yemen operations center while also ensuring that anyone listening would know the exact al Qaeda phone number being monitored by U.S. intelligence. Despite this major tip-off, al Qaeda continued to use the phone to plan the 9/11 attacks, until “only weeks before 9/11.” Why did the Bureau not work to intercept the calls made in the months and weeks before 9/11 and use them to help stop the attacks?
- The FBI had Mohamed Atta and one of his colleagues under surveillance in early 2001, according to an FBI informant. The informant later said he was a “million percent positive” that the 9/11 attacks could have been stopped if the FBI had gone after Atta at the time. Instead, FBI handlers steered the informant away from Atta.
- Several FBI agents, including Dina Corsi, Margaret Gillespie, Doug Miller and Mark Rossini, were involved in a concerted attempt to hide information about Al-Mihdhar and Al-Hazmi from other intelligence officers who almost certainly would have captured the suspects. These acts of inexplicable secrecy included not sharing cables on the subject, not sharing photographs of the suspects, misrepresenting “the Wall” restrictions, and misrepresenting comments from the National Security Law Unit.
The FBI agents noted in the last example were all assigned as liaisons to the CIA’s Alec Station unit, focused on Osama Bin Laden. It is interesting that neither Richard Blee, the head of that unit at the time, nor Rodney Middelton, the head of the FBI’s UBLU, were ever interviewed by independent journalists about these critical issues. Middleton left the FBI the day before 9/11, and Blee went on to be named CIA station chief in Kabul as the U.S. invasion of Afghanistan began.
Between April and September 2001, several major changes occurred in the FBI’s counterterrorism program. In May, the head of the RFU was replaced by Dave Frasca, who would go on to be a central character in the obstruction of opportunities to identify and capture the alleged hijackers. At the same time, Louis Freeh announced his resignation despite not having another job.
Freeh left the FBI on June 25, 2001 with nowhere to go. It was said that he approached acting New Jersey Governor Donald DiFrancesco and offered to serve, without salary, as the state’s anti-terrorism “czar”. This would have brought Freeh close to the 9/11 attacks in NYC but it didn’t happen. Instead, Freeh was apparently doing nothing for the three months before 9/11, or at least doing nothing that we know about. Freeh then took a job as director, counsel, and ethics officer at credit card issuer MBNA.
The final three 9/11-related failures that can be attributed to Freeh, through the subordinates he put in place, are as follows. If any of these had been handled appropriately, the alleged 9/11 hijackers would have been caught and their alleged plans foiled.
- On July 10, 2001, Phoenix FBI counterterrorism agent Ken Williams sent FBI headquarters what is called the “Phoenix Memo,” warning that Osama bin Laden was sending students to U.S. flight schools. Williams listed cases of suspected Arab extremists training in Arizona flight schools and urged the FBI to search for such cases in other cities. The FBI failed to respond to the memo at all and it was dismissed as speculative. As 9/11 Commissioner Bob Kerrey would later point out about the memo – “had it gotten into the works at the—up to the highest possible level, at the very least, 19 guys wouldn‘t have gotten onto these airplanes with room to spare.”
- In mid-August 2001, Zacarias Moussaoui was arrested in Minnesota. The FBI agents who made the arrest called Moussaoui a “suspected airline suicide attacker.” The agents requested permission to search Moussaoui’s belongings, including his laptop computer, but they were denied that permission. A week later the FBI supervisor in Minneapolis, trying to get the attention of those at FBI headquarters, said he was trying to make sure that Moussaoui — “did not take control of a plane and fly it into the World Trade Center.” Still, FBI headquarters denied the field agents’ requests. In May 2002, one of the agents, Coleen Rowley, described this obstruction. She wrote that FBI headquarters personnel – “ …continued to, almost inexplicably, throw up roadblocks and undermine Minneapolis’ by-now desperate efforts to obtain a FISA search warrant, long after the French intelligence service provided its information and probable cause became clear. HQ personnel brought up almost ridiculous questions in their apparent efforts to undermine the probable cause. In all of their conversations and correspondence, 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! Nor did FBIHQ personnel do much to disseminate the information about Moussaoui to other appropriate intelligence/law enforcement authorities. When, in a desperate 11th hour measure to bypass the FBIHQ roadblock, the Minneapolis Division undertook to directly notify the CIA’s Counter Terrorist Center (CTC), FBIHQ personnel actually chastised the Minneapolis agents for making the direct notification without their approval!”
- Finally, on August 23, 2001, less than three weeks before 9/11, the CIA formally told the FBI that Al-Mihdhar and Al-Hazmi might be in the United States. But even though the two alleged hijackers had their names listed in the San Diego phone book and had been living with an FBI informant, the Bureau supposedly could not find them.
FBI agent Robert Fuller, only recently transferred to UBLU, claimed to take the August information and use it to search databases looking for Al-Mihdhar and Al-Hazmi but he claims to have found nothing. Fuller had another JTTF officer help him to search a database run by Choicepoint, the company known for purging Florida voters in the 2000 presidential election. The Justice Department IG report says Fuller did an NCIC criminal history check, credit checks, and a motor vehicle records search. But the 9/11 Commission Report clearly contradicted this, saying “Searches of readily available databases could have unearthed the drivers licenses, the car registration, and the telephone listing” all of which were in Al Mihdhar and Al Hazmi’s names.
Later it was noted that “the hijackers had contact with 14 people known to the FBI because of counterterror investigations prior to 9/11.” This was known to the 9/11 Commission as the staff director for 9/11 Commission made a clear statement about how close the FBI was to catching the alleged hijackers. “Rather than the hijackers being invisible to the FBI, they were, in fact, right in the middle of the FBI‘s counterterrorism coverage,” said Eleanor Hill. “And yet, the FBI didn‘t detect them.”
All of this certainly seems to suggest that FBI headquarters and Director Freeh had sufficient information to track and capture the alleged 9/11 hijackers. Freeh’s close association with the Saudis is also troubling considering the role of suspected Saudi spy Al-Bayoumi. The company Al-Bayoumi worked for, Dalla Al-Baraka, was owned by Saleh Abdullah Kamel, an alleged member of the “Golden Chain” financiers of Osama bin Laden. And the wife of Freeh’s friend Prince Bandar was reported to have sent funding to the alleged hijackers through Al-Bayoumi’s wife.
In his resignation speech, Freeh praised the integrity of George W. Bush and dedication of Dick Cheney. “President Bush has brought great honor and integrity to the Oval Office. It was equally an honor to be appointed by his father to serve as a federal judge. I also wish to thank Vice President Dick Cheney for conducting an effective transition process and for his dedication to duty in serving the Nation,” said Freeh.
Going on, Freeh thanked his colleagues at the CIA and emphasized how well the two agencies had worked together. “Through the leadership of Director George Tenet, we have forged an unprecedented relationship with the men and women of the Central Intelligence Agency in the counter-intelligence and counter-terrorism arenas,” he claimed. “This, in turn, has enabled us to place greater emphasis on counter-intelligence [and] counter-terrorism.”
These remarks are in direct contradiction to the 9/11 Commission Report, which placed blame for the failure to track down and capture the alleged hijackers on two root causes. The first was that, although the “system was blinking red,” the intelligence communities were not working well together, partly because of “the Wall” of procedures that supposedly prevented adequate information sharing between the agencies. The second presumed root cause was that the information needed to stop the attacks did not rise high enough within the FBI and CIA to ensure action would be taken. Neither of these excuses is believable, given the examples already reviewed.
At the end of Freeh’s tenure as director, the FBI was under severe criticism from all directions. Patrick J. Leahy, the chairman of the Senate Judiciary Committee whose office would a few months later be one of the targets of the anthrax attacks, said, “There are some very, very serious management problems at the FBI.” Richard J. Durbin, a Democrat from Illinois, said, “It’s hard to believe the situation has deteriorated and disintegrated the way it has. How did this great agency fall so far so fast? The FBI has been starved for leadership.”
Nine days after Freeh announced his retirement, the FBI told Timothy McVeigh’s attorneys that it had failed to give them about 3,000 pages of documents related to the OKC bombing investigation. “Self-righteous and sanctimonious, Freeh never admitted a personal mistake. He never pointed out his own role in the McVeigh debacle.”
If there is nothing to hide, why hide it?
Testifying before the 9/11 Congressional Inquiry in October 2002, Freeh said: “I am aware of nothing that to me demonstrates that the FBI and the intelligence community had the type of information or tactical intelligence which could have prevented September 11th. In terms of the FBI’s capability to identify, investigate and prevent the nineteen hijackers from carrying out their attacks, the facts so far on the public record do not support the conclusion that these tragic events could have been prevented by the FBI and intelligence community acting by themselves.”
This assessment contradicts that of FBI agent Robert Wright, whose written warning prior to 9/11 was ignored. Wright later stated that: “September the 11th is a direct result of the incompetence of the FBI’s International Terrorism Unit. No doubt about that. Absolutely no doubt about that. You can’t know the things I know and not go public.” Agent Wright was prohibited by the U.S. Justice Department from telling all he knew about the pre-9/11 FBI failures. But he added: “There’s so much more. God, there’s so much more. A lot more.”
Why did the FBI, if it had nothing to hide, go into full-blown cover-up mode immediately after the attacks? For example, FBI agents confiscated all of the surveillance videos which would have shown what happened at the Pentagon. The Bureau harassed witnesses in Florida who suggested that the allege hijackers were not the devout Muslims the official account made them out to be. In Pennsylvania, FBI agents took control of the United 93 crash site and intentionally ignored eyewitness testimony that contradicted the official account. At the WTC debris collection site, FBI agents were caught stealing evidence.
The FBI also went to great lengths to avoid cooperating with the Joint Congressional Inquiry. For example, the Bureau refused to allow the interviewing or deposing of Abdussatar Shaikh, the FBI informant who had lived with alleged hijackers Al-Mihdhar and Al-Hazmi. Through the FBI’s maneuvering, Shaikh was never required to testify. The FBI also tried to prevent the testimony of Shaikh’s FBI handler, which occurred only secretly at a later date.
The protection of Abdusttar Shaikh by the FBI makes no sense considering that the Bureau encouraged the torture of other suspects, like Hani El-Sayegh. Alleged al Qaeda associate Abu Zubaydah, who was later found to have nothing to do with al Qaeda, had already been tortured many times to gain information related to 9/11 while Shaikh was allowed to negotiate his entire removal from the 9/11 investigation.
The FBI also failed to cooperate with the 9/11 Commission. According to author Philip Shenon, the FBI was “as uncooperative with the 9/11 Commission as it had been in the Congressional investigation” and was “painfully slow to meet the Commission’s initial request for documents and interviews.”
The only reasonable explanation for FBI management’s behavior in the decade before 9/11 and in the ensuing investigations is that they were somehow complicit in the attacks. But why would Freeh and the FBI want to support the activities of alleged terrorists?
We know that the accused 19 hijackers could not have accomplished most of what needs explaining about 9/11. They could not have disabled the U.S. air defenses for two hours, they could not have made the U.S. chain of command fail to respond appropriately, and they could not have caused the destruction of the three tall buildings at the WTC. However, the myth of al Qaeda was a necessary part of the official account and was able to provide a grain of truth in an otherwise unbelievable story.
In 2006, Freeh joined George Tenet on the board of a company that had been flagged, but never investigated, for 9/11 insider trading. He also became the personal attorney for Saudi Prince Bandar who, as stated before, was implicated through his wife in financing of the alleged hijackers. Recently he has been trotted out to pass judgment on the late coach Joe Paterno. But he is in no position to pass judgment on others.
Under Louis Freeh, the FBI failed miserably at preventing terrorism when preventing terrorism was the FBI’s primary goal. Moreover, the actions of FBI management suggest that it was facilitating and covering-up acts of terrorism throughout the time that Freeh was the Bureau’s director. Fifteen examples have been cited here from the time of Freeh’s tenure and three other examples were given from the time just after he left, when it was unclear why he left or what he was doing. Add to these examples the fact that the FBI took extraordinary measures to hide evidence related to the 9/11 attacks and it becomes startling clear that Mr. Freeh should be a prime suspect in any honest investigation.