Behind Closed Doors (Part 1: The FBI)
"Power tends to corrupt, and absolute power corrupts absolutely" - Lord Acton
Before getting into the 9-11 hearings, I wanted to learn more about the agencies that controlled the outcome of those hearings. This included the president’s inner circle, the FBI and the CIA. I knew the answers would not be easy, but I wanted to try to understand what was happening behind the closed doors.
Because the FBI and the CIA were the two main agencies that took blame for not anticipating the attacks, it was important to understand their responsibilities and their structures before addressing the specifics of the incidents themselves.
It is not profound to state it is easier to look at tragic events after they have happened and then figure out what should and should not have been done. But looking at what did happen, it is incredible that our top protection agencies seemed not to have a grasp that any group could accomplish what they did within our borders. It seems they so underestimated the enemy. Was it arrogance? Denial? Short-sightedness? Or were they just used to fighting their enemies far away from our shores. Or maybe they were used to a different type of enemy. Our top agencies could not wrap their heads around the fact that the people they were dealing had such a deep-seated hatred for the U.S. and were not afraid of dying. But probably the biggest weakness was these huge organizations did not communicate and share information because of their different cultures – and, of course, because of money –- the ultimate source of power in Washington.
The FBI was established in 1908, under Attorney General Charles Bonapart. Initially there were only 34 agents. The president was Theodore Roosevelt, and there was a struggle getting the agency approved because we were a strong Federalist nation at the time. Most politicians believed that the individual states should have the responsibility for crime solving. When President Teddy Roosevelt’s term was over in 1909, so was Bonapart’s position. His successor, George Wickersham, owned the new title for the group of agents – Bureau of Investigation (BOI). One of BOI’s first official tasks was visiting and making surveys of houses of prostitution as part of their enforcement of the White Slave Traffic Act, known as the Mann Act, passed in June of 1910. Hmmm! (Notes 1 and 2)
The BOI would become better known between 1921 and 1933 -- a period often referred as “the Lawless Years.” When J. Edgar Hoover took over the BOI there were 650 employees, 441 of which were agents. The year was 1924, and Calvin Coolidge was the president. Also, when Hoover became director, there were only 9 field offices. But by the end of the decade, the number of field offices more than tripled. (Note 2)
With the advent of centralized fingerprinting and forensic testing, crime fighting and counter-espionage were becoming more sophisticated. By the end of the 1920's, the Bureau’s special agent training was institutionalized, and the National Division of Identification and Information was in place gathering and sorting crime statistics for the entire United States. And by 1946 over 100 million fingerprint cards had been processed by the FBI. (Note 3)
During the “Lawless Years,” the BOI jurisdiction expanded to protect American Indians from being swindled and killed over their oil fields, as well as their better known role in prohibition and gangster raids. In 1935, the BOI name was changed to the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI), and by the end of the 1930’s, the FBI had not only grown to over 600 agents, but it had also earned a well-deserved reputation. Egos were being fed just by being part of this elite group. (Note 2)
The rapid growth and complexity of the FBI organization as well as its expanding technology helped solve crimes, but it also helped create a “monster.” That monster was J. Edgar Hoover, whose power grew unabated for decades. As it grew, often using illegal methods, so did his paranoia. He wanted more and more control over law enforcement policy, and he even wanted to control the Supreme Court. He also had “dirt” on anyone with power or political connections. The movie studios walked on eggshells with their story telling, and even presidents were reluctant to challenge him. Interestingly, President Lyndon B. Johnson waived the mandatory government retirement of 70 so his good friend J. Edgar could remain in office. This is especially noteworthy because both Harry Truman and John F. Kennedy wanted to fire Hoover, but recognized the cost, time and the fight would be too great. How do you think Kennedy would have felt having J. Edgar in charge of his assassination investigation? In hindsight, the incompleteness of that investigation seems remarkably similar to how the 9-11 Commissioners handled the 9-11 hearings. (Note 4)
Hoover died in office in May of 1972 as the Vietnam War was drawing to a close. He was 77 and had been its director for 48 years. He left behind a culture in the FBI of secrecy, inappropriate activities and a lack of accountability. Hoover’s influence also led to a persistent belief that any citizens who questioned U.S. policies must have some connection to the Communist Party. (Note 2) The residue of his beliefs drove a wedge between the FBI’s mission and what information they were comfortable sharing with the public and other bureaucratic agencies. Proving this point, the year before his death, a group of people called “Citizens Commission to Investigate the FBI” broke into a small two-man office of the Bureau in Media in Pennsylvania and stole more than 1,000 documents. Those documents revealed years of wire tapping, infiltration, and media manipulation designed to suppress individual and public dissent. This break-in occurred the night of the much anticipated Ali-Frazier fight. Weeks later, the documents made it to several newspapers and showed how the FBI had engaged a local police chief, letter carriers, and a switchboard operator at Swarthmore College to spy on Black activist groups in the Philadelphia area. These papers further showed that 40% of the FBI’s budget was spent spying on draft dodgers, minority groups and individual citizens who happened to be against the Vietnam War. This spying had a name, “COINTELPRO” standing for counter intelligence program. Remnants of this power still intimidate many of our citizens in my opinion. But this important story was overshadowed just three months later when Daniel Ellsberg leaked the Pentagon papers. (Note 5)
Before Hoover’s heart attack and death, he probably felt his empire slipping away. The crumbling accelerated with the strength and fortitude of thousands of anti Vietnam War protestors. Not only was the FBI dealing with young adults then, but also women and several thousand returning Vietnam vets. Many of those vets marched on Washington throwing their medals and ribbons at the foot of the statute of Chief Justice John Marshall. (Note 8)
The reach of the FBI was broad. When John Lennon’s song, “Give Peace a Chance,” came out in 1969, Nixon wanted him deported. Nixon’s paranoia about losing the election had Hoover’s attention. So during 1971 and 1972, John Lennon was followed and wiretapped by the FBI. Lennon was here only on a visa, but with 18-year olds now able to vote, Nixon was concerned about upsetting young voters if Lennon was deported. (Note 6)
Historian and Professor John Weiner fought to get the John Lennon secret file from the FBI. It took 14 years. Finally, it was released because of a Supreme Court ruling. (Note 9) Professor Wiener found, within the 400-page file, a memo from J. Edgar asking the head of the Miami, FL branch if he could somehow arrest Lennon on narcotics charges, even though narcotics use would normally have been a state matter. This, Hoover thought, would give the government grounds to deport Lennon. To get a clearer picture, Jon Wiener contacted the Miami Bureau to get their file on Lennon. The Miami office said Lennon’s file had been destroyed in a routine destruction procedure. Interestingly, five other cities had files on Lennon, and they had not been destroyed. (Note 9)
In the election year of 1972, Nixon desperately wanted to be reelected, but the Vietnam War and the war protestors were huge thorns in his side. His paranoia must have been building because on June 17th he approved the Democratic National Committee Headquarters to be broken into and “bugged” so he could listen in on the election strategy of his opponent, George McGovern. This break-in was at the Watergate Hotel in downtown Washington D.C. His buddy Hoover was no longer around, so he depended on L. Patrick Gray, the acting director of the FB,I to help him out. When the FBI investigated the break-in and traced the money flow back to the White House, Gray was asked by Nixon and his aides to destroy this incriminating information. Gray reluctantly complied, thinking he was protecting an innocent president.
But the drama continued and become public due to a “mole” within the FBI known as Deep Throat. The money trail information made it to the Washington Post and the New York Times. Both Nixon and Gray were exposed, which eventually led to Nixon’s resignation and Gray’s appointment not being confirmed by the Senate. Gray’s tenure as acting director was only 11 months. Later Gray said at the 1973 Watergate hearings, “At no time did I feel I was dealing with individuals who were trying to sweep me into the very conspiracy that I was charged with investigating. That is a mad man’s horror.” Thirty-two years later, the “mole,” now 91, revealed himself. His name was Mark Felt, the man who took Gray’s position as the number two person at the FBI after Hoover’s death and a man who admired J. Edgar Hoover’s way of doing business. It has been reported that Felt was not pleased when he was not promoted to Director after Hoover’s death. The revelation that Felt was the mole might have devastated Gray as he died only 39 days later at the age of 88. (Note 16)
Before leaving the early 1970’s, it is important to make quick mention of the role of the FBI in the Daniel Ellsberg case. Daniel Ellsberg was the man who released the Pentagon Papers to the press in the summer of 1971. His trial began in the spring of 1973. He was being charged with theft, espionage and conspiracy. While he was on trial several improprieties occurred, two of which spotlighted the FBI. One was a reported bribe by a high ranking White House assistant, John Ehrlichman, of the judge in the trial offering him the directorship of the FBI. Also, the FBI had secretly taped phone conversations between Ellsberg and Morton Halperin, an aide to Secretary McNamara and the man who supervised the Pentagon Papers. When the judge asked for the taped conversations, the FBI reported they had lost all records of the wire tapping. The judge then declared a mistrial, and Daniel Ellsberg became a free man. (Note 15)
As we leave behind the tempestuous times of the very unpopular Vietnam War, we fast-forward to 1993. On Friday February 26th, during the lunch hour in the basement of the World Trade Center’s north tower, a 12,000 pound bomb exploded and killed 6 and injured 1,042 others. It left behind a crater five sublevels tall and half a football field feet wide. (Note 11) Because the blast was located near the fire alarm and emergency systems, it severely damaged both. The result was that no fire alarm warnings or communication instructions were sounded in the halls of the plaza complex. It took over 11 hours to evacuate all six buildings. The devastation of the Twin Tower complex was much more severe than probably most of us knew at the time.
Further research revealed that the FBI actually had an informant working among the WTC terrorists. His name was Emad Salem, a 43-year old former officer in the Egyptian Army. Emad had warned his handlers of a planned attack, but supervisory leadership in the NY field office chose to wait it out. FBI agent Nancy Floyd believed that her supervisor had botched the case. Floyd later said, “I felt that the people on the squad did not have a clue about how to operate things. That the supervisors did not know what was going on. That they hadn’t taken the time to learn the history.” (Note 13)
After the 1993 World Trade Center bombing in New York, a massive task force was gathered. Some 700 agents worldwide participated, and within days of the attack, several of the terrorists were exposed, but others escaped and left the country either before or after the bombing. (Note 34). Having an informant working on the inside for months helped speed up the FBI’s findings. Because the focus was now on terrorism in the NY area, they uncovered other terrorist plots that next year. A terrorist cell was caught in a warehouse building bombs to blow up New York tunnels and landmarks. (Note 22)
The FBI received praise for solving the terrorist bombing so speedily instead of getting blamed for not stopping it, especially with as much inside information as they had been given. No blame was assigned for this shortcoming. Instead, it was dismissed as a “system failure”. Eight years later the FBI would again be charged with “massive system failure” concerning the events on 9-11.
Two days after the World Trade Center bombing, the headlines shifted to Waco, Texas. There, the FBI was involved in a 51-day standoff with a cult religious group called the Branch Davidians. At the end of this siege, 82 men, women, and children had died. Because of the way this standoff was handled by the Feds and the way several people inside the compound were killed before the massive fire, President Clinton fired the FBI Director, William Sessions. Janet Reno, the Attorney General at the time, stated that there was duplication and inefficiency within the FBI. Sessions was fired by Clinton with the reason being that he was “unable to effectively lead.” Clinton later said, “We cannot have a leadership vacuum at an agency as important to the United States as the FBI. It is time that this difficult chapter in the agency’s history be brought to a close.” (Note 14) Session was replaced by Louis Freeh on September 1, 1993. Clinton would later find out that Session’s replacement would be a huge thorn in his side.
When Freeh first became Director in 1993, he slashed 300 field agents and sent many of the supervisors back to the field, leaving headquarters so short of staff that big cases and MEMOS either got lost or not read. He was overwhelmed with incoming information but at the same time spent many, many days and hours in the mid-to-late 1990’s on the Khobar Towers investigation cementing his relationship with the Saudis.
In the next three years, the FBI’s role in counterterrorism grew dramatically, as did its staffing, new agents and budgets. During these years, not only did the World Trade Center and Waco appear as headline news, but so did the Oklahoma City bombing in 1995 and the arrest of the Unabomber in 1996. The year of the Unabomber’s capture was also the year of the Summer Olympics in Atlanta, GA. It was there that a bomb went off in Centennial Olympic Park and an arrest was made quickly. However, the FBI found out later that the man arrested, Richard Jewell -- a private security guard, was innocent.
Also during these years Congress appropriated more money to increase the FBI structure with the Communication Assistance for Law Enforcement Act (CALEA). It was during this period that one act followed another with EEA (Economic Espionage Act) and the HIPAA (Health Insurance Portabillity and Accountability Act). Wow! Now you can understand how bureaucracy grows. (Note 17)
By 2001, the FBI budget had grown to more than $1.27 billion, and employees increased by another 10,000 people – more than half of which were new agents. (Note 18) As the FBI grew, so did the complexity of communicating within the organization. The FBI culture embodies an attitude of one-case-at-a-time, and each field office works their own cases, which leads to communication breakdowns. Why share information with others when the goal is individual recognition for each separate case? Solving crimes within the FBI is quite linear. Agents get a lead, and they work their case all the way to trial. Their actions go in this order: investigate -- arrest – handcuff – jail –prosecute. Their success is measured one arrest at a time, one case at a time, one prosecution at a time. Individual agents are rewarded when their cases make it to trial and become headline news. The more cases solved, the better the chance of promotion -- maybe even becoming the agent-in-charge of a field office, which is a top goal among agents. When informational tips come into the various field offices across the country, they are often put on hold or placed to the side to avoid distraction from the goal at hand. That is the culture. (Note 19)
As an example, the FBI field office in San Diego was criticized in the Inspector General’s report for their handling of informant information on two of the 9-11 hijackers: Nawaf-Al-Hazmi and Khalid Al-Midhar, who had been living in the informant’s house. They were hijackers on American Flight 77 which hit the Pentagon. It seems this field office was working a drug trafficking case and did not focus on flight school activities dealing with these Middle Eastern men despite the fact that even before 9-11 the assigned top priority for field offices under the Clinton Administration was fighting terrorism. (Note 20) However, in fairness to Steven Butler, the FBI agent in San Diego had not been given any information that the CIA had photographed two suspect terrorists in January 2000 in Malaysia at an Al Qaeda planning meeting. These two terrorists did not make the terrorist list until August 23, 2001 even though they had been living in San Diego for over a year going to flying school. Butler criticized FBI headquarters for not sharing information. Shortly afterwards, he was transferred and left the FBI. (Note 24)
The CIA responded to the claim of not letting the FBI headquarters in on the information about the two terrorists: Alhamz and Al-Midhar. The CIA said that an email had been sent to the FBI headquarters on January 20th, and they had a copy of the message to prove it. In the spring of 2002, over 6 months after the 9-11 attacks, a memo was uncovered revealing that in March 2000 agents mistakenly destroyed evidence gathered in an investigation involving Osama bin Laden (Note 25) Could it be that the CIA’s memo about the San Diego terrorists was included in the information destroyed? However, from the PBS documentary, “The Man Who Knew” counter-terrorism, John O’Neill knew about the communication breakdown. On O’Neill’s last major FBI investigation on the USS Cole attack, he realized how bad inter-agency communication had become. Even though the CIA said they did inform the FBI about the Malaysia meetings attended by Alhamz and Al-Midhar, they did not tell them that they had tracked them to Los Angeles. The CIA also admits that it did not inform the INS or the State Department about these men in the Southern California area, so their names were never added to the terrorist watch lists. The CIA responded that these men at that time were not involved in any crimes against the U.S. until the USS Cole bombing. The CIA later would find that one of them at the Malaysia meeting was Tafig bin-Atash, also know as Khallad, who was believed to have planned the Cole attack. Even though the CIA had pictures of the other attendees at this Malaysia meeting and knew one of them was a known Al Qaeda terrorist, they never went back to pursue who the others were. (Note 25)
It was not until June 11, 2001 that the CIA and the FBI got together to show photos of the men in the 2000 Malaysia meeting. By this time Freeh and his deputy Tom Pickard had started keeping their top expert on Al Qaeda from knowing about this meeting. He would have been instrumental in adding a few pieces to the emerging 9-11 puzzle. (Interestingly, Louis Freeh resigned as head of the FBI just 2 weeks later on June 25th.) When the FBI wanted to know more information on Al-Midhar and Alhazmi, who they had not previously heard of, the CIA representative told them they were not cleared to know more. The CIA culture was to “zealously guard your information.” Two days later, Khalid Al-Midhar received a new American visa in Saudi Arabia. He returned to the United States on July 4th, 2001. (Note 28)
In the Phoenix, AZ, FBI field office, Agent Ken Williams sent a memo to superiors on July 10, 2001. He had been tracking flight school activity in the Phoenix area for the past several years. He was concerned that there were Middle Eastern extremists going to flight school in the area. In Scottsdale, AZ, Hani Hanjour, who was reported to be the pilot on Flight 77, enrolled at the CRM Airline Training Center. Hanjour had taken extensive English lessons prior to this at Holy Names College in Oakland, CA because Arizona instructors had earlier refused to teach him due to poor language skills. On his return to flight school, instructors complained to the FAA at least five times about his lack of proficiency in English, and they were baffled about how he had been able to get a pilot’s license in the first place. The CRM instructors refused to teach him. It was later learned that Hanjour had a license because months earlier an “easy” instructor, who was independently contracted with the FAA, had passed him on his evaluation. Easy grading meant more students, and more students meant more money. (Note 21)
Even though Agent Williams acted on his information and had a gut feeling something devious was going on, his ability to gather information within the FBI on other similar cases was severely hampered. He discovered there was no easy way for him to query the central FBI data base. Consequently, he was unaware that other field offices were writing reports in 1998 and 1999 warning about Islamic militants training in U.S. flight schools. His memo created no response.
This is where it gets really frustrating. Imagine you are an FBI field agent, and your specialty is seeking out foreign terrorist groups like Al Qaeda because by the late 1990’s they are a known threat, and the Clinton Administration has made counter terrorism a top priority. At FBI headquarters there is a special group called the Radical Fundamentalist Unit or RFU that has been established to deal with information coming in to them about radical groups doing suspicious things. That is, I am sure, what the agents in the field thought. But not only was agent Ken Williams in Phoenix not able to get heard at headquarters (by the RFU), other agents had similar problems but with different issues. For example, Chicago field agents requested money to investigate a spiritual leader, Rabih Haddah, who worked for a big Illinois-based fund raising group called Global Relief Foundation (GRF) which had been linked to al Qaeda operatives. The GRF’s executive director, Mohammed Chehade, a suspected al Qaeda agent, had been in contact with two other suspected operatives in Detroit. Because this was a red flag, the FBI office there needed money to undertake this al Qaeda-inked investigation, but the headquarters failed to approve the money citing a shortage of funds, despite the fact that Louis Freeh had all the money he needed for his investigation of the KhobarTowers in Saudi Arabia. Another agent on this same case, applied for a warrant on the two suspects in Detroit, but the warrant was not approved until after 9-11-2001 because the RFU failed to submit the warrant for approval. Detroit was never given a reason for this action. (Note 32)
There were other requests from FBI field agents that went nowhere once sent to the RFU at headquarters, but the one sent from the Minneapolis field office was particularly unsettling, especially to this writer as a former flight attendant. It has to do with suspected future hijacker, Zacaris Moussaoui. This al Qaeda-linked terrorist was arrested on August 15th by a Minnesota field agent, Harry Samit, on immigration violations. He had been brought to the FBI’s attention by instructors at the Pan Am International Flight Academy in Eagan, MN. The instructors reported he had $6,300 in cash to pay for flying instruction, but just wanted to know how to steer a 747 in flight. He did not care about either taking off or landing the aircraft. BIG CLUE! He was also belligerent and abrasive when dealing with the school personnel. (Note 33) Because Moussaoui is shouting out with his actions that he wants to fly an airplane but doesn’t care if it lands safety would seem to make a good case for checking his belongings, especially after Ken Williams’ message from the Phoenix office. But Ken’s memo goes nowhere once read, and Harry Samit’s request for a warrant to check Moussaoui’s possessions is denied several times. The chief of the RFU, Dave Frasca, and supervisor Mike Maltbie will absolutely block any attempts Harry Samit made to get the warrant on Moussaoui. (Note 32) Interestingly, when they finally got permission to look at the belongings after 9-11, it was learned that Moussaoui knew 11 of the hijackers and there was enough information that if learned earlier might have prevented the 9-11 hijackings. (Note XX)
During Freeh’s tenure the terrorists were able to build their infrastructure and exploit our country’s Federal police force. Mr. Freeh projected out as a great moralist, carrying around his own Bible, which probably gave him comfort in his personal and work decisions. He prided himself in being a devout Catholic and even a member of the elite Opus Dei. He was known to be arrogant, a micromanager, having great dislike for supervisory position other than his own and having a great dislike for his boss, President Clinton. He was proud to be connected to the top Republicans in power and the Saudi Ambassador in Washington, Prince Bandar bin Sultan. (Note 26) He made close connections with the Bush family, and spent much of his last years with the FBI as the “lead agent” for the Khobar Towers bombings, which took place in Saudi Arabia in June 1996, and killed 19 U.S. airmen and wounding 372. During this investigation he built a strong personal relationship with top-level Saudi government officials. (Note 29)
He was the self-appointed judge and jury for any scandals Clinton got caught up in. And if the Monica Lewinsky affair had not been the main topic in Washington for over a year, he would have probably lost his job because he had even lost favor with many of the Republicans that had left him alone even with the many blunders experienced while he was the Director. These included failure to give attorneys thousands of documents in the trial of the Oklahoma City bomber, Timothy McVeigh, falsely accusing Richard Jewell as the bomber in the Atlanta Olympic Village, trying to promote a friend to Deputy who was implicated in the Ruby Ridge massacre incident. (Note 26)
Freeh projected out as short-sighted and locked into his likes and dislikes. He spent much of his time trying to bring President Clinton down and spied on him in a way that would have made J. Edgar Hoover proud. He also had a hard time understanding those who thought “outside the box”, thinking of them as “mavericks”. He was very inflexible and totally lacked empathy.
He got his most knowledgeable expert in terrorism to retire in frustration while at the same time protecting his friend Richard Hanssen, who turned out to be a long time spy master for the Russians. So the more one finds out about Louis Freeh, the more one can understand how 9-11 could have happened. (Note 26) One can only imagine working in an environment under Freeh’s principles. The tension and stress levels at headquarters were most likely off the charts.
Besides learning about the Freeh-Clinton relationship, another unsettling story was about New York FBI agent John O’Neill. Mr. O’Neill started working for the FBI in 1976 – a dream come true for him. He was very smart, articulate, but at the same time, he did not “sugar-coat” his thoughts or beliefs. For 6 years, he was the FBI’s leading expert in counter-terrorism (1995-2001) and was the liaison to the National Security Council and CIA. He realized the intensity of bin Laden and his Al Qaeda network. He realized the hate these people had for our nation. He warned those around him and those above him of this threat, but the people at the FBI headquarters (FBI Director Louis Freeh and his Deputy Tom Pickard) felt O’Neill was too much of a maverick even though he and his agents were able to catch Ramzi Yousef in 1995 (the mastermind terrorist who was responsible for the World Trade Center bombing in 1993). But maybe it was not the “maverick” part of O’Neill that bothered Freeh, maybe he just knew too much about bin Laden and the al Qaeda organization. So for whatever reason, the headquarters stopped forwarding information to O’Neill’s New York office. It was the top level of the FBI that blocked any terrorist memos that should have been forwarded to O’Neill’s office and kept him out of the loop. Part of the information blocked was the information from Agent Williams (referenced above). Because the FBI bureaucracy would not take his concerns seriously, O’Neill retired from the FBI on August 22nd, 2001 and took over the job as the head of security at the WORLD TRADE CENTER IN NEW YORK. (Note 23)
A day after O’Neill left the FBI, the CIA sent an urgent memo to the New York office seeking help trying to track down Al-Midhar and Alhazmi. At last, maybe this was a breakthrough – the two agencies working together. However, the request for “full criminal investigative resources” was denied by FBI headquarters. A field agent’s email response to headquarters read, “Some day someone will die and the public will not understand why we were not more effective and throwing every resource we had at certain problems.” (Note 28)
On the morning of September 11, 2001, John O’Neill was in his new office on the 36th floor of the North Tower of the WTC when AA Flight 11 hit the building. Even though he was able to get out, he returned to help others, and a week later they found his remains in the ruble of the South Tower. In a strange twist of fate, it was Tom Pickard – the man who was instrumental in getting O’Neill to leave the FBI – was the same man in charge of investigating the 9-11 World Trade Center tower attacks and for finding O’Neill’s remains. Even though FBI Director Louis Freeh had retired almost three months earlier, he did his part in helping the towers fall.
With Louis Freeh gone (under questionable circumstances and with differing reports on the cause), Deputy Director Tom Pickard, stepped into the top FBI position, but only until September 4th, 2001 -- one week before the 9-11 attacks. While he was the acting Director in the summer of 2001, he was told by Attorney General John Ashcroft that he “... did not want to hear additional information about possible attacks.” Pickard said, he briefed Ashcroft four more times that summer and made sure he did not mention the al Qaeda network. (Note 25)
With “credit and blame” being the most popular game in Washington, it is amazing how the people in power can change their finger pointing so fast at a new chosen target. When Louis Freeh left the FBI in June 2001, he was given many praises, especially by his immediate boss, John Ashcroft. But after the 9-11 attacks on our nation, Louis Freeh’s name was notably absent from the lips that had bragged so proudly about him months earlier. He, in turn, made sure he stayed out of the limelight.
Dealing with 56 field offices across the U.S., and some international offices as well, creates complex communication problems that either need to be sorted out at the headquarters level or by field agents being able to effectively share information. But these types of communication were not possible because while Freeh was the FBI Director, he failed to upgrade the FBI computer network making it impossible to properly share information. (Note 30) Freeh’s top priorities were getting as much dirt as possible on Clinton so that he would be impeached and spending whatever time and money he wanted to on the investigation of the Khobar Towers attacks.
In 2001 there were many puzzle parts to the 9-11 terrorist plot hiding in plain sight, but those holding the parts of that puzzle were not able to share what they knew because of the actions of Freeh, Ashcroft and others. Even though Louis Freeh was no longer in the building after June 25th, 2001, he left behind a fearful culture of individuals who seemed to walk on eggshells when making decisions about Osama bin Laden and his al Qaeda terrorist organization. Freeh was so pro Saudi and so anti-Iran that it poisoned the air in the FBI headquarters. Could it have been that policy decisions were being made for the wrong reasons? Was it more about money and oil than it was about identifying and analyzing the emerging al Qaeda threat? Or perhaps it was that the bin Laden family was closely connected to the royal family of Saudi Arabia, and the royal family had very close connections to key people in Washington, including those in the White House. What was the real reason Attorney General Ashcroft, who oversaw the FBI, sent such a strong message to the organization when he said to Acting Director Tom Pickard that he did not want to “HEAR ADDITIONAL INFORMATION ON POSSIBLE ATTACKS.”
There is no doubt the Federal Bureau of Investigation has protected our nation against other terrorist plots since 9-11. But their culture of secrecy and lack of public accountability allows them to the hide behind their shields and keep the full truth from the public when they want to. Even after all these years there are so many questions about 9-11, but so few real answers.
- Allan M. Jalon, “A Break-in to End All Break-ins,” LA Times, Mar 8, 2006.
- “Uncovering the “Truth” Behind Lennon’s FBI Files, http://www.npr.org/templates/story/story.php?storyId=130401193
- Mazza, Jerry, “Why the FBI Got Away With the First WTC Bombing,” Feb 28, 2007.http://www.infowars.com/articles/sept11/93_fbi_how_fbi_got_away_with_first_wtc.
- Lochin, Mitchell and Nicholas M. Horrick, “Clinton Fires Sessions,” Chicago Tribune, July 20, 1993.
- Purdum, Todd S, “L. Patrick Gray III, Who Led the FBI During Watergate, Dies at 88”,www.nytimes.com/2005/07/07/politics/07gray.html?pagewanted=all&_r=1&
- http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Federal_Bureau_of_ Investigation.
- Gorman, Siobhan “FBI-CIA Remain Worlds Apart.” August 1, 2003.http://www.govexec.com/defense/2003/08/fbi-cia-remain-worlds-apart/14671/print/
- Burke, Megan, and Maureen Cavanaugh, “Retracing The Story: 9/11 Hijackers In San Diego,” http://www.kpbs.org/news/2011/sep/06/retracing-story-911-hijackers-san-diego/
- http:// www.cnn.com/2005/politics/10/10/freeh.clinton/index.html
- http://wwwnew yorker.com.magazine/2001/05/14/louis-freehs-last-case
- Martin, Patrick. “The Strange Case of Zacharis Moussaoui: FBI Refused to Investigate Man Charged in September 11 Attacks.” www.wsws.org/en/articles/2002/01/Mous-jo5.html
- Clarke, Richard. Against All Enemies: Inside America’s War on Terror.