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The Counter-Terrorist

New Yorker writer Lawrence Wright's January 2002 article on John O'Neill's life, FBI career and obsession with the growing threat of Al Qaeda. It focuses, in part, on the problems O'Neill faced in investigating Al Qaeda's attack on the USS Cole in October 2000.

O'Neill Vs. Osama

Another profile of O'Neill written by Robert Kolker for New York Magazine, December 2001: "Leaving the Bureau in frustration, he'd taken a job he thought of as retirement: World Trade Center security chief. But when he died it became clear: His own life contained as many mysteries as his enemy's."

Could 9/11 Have Been Prevented?

An August 2002 Time article which looks at John O'Neill's story in the context of other "lost chances" in the pre-Sept. 11 fight against Al Qaeda.

intelligence failure
Reports of the Joint Congressional Inquiry

On Feb. 14, 2002, the House and Senate intelligence committees announced a joint investigation into possible intelligence failures prior to the events of Sept. 11. The following are the reports released by the committee through Oct. 3, 2002. Testimony at the joint committee's open hearings can be found on the Web site of the Senate Intelligence Committee. [Note: All files are in PDF format.]

Joint Inquiry Staff Statement, Part I
This report reviews the U.S. intelligence community's knowledge of Osama bin Laden and Al Qaeda prior to the Sept. 11 attacks and details warnings about a potential terrorist attack on U.S. soil, as well as prior intelligence about the use of airplanes in an attack. It concludes with a reference to a key Al Qaeda leader involved in the Sept. 11 attacks, whom the CIA declined to declassify but who was later identified in The New York Times as Khalid Shaikh Mohammed. "We believe that the intelligence community has known about this individual since 1995 but did not recognize his growing importance to [Al Qaeda] and [Osama bin Laden] and did not anticipate his involvement in a terrorist attack of Sept. 11's magnitude," the investigators wrote. "Prior to Sept. 11, 2001, there was little analytic focus given to him and coordination amongst the intelligence agencies was irregular at best." [Sept. 18, 2002]

NOTE: Examine more about Khalid Shaikh Mohammed's terror connections in FRONTLINE's timeline on this web site and the map, "Connecting the Dots".

The Intelligence Community's Knowledge of the Sept. 11 Hijackers Prior to Sept. 11
This report states that U.S. intelligence and law enforcement say they had no information on 16 of the 19 hijackers involved in the Sept. 11 attacks. However, three of the hijackers -- Khalid Almihdhar, Nawaf Alhazmi, and his brother, Salim Alhazmi -- were known to the intelligence community prior to Sept. 11. The report concludes that the intelligence community's system "broke down" in not sharing information between the CIA, FBI, State Department and INS "that could have acted on it to either prevent [the three] from entering the United States or surveil them and uncover their activities while in the United States." [Sept. 20, 2002]

The FBI's Handling of the Phoenix Electronic Communication and Investigation of Zacarias Moussaoui Prior to Sept. 11, 2001
This report criticizes the FBI for not interpreting the Phoenix memo -- written on July 10, 2001 by an FBI agent concerned about a concerted effort to send Al Qaeda operatives for pilot training in the U.S. -- in the context of other warnings, including the increased concern over an Al Qaeda attack in the summer of 2001, and the arrest of Zacarias Moussaoui in August 2001. The report concludes "The FBI's handling of the Pheonix [memo] is symptomatic of a focus on short-term operational priorities, often at the expense of long-term strategic analysis." It also notes, "One can see in the pre-Sept. 11 handling of the case of Zacarias Moussaoui a myopic focus ... on the case at hand." [Sept. 24, 2002]

Counterterrorism Information Sharing With Other Federal Agencies and with State and Local Governments and the Private Sector
In this report, investigators conclude, "Our review found problems in maximizing the flow of relevant information both within the intelligence community as well as to and from those outside the community. The reasons for these information disconnects can be, depending on the case, cultural, organizational, human, or technological. Comprehensive solutions, while perhaps difficult and costly, must be developed and implemented if we are to maximize our potential for success in the war against terrorism." [Oct. 1, 2002]

A Review of the Federal Bureau of Investigation's Counterterrorism Program: Threat Assessment, Strategic Planning, and Resource Management

On Sept. 30, 2002, the Department of Justice's Office of the Inspector General released a declassified executive summary of its audit of the FBI. The report criticizes the FBI for not performing a comprehensive written terrorist threat assessment -- although the agency had promised to do so in March 2001 -- and for not incorporating a threat assessment of the potential for terrorist attacks on U.S. soil into its strategic plan. According to the DOJ report, "In fact, the Terrorist Threat project had such a low profile within the FBI that it took the FBI nearly a month to identify to us anyone who was familiar with the draft report." The executive summary incorporates comments from the FBI's Executive Assistant Director for Counterterrorism and Counterintelligence: "While he acknowledged that the FBI had not conducted a formal written threat assessment ... he stated that the FBI knows the risks and threats of terrorism facing the United States."

Secrets of September 11

In The New York Review of Books, October 2002, Thomas Powers draws lessons from several recent books about the FBI, CIA and Al Qaeda. Chief among them is the widespread "careerist caution" in the CIA and FBI. "The second job of any intelligence organization, after identifying where danger lies, is to protect its secrets. In theory, the secrets are being kept from enemies so that the organization -- the Federal Bureau of Investigation or the Central Intelligence Agency, say -- can pursue the rest of its important work, but in practice the secrets held most tightly are those that can wreck careers, let cats out of bags, or bring a halt to operations -- the secrets of failure kept from public exposure." [The New York Review of Books, Oct. 10, 2002]

Little Change in A System That Failed

On the one year anniversary of Sept. 11, The New York Times reports on how little has changed in the CIA and FBI: "Even though American intelligence agencies were harshly criticized after the terrorist attacks on New York and Washington for having missed signs that attacks were planned, there has been surprisingly little fundamental restructuring in the year since. [Note: Free registration required.]

The FBI and the CIA Are Not the Biggest Problems

Stuart Taylor Jr.'s article in the June 2002 issue of The Atlantic on how some fundamental and correctable reasons for America's intelligence failure have been overlooked in the media's coverage: "Even if the feds had done everything right -- a state of perfection likely to remain elusive -- they would have been stymied both by some of the laws and rules that we have adopted since the 1960s in the name of civil liberties and by the taboo against racial profiling."

the fbi's challenges
Wary of War, Slow to Adapt, FBI Stumbles in Terror War

A New York Times June 2002 overview of the "years of neglect by the successors to J. Edgar Hoover, who ran the agency for 48 years. Each director missed repeated opportunities to change a law enforcement agency that many critics believe was better suited to catching criminals of the Bonnie and Clyde era than trying to prevent crimes plotted by Osama bin Laden's sterrorism network." [Note: Free registration required.]

Judging Louis Freeh

A June 2002 article in Salon.com which outlines the criticism of John O'Neill's boss, FBI director Louis Freeh: "He was seen as a straight arrow who prepared the bureau for the demands of a new century. Now critics question whether he left the nation vulnerable to attack."

Louis Freeh's Last Case

Journalist Elsa Walsh's May 2001 article in The New Yorker looks at the tumultuous tenure of Louis Freeh as FBI director and his frustrations in the investigation of the Khobar Towers bombing.

Terrorism's Toll on the FBI

This September 2002 New York Times report details the problems facing FBI director Robert Mueller as he "seeks to reshape and reorient a conservative, catch-the-crooks institution to confront an often invisible adversary that has proven its ability to move effectively within United States borders." [Note: Free registration required.]

Dollars Don't Do It

An article by Daniel Franklin in The American Prospect, July 2002, on the FBI's inability, so far, "to change the cultural problems which afflict the bureau„how it thinks, perceives itself, and the people and agencies it works with."

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