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Gamal Abdel-Hafiz

photo of hafizAn agent from 1995 to 2003, Gamal Abdel-Hafiz says he was the first ever Muslim FBI agent. He was involved in the bureau's investigations of the 1998 East Africa embassy bombings, as well as the 2000 attack on the USS Cole. On Sept. 11, 2002, Abdel-Hafiz was sent to interview and obtain a confession from Mukhtar al-Bakri, one of the Lackawanna Six. He succeeded, and al-Bakri admitted to attending an Al Qaeda training camp in Afghanistan. This interview broke the case, and led to the arrests of the remaining five members in Lackawanna, N.Y. In this interview, Abdel-Hafiz recounts his meetings with al-Bakri. He also criticizes the FBI for its lack of understanding of the Muslim community, and argues that for the two sides to build trust, the bureau needs to invest more resources in long-term sensitivity training for its agents.

Sahim Alwan

photo of alwan Alwan is an American citizen of Yemeni descent from Lackawanna, New York. In the spring of 2001, he and five friends traveled to Afghanistan, trained in an Al Qaeda camp, and met Osama bin Laden. Alwan was arrested in September 2002 and has pled guilty to material support of terrorism. He is now serving a 10-year prison sentence. In this interview, Alwan explains why he went to the camp, what it was like meeting bin Laden, and the events that transpired leading up to his arrest.

David Cole

photo of cole A professor at Georgetown University Law Center and civil liberties expert, Cole is the author of the recent book, Enemy Aliens. He is critical of the government's argument that the Patriot Act was necessary to break down the information-sharing barriers between criminal and intelligence investigations. "In my view," he tells FRONTLINE, "the barriers to information sharing that were exposed after 9/11 were much more cultural and bureaucratic than they were legally required." He says that under the Patriot Act, the government's ability to use intelligence information in critical procedures violates the Fourth Amendment's protection against unreasonable search and seizure. Cole also argues that historically the government "often conducts its worst abuses when it's trying to prevent terrible things from happening," and points to the Japanese internment during World War II and the Communist Party witch-hunts of the McCarthy era as examples.

Alice Fisher

Fisher served as United States deputy assistant attorney general from July 2001 to July 2003, during which she oversaw the counterterrorism section of the Justice Department's criminal division. In this interview, she explains the changes made to law enforcement counterterrorism practices since 9/11, including the designation of certain detainees as enemy combatants and the implementation of the Patriot Act. She tells FRONTLINE, "It is absolutely imperative that in this day and age, when we know there are terrorist organizations and we know there are people in the U.S. that want to cause harm to Americans, that we share the information with the people that need that information and need to use it."

John MacGaffin

photo of macgaffin John MacGaffin was CIA from 1963 to 1993, becoming the number two spymaster for clandestine operations before joining the FBI for six years to advise the bureau on its interactions with the agency. In this interview, he is critical of taking a law enforcement approach to terrorism when there is the possibility that a suspect can be used to gather intelligence about an organization. He argues that during the Cold War, the FBI was very effective at infiltrating the Communist Party inside the U.S. and that it can and should try this approach with terrorist organizations. MacGaffin, along with five other former U.S. national security officials, is the author of a July 2003 article published in The Economist titled "America Needs More Spies."

Robert Mueller

photo of mueller Robert Mueller was sworn in as director of the FBI on Sept. 4, 2001, one week before the terrorist attacks of Sept. 11. He tells FRONTLINE that the Patriot Act was an important tool in the Lackawanna investigation because it allowed U.S. intelligence agencies to break down barriers to information sharing between intelligence and criminal investigations in order to disrupt a "terrorist cell." Mueller also describes the reasons why this information sharing is necessary and responds to critics who say that it could increase the potential for civil liberties abuses.

Tom Ridge

photo of ridge Tom Ridge was sworn in as the first secretary of homeland security in January 2003. Prior to that, he served as the director of the Office of Homeland Security that was established after the Sept. 11 attacks. In this interview, he describes the president's daily threat briefings and how the Lackawanna case was at the top of the agenda. He tells FRONTLINE that President Bush personally asked very specific questions as the investigation progressed. Ridge also says that the Lackawanna case was one reason that his department decided to raise the threat level around the first anniversary of the Sept. 11 attacks.

Dale Watson

photo of watson As the first assistant director of the FBI's counterterrorism division, Dale Watson headed the investigation into the Sept. 11 attacks. A 24-year veteran of the FBI, he worked in counterterrorism and counterintelligence since 1982. In this interview, Watson, who retired in 2002, says that prior to Sept. 11, although concerned about Al Qaeda, neither the Clinton nor the current Bush administration had the political will to direct resources towards counterterrorism operations. He tells FRONTLINE that the U.S. response to the 1998 East Africa embassy bombings and the 2000 attack on the USS Cole was "not a whole lot" and that he believes it gave a "green light" to Osama bin Laden to continue operations. In this interview, Watson also discusses the development of the investigation into the Lackawanna Six. Noting that they were all U.S. citizens, he says, "You can't arrest them unless you have probable cause that they are involved in a criminal activity." However, he maintains that "the full force of the FBI's investigative efforts [were] focused" on Lackawanna.

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posted october 16, 2003

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