the man who knew
his life and career
what if...
connect the dots

-Boston HeraldMonica Collins

"... You couldn't script it. 'The Man Who Knew' is a fascinating profile of O'Neill and a dispiriting look inside the FBI, where it seems the muck-a-mucks were so blinded by their own bureaucratic power plays and biases that they couldn't see what O'Neill was telling them. ..."

-Chicago TribuneSteve Johnson

"...Given the U.S. Congress' official consideration of who in government knew what when, it's a story that's both timely and takes on a dimension of tragedy for the whole nation.

...[A] compelling portrait painted by producer/director Michael Kirk, who uses a bevy of high-level interviews to fill in the details."

-The Miami HeraldGlenn Garvin

"... [O'Neill's] warnings echo through this haunting episode of PBS' Frontline that may reveal more about the intelligence failures of Sept. 11 than with all the congressional hearings under way. ...

"To Frontline's credit, it makes it clear that some of the wounds of O'Neill's martyrdom were self-inflicted. He misused FBI vehicles; he smuggled classified documents out of the office (and lost them!).

"The final blow to his career came when he was given charge of the FBI investigation of the attack on the USS Cole in Yemen. He maneuvered armed U.S. troops around the Yemeni capital like an occupying force, infuriating not only the local government but also the American ambassador, who banned him from the country. ..."

-Rocky Mountain NewsDusty Saunders

"The Man Who Knew sounds like the title of a Ken Follett espionage thriller.

"And on the screen the program plays like a spy movie or a script from Fox's 24 or CBS' The Agency.

"But 'The Man Who Knew,' the 20th season premiere of public television's Frontline, ... provides a graphic example that truth can be stranger -- and more compelling -- than fiction. ...

"This riveting 90-minute report is much more than another of the many programs documenting and rehashing what happened on that tragic date."

-New York Daily NewsDavid Bianculli

"...Producer-director Michael Kirk and reporter and co-producer Jim Gilmore don't flinch from detailing O'Neill's abrasive or questionable sides: keeping a mistress, confronting superiors, misplacing equipment. His dogged pursuit of Al Qaeda, and his insistence upon the impending threat of that group attacking U.S. targets is shown in full context.

'The Man Who Knew' based on charts and files O'Neill left behind and interviews with his friends, colleagues, family and even his lover, establishes persuasively that O'Neill was right, if only office politics wouldn't have kept him from being taken more seriously. ..."

-NewsdayVerne Gay

"... Frontline's Michael Kirk tells this story with genuine skill -- and with a little help from O'Neill's many friends, such as ABC News veteran investigative producer Chris Isham and Fran Townsend, former assistant U.S. attorney general.

"By show's end you will be cheering for O'Neill and cursing those wretched bureaucrats. Or you will wonder whether you're hearing the whole story of this complicated, dedicated, passionate man. The juxtaposition of good and bureaucratic evil feels just a little too convenient, almost contrived. The idea that only one man knew seems absurd, silly. The assertion that the FBI's intransigence led directly to Sept. 11 must be preposterous, right?

"Contrived, silly, preposterous ... until you recall the current news reports of charges that the FBI did dither, that it did fail to deal directly with bin Laden and that hugely important clues and developments were overlooked. Then, in light of all that, the story of John O'Neill becomes chilling and tragic."

-Houston ChronicleAnn Hodges

"You can't watch tonight's chilling and occasionally infuriating Frontline: 'The Man Who Knew' without asking: Could John O'Neill have saved us from Sept. 11?

"With an independent investigation ahead and Congress already digging into what America's intelligence agencies knew, Frontline's 90-minute report investigates the internal power struggle at the heart of the FBI's failure on Sept. 11. ...

"The case Frontline makes in O'Neill's behalf is well documented with comments from colleagues, many of them FBI agents, and people who knew him best, including his son and his longtime girlfriend. As many of them tell it, the more O'Neill uncovered about the terrorists and the dangers from them, the more the bureaucracy closed ranks against him....

"'The Man Who Knew' kicks off this series' 20th anniversary season on PBS, and it is precisely the kind of riveting and important documentary that has brought Frontline to that remarkable public-affairs record."

-Boston GlobeSuzanne C. Ryan

"... 'The Man Who Knew' offers a rare look at internal FBI politics. It rings particularly true because it includes compelling interviews with former high-level government officials who generally don't speak to the press -- such as Robert Bryant, deputy director of the FBI from 1997 to 1999, and Fran Townsend, who worked directly under Attorney General Janet Reno from 1995 to 2001. ...

"...It's natural to wonder whether the tragedy of Sept. 11 could have been prevented. No one can answer the question definitively -- but Frontline convincingly explains why one nonconformist never got the chance."

-The Globe and Mail (Toronto)John Doyle

"... The program deftly combines its two stories -- that of O'Neill the charismatic maverick and of the insular, self-serving FBI bureaucracy. The remarkable fact is that if O'Neill didn't know exactly what was coming as a terrorist attack, he did know that one was coming and he knew who was about to carry out the attack. Hardly anybody cared. It's a story that ends with this statement from the narrator, 'Among the 2,819 people murdered on Sept. 11, in the debris of a fallen stairwell, under what was once the South Tower of the World Trade Center, they found John O'Neill's body.' If this was a Hollywood movie, you'd be hard-pressed to accept it as plausible, but it's all true."

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