the man who knew

photo of val & johnjoin the discussion: What lessons do you draw from the story of John O'Neill, his obsessive pursuit of Al Qaeda, and his struggles within the FBI?

his life and career
what if...
connect the dots


How could I add anything to what has been said about this truly powerful Frontline presentation? It was amazing!

The story was so compelling and honest. Perhaps I could make this comment - PBS is able to do what CBS, ABC, NBC, Fox, and CNN simply pretend to do with their trivial shows that are bubble gum for the mind.

fort atkinson, wi


once again you have done a fantastic job of illuminating a difficult and complex subject. I viewed the program and felt utter contempt for those officials in our government that are more interested in "style" over "substance."

The failures of our inteligence agencies now seems totaly reasonable and makes perfect sense.

The leaders of those agencies, especially the FBI were more worried about thier personall agendas rather than protecting our nation. They should be ashamed. As should the former Ambasador to Yemen. I consider them all career idiots. They should be called to account for thier lack of performance and the consequences of their actions.

Congress should quit wallowing at the feet of Mr. Freeh and ask the hard questions that this program provoked.

Keep up the good work. Even when your detractors on the "far Right" label your program and message as left leaning or liberal. Which we all know they will.

Mark Allentown Pa

Mark Harmon
allentown , pa.



This should be MANDATORY viewing for EVERY government employee. There should also be a test afterwards to make sure they understood. If not - they're out - period.

The rampant stupidity at the highest levels of the US govenment (especially now) that this piece demonstrates is out of control. The individulas that generate radical ideas and non-routine ways of thinking should be encouraged and supported - not, as others have so clearly articulated, be pushed aside as "renegade".

The American people need more information of this magnitude so the message is clear - get the morons in the US government out of here!

Many congrats to the folks at Frontline for the best piece - EVER!

milpitas, ca


It is encouraging to read all the responses from other viewers.

I believe the FBI should be rebuilt, all the 'deadwood' removed and new dedicated agents hired. The fact that Hanson incident happened under the same management tells you they were not doing the job of protecting the American people.

It is sad that it seems we always sacrifice the best and the brightest on the frontlines. Thank you for reporting this story in depth.

Fran Weintraub
washington, dc


Thank you, John O'Neill. By some strange twist of fate, the terrorists "got" the one who was really on to their activities and was connecting the dots. What a shame his skills are now lost to this nation. Those who do not understand mavericks, shouldn't be in this line of work, much less supervisiing them.

Bj Akre
coralville, iowa


All previous comments are so impressive to me, it's a relief to know there are so many citizens who DO get the big picture about our unbelievably self-serving government and its agencies.

Any American who believes our government is working to protect them has their head in the sand. John O'Neill was JUST the kind of individual needed to work on protecting American citizens. In some cases, obessession is necessary. Whatever his motivations, he was on the right track and went unheeded. This is not a war we're involved in, it's a street fight and we need to start fighting with that mentality.

clay, ny


What a compelling story! I work for a commercial firm that supports the government. Your story painted an accurate picture of bureaucracy in Washington, DC. I often work on projects where we ask the right questions reason a good solution and then find the solution not implemented.

As a graduate of a military school and a veteran of Desert Storm, this is a simple model of management over leadership. A leader looks for mavericks in his organization. A manager fears such people.

Robert Bryant knew that. Did Louis Freeh know that?

One telling fact in your piece was the people that you interviewed and the people who turned you down. Robert Bryant, Richard Clarke, Barry Mawn showed up and said what they thought and let the chips lie where they may.

Louis Freeh, Barbara Bodine, Tom Pickard refused to sit down and say "I thought John had it wrong" or "we came to different wrong conclusions" nope, only "no comment".

manassas, va


This was a sad, but excellent show. My dislike for career bureaucrats was greatly increased after watching it, and I pray there are other John O'Neills in our government.

Rod Kurtz
traverse city, mi


I am at at utter loss to think of anything that represents the feelings of hopelessness that this wonderful program brings to light.

I have always known how hard it was to be "different" yet dedicated in a job, but never in my wildest dreams could I have thought that personality clashes at that level of government may have prevented us from losing nearly 3000 lives on Sept. 11.

John O'Neill is more than an American Hero. What a waste.

chesterland, oh


After viewing your exquisitely provocative program, I am left to ponder the following:

1)Why haven't Pickard and Bodine been summoned before Congress to explain their egomaniacal chicanery and hubris which cost thousands of innocent Americans their lives?

2)How many other American patriots, like John O'Neill, will be exiled into martyrdom because of bureaucratic buffoons

3)Will America ever heed the erstwhile warning that "those who do not learn from history are bound to repeat it..."?

Thank you, Frontline, for exposing this myopic quagmire called the FBI.

Robert Chetlin
morgantown, west virginia


Frontline is again at the forefront of television journalism. The people who would not respond to your requests for interviews on this show have admitted their culpable by not granting your requests, and should be ashamed and held accountable for their selfish actions. It's amazing how inept people reach positions of power. It is a sad statement for our society.

las vegas, nevada


The irony of John O'Neill being killed in the 9/11 attack makes his story one that belongs at, or very near, the top of the all-time "No One Could Have Written This" list.

Thank you, Frontline, for bringing the story to light. The program should be required viewing for every person in this country--or, at the very least, every person even remotely associated with its government.

Doug James
rehoboth, delaware


Tears stream down my face as I process your very necessary and astonishing report concerning John O'Neill.

The irony of John O'Neill's obsession and the circumstances surrounding his death leaves an indelible mark. His life reads like a template that we need to study about how we treat those who are "different" and the tragedy in ostracizing those on the cutting edge of new knowledge. John O'Neill seemed to possess the ability to listen to his intuitive nature.

What happens to societies whose systems become too rigid and insistent that people conform to their way? What happens to societies that ignore that intuitive voice? They lose and our nation lost a vital channel in our bid to protect ourselves.

Through the example of Mr. O'Neill's life I remind myself of a commitment to tolerate and appreciate the wisdom in difference, to be a more vigilant listener, to step back and look at the larger picture. Therefore, for me, his life is not in vain.

anchorage, alaska


I work in senior management in a technology company. The phrase "sharp elbows" does not even have an equivalent in entrepreneurial America. The thought of surpressing the maverick, problem-solving tendencies of an employee is patently ridiculous. These types of employees get promoted in our world.

I wonder if it is our own capitalistic drive that causes the leadership dregs of our society to end up in governmental agencies. They somehow can't cut it in the business world, it seems. If they could, they would apply their talents where the compensation is greatest.

Now that our lives depend upon the performance of these agencies, maybe that will change.

Jeff S.
bay area, ca


Superb show to let the public know that not all bureaucrats fail in their daily tasks.

In the 1990's I worked with several government intelligence agencies, and the frequent refrain was 'budgets are cut, and equipment and operations were being compromised'. By the middle of the decade, I was involved in a discussion that predicted a plane would be hijacked and flown into the WTC. I am sure that there were many others that were only surprised that the events of Sept. 11 had not occurred sooner.

While O'Neill had a firm grasp of facts and the best view on Al-Queda's plans, yet it is clear that without "proof" no one within the previous or current administration would act to prevent the events of Sept.11. There is a question I came away with following your broadcast, namely, given the access he had to Attorney General Reno, why were his findings not acted upon in the late 1990's?

This show was "Frontline's" finest hour!!

Floyd Baranello
south windsor, ct


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