FBI incompetence and personal politics heavily contributed to
the World Trade Center 911 tragedy. Al Qaeda had attacked
the Center previously in 1993, but little follow up allowed the
much more deadly and ambitious plan to succeed eight years
FBI professionals in three offices, New York City, Minneapolis
and Phoenix reported troubling information that never reached
the highest levels. If the three reports had been put together
we might have saved the over three thousand lives we lost
that early Fall day back in 2001.
Who were the three who knew? In the NYC FBI office,
John O'Neill had warned Al Qaeda might try to finish the
job at the Trade Center it began in 1993. O'Neill had
political enemies at the Bureau who eventually engineered
his firing; he became head of security at the World Trade
Center, dying there on 911. He told friends something
big was coming soon, based on his six years of tracking
terrorists like bin Laden. But at FBI HQ, he was ignored
due to personality conflicts and a few mistakes (leaving
an FBI cell and briefcase unsupervised).
In Minneapolis, Coleen Rowley had good intel regarding
extremist Moussaoui, also ignored. She was an FBI
attorney who had worked in the field for the FBI.
Just three weeks before 911 her office discovered
Moussaoui paid $8,000 for flight school instruction,
specifically, commercial airline plane training. They
arrested him but superiors refused requests to
investigate his laptop. An agent in the Phoenix FBI
office urged his supervisors to investigate Middle
Eastern men who had enrolled at American flight
schools and might be connected to bin Laden...
to no effect.
Think what it may have meant to coordinate
the intel from these THREE offices: flight school
admission policy changed to deny students who
asked for instruction merely to fly large planes
without takeoff and landing training, background
screening stepped up.
Again, it may have meant three thousand lives saved
if the right people had heeded and acted. Since
then, Ms. Rowley has appeared before the Senate,
her testimony resulting in policies and practices
being tightened at the FBI.
Will workers in the field be heard in future? I
wonder: jealousy and incompetence can't be
rooted out by a few policy alterations.
This September 11th marks 16 years of relative
national security since 911...maybe someone IS