Panel to Probe FBI's Bin Laden Mole

Thursday, 27 Mar 2014 11:25 AM

By Melanie Batley

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A panel investigating the success of the FBI's counterterrorism efforts over the last 10 years says it will "push hard" for answers as to why the agency never revealed it had an intelligence relationship with a source who had direct contact with Osama bin Laden during the early 1990s, The Washington Times reported.

Leaders on the panel that was set up by Congress in January told lawmakers Wednesday that they would spend the coming year analyzing the FBI's counterterrorism policies since the 2004 publication of the official 9/11 Commission report and would also evaluate the bureau's effectiveness in implementing the commission's 41 recommendations, according to the Times.

The Times reported last month that a former top official at the FBI's Los Angeles field office recalled how the bureau placed the source close to bin Laden in 1993, and had determined that the al-Qaida leader was looking at the time to finance terrorist attacks in the United States.

The revelation, however, was not uncovered during the official investigations of the 9/11 terrorist attacks or during the 9/11 Commission. 

"We were never told about it," said former Indiana Democratic Rep. Tim Roemer, who served on the 9/11 Commission and was recently appointed to co-chair the panel investigating the FBI, according to the Times.

"We're running it to ground," he added. "It's something that we're very interested in and curious about because in all the questions, all the documents, all the literature that [the commission] had access to, we'd never heard that before."

Roemer said he and the other co-chairs of the panel, Attorney General Edwin Meese and longtime national security analyst and Georgetown University professor Bruce Hoffman, have also asked about the source "at some of the highest levels" of the FBI, the Times reported.

"I think you know from the three of our reputations that we're going to push hard," he said. "We're going to be tenacious."

Meese said that there has been "very good" cooperation with the FBI into the investigation, according to the Times.

"In terms of anybody deliberately trying to hinder or in any way not be cooperative," he said, "We have not seen any of that."

The FBI has not commented on reports by NBC News which said the bin Laden source eventually went to work for the CIA and was later killed by jihadist operatives in Bosnia who suspected he was an informant.

The NBC report had also maintained that he was a Sudan-born driver and confidante of Omar Abdel-Rahman who was tied to the 1993 bombing of the World Trade Center in New York, the Times reported.

One retired senior FBI official told the Times that the revelation about the source was surprising among those in the counterterrorism community, and suggested that the source's relevance may have simply been overlooked in the early 1990s.

"It's interesting from this perspective when you look back at any major case. There's always things there that in hindsight become very clear, but at the time when you're in the middle of it, it's meaningless," the official said, according to the Times.

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