The 9/11 terrorist attacks on could have been avoided if the CIA had told the FBI sooner about the hijackers who carried out the attacks in New York City and Washington, D.C., former FBI Special Agent Mark Rossini told Newsweek's Jeff Stein
Rossini was part of the CIA's Osama bin Laden unit, which was tracking two known terrorists, Khalid al-Mihdhar and Nawaf al-Hazmi. The CIA lost track of both men months before, but didn't inform the FBI until mid-summer 2001.
But Rossini said he and another agent were told not to tell the FBI about the situation. He told Newsweek that he now regrets that decision, believing it would have saved thousands of lives.
"This is the pain that never escapes me, that haunts me each and every day of my life," Rossini wrote in a draft of a book he shared with Stein. "I feel like I failed, even though I know it was the system and the intelligence community on the whole that failed."
Rossini says he believes the CIA was trying to turn al-Mihdhar and al-Hazmi.
"So they were following these merry men around for a year or two without telling us, and now all of the sudden, in July 2001, they say, 'Please help us find these guys!' Why then? I can’t prove it, the only reason is, he went south — he told them to go **** themselves — or stopped responding to their phone calls. They ran a clandestine op in the U.S., and they didn’t want the bureau involved in it."
Official government reports cite an "intelligence failure," but give no specifics.
Rossini told Newsweek that after congressional investigators began asking questions after 9/11, he and the other officer were told not to talk about their work in the bin Laden unit.
"We were told not to say anything to them," Rossini said. "It was just understood in the office that they were not to be trusted, that [the congressional investigators] were trying to pin this on someone, that they were trying to put someone in jail. They said [the investigators] weren’t authorized to know what was going on operationally.… When we were interviewed, the CIA had a person in the room, monitoring us."
Rossini did tell the FBI in 2004 when questioned after the 9/11 Commission and the congressional probe had issued their reports.
"When the first 9/11 report came out, I was waiting for heads to roll," a former CIA operations officer assigned to the bin Laden unit told Newsweek. "But of course they took out all the important stuff. And all the people who were responsible for not sharing information — their names were taken out. They were commended and moved up."
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