Tags: FBI | Lawyer: | Bureau | Official | 'Deliberately' | Thwarted | Investigation

FBI Lawyer: Bureau Official 'Deliberately' Thwarted Investigation

Monday, 27 May 2002 12:00 AM

In another sensational claim, she says that a senior bureau official continued to block the investigation of an al-Qaeda terrorist after his cohorts had made their attacks on the World Trade Center.

In Crowley's 13-page memo, she recounts how the Minneapolis agents became desperate to search the computer laptop that had been taken from the arrested "20th hijacker," Zacarias Moussaoui, as well as to conduct a more thorough search of his personal effects.

In her memo to Mueller, Crowley took exception to claims that the events of 9-11 could not have been prevented and that any argument they could have was a result of "20-20 hindsight" rationale.

In fact, Crowley says, on Sept. 11, "after the first attacks on the World Trade Center had already occurred," the Minneapolis office telephoned Washington and "the FBI Supervisory Special Agent [SSA] who was the one most involved in the Moussaoui matter and who, up to that point, seemed to have been consistently, almost deliberately thwarting the Minneapolis FBI agents' efforts."

Crowley said her office was shocked when, "Even after the attacks had begun, the SSA in question was still attempting to block the search of Moussaoui's computer, characterizing the World Trade Center attacks as a mere coincidence with Minneapolis' prior suspicions about Moussaoui."

In her opinion, even well before Sept. 11, "reasonable suspicions quickly ripened into probable cause within days of Moussaoui's arrest when the French Intelligence Service confirmed his affiliations with radical fundamentalist Islamic groups and activities connected to Osama Bin Laden. …"

However, says Rowley, she and her field office were thwarted at every turn as they tried to deal with FBI headquarters policy, which had to approve any motion by the field agents to present their affidavit of probable cause to search to a federal judge.

Headquarters peppered the Minneapolis agents with ridiculous questions and concerns, says Rowley. "For example, at one point, the supervisory special agent at FBIHQ posited that the French information could be worthless because it only identified Zacarias Moussaoui by name and he [the SSA] didn't know how many people by that name existed in France."

Compounding the nitpicking on the warrant, Rowley notes that FBI headquarters elected to very narrowly interpret the "public safety" exception to the Miranda arrest warnings, which allows law enforcement officers to question a suspect outside normal constitutionally permitted parameters if, by doing so, potential imminent harm to others might be avoided.

On the day of the attacks, when it was clear to the Minneapolis agents that Moussaoui desperately needed to be questioned (whether he consented or not, after being advised of his right to silence, attorney, etc.) about the potentially deadly plans of fellow conspirators, headquarters did not allow the agents in the field to go near the prisoner.

An exasperated Rowley figuratively throws her hands into the air in her memo: "Apparently no government attorney believes there is a 'public safety' exception in a situation like this!"

That exasperation swells further when she lambastes the FBI party line that no one should be hard on the bureau because "hindsight is 20-20."

Her take on this is to explain a very fundamental fact with regard to the key search warrant, which was quashed originally – not by any judge or magistrate, but by timid folks at FBI headquarters:

"The only main difference between the information being submitted to FBIHQ from an early date, which HQ personnel continued to deem insufficient, and the actual criminal search warrant which a federal district judge signed and approved on September 11th, was the fact that, by the time the actual warrant was obtained, suspected terrorists were known to have hijacked planes which they then deliberately crashed into the World Trade Center and the Pentagon.

"To say then … that probable cause did not exist until after the disastrous event occurred, is really to acknowledge that the missing piece of probable cause was only the FBIHQ's failure to appreciate that such an event could occur."

Another point she hammers home is that as they scrambled to collect and articulate probable cause to search the terror suspect's computer, FBI headquarters denied the Minneapolis field agents key information:

"In all of their conversations and correspondence, HQ personnel never disclosed to the Minneapolis agents that the Phoenix Division had, only approximately three weeks earlier, warned of Al Qaeda operatives in flight schools seeking flight training for terrorist purposes!"

What is her remedy to insure that such things do not happen again?

Certainly, it is not the remedy being touted by the FBI chief – more bureaucracy in the form of a "super squad."

"FBI agents, especially in terrorism cases where time is of the essence," she suggests, "should be allowed to go directly to federal judges to have their probable cause reviewed for arrests or searches without having to gain the United States Attorney's approval."

In her opinion, "the Phoenix, Minneapolis and Paris Legal Attache Offices reacted remarkably exhibiting keen perception and prioritization skills regarding the terrorist threats they uncovered or were made aware of pre-September 11th.

"The same cannot be said for the FBI Headquarters' bureaucracy, and you want to expand that! Should we put the counter-terrorism unit chief and SSA who previously handled the Moussaoui matter in charge of the new 'Super Squad'?"

One anecdote she shares with her chief in her memo concerns one of many phone calls and e-mails exchanged with headquarters:

"I took the call. I said something to the effect that, in light of what had just happened in New York, it would have to be the 'hugest coincidence' at this point if Moussaoui was not involved with the terrorists.

"The SSA [supervisory special agent] stated something to the effect that I had used the right term, 'coincidence,' and that this was probably all just a coincidence and we were to do nothing in Minneapolis until we got their [HQ's] permission because we might 'screw up.' …"

At one point in the memo she confesses to her chief that "jokes were actually made that the key FBIHQ personnel had to be spies or moles, like Robert Hanssen, who were actually working for Osama Bin Laden to have so undercut Minneapolis' effort."

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In another sensational claim, she says that a senior bureau official continued to block the investigation of an al-Qaeda terrorist after his cohorts had made their attacks on the World Trade Center. In Crowley's 13-page memo, she recounts how the Minneapolis agents became...
Monday, 27 May 2002 12:00 AM
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