TRAIL OF TERROR
'Frustrated FBI Agents Sought CIA Help'
WASHINGTON, May 24, 2002
"The agents in Minneapolis who were
closest to the action ... did fully appreciate the terrorist
risk/danger posed by Moussaoui and the possible
co-conspirators even prior to Sept. 11."Agent
FBI Director Robert Mueller’s
statement concerning the pre-Sept.
11 terrorism investigation of
“I immediately referred this
matter out of the FBI to the
inspector general for investigation.
I respect that process and all the
independence and protections it
“While I cannot comment on the
specifics of the letter, I am
convinced that a different approach
is required. New strategies, new
technologies, new analytical
capacities and a different culture
make us an agency that is changing
post-Sept. 11. There is no room
after the attacks for the types of
problems and attitudes that could
inhibit our efforts.
“We are being open and candid
with the ongoing congressional
review. This means access to our
documents and employees. We can
leave nothing undiscovered and
unexamined as we redefine our
priorities and operations. Anything
else is unacceptable and a
disservice to our agents and
(CBS) Concerned that Washington headquarters was
hindering their pre-Sept. 11 probe of terrorism defendant
Zacarias Moussaoui, FBI agents in Minnesota took the radical
step of contacting the CIA for help, an FBI whistleblower says.
Agent Coleen Rowley took the rare course this week of sending
her allegations directly to the head of the FBI, Robert Mueller.
Copies were sent to members of the Senate Intelligence
"The bottom line is that headquarters was the problem," an
unnamed official told the Washington Post in Friday's editions.
Mueller on Thursday ordered an internal inspector general's
investigation of Rowley's allegations. A House-Senate committee
added her charges to its investigation of intelligence failures
leading up to the Sept. 11 attacks.
The classified letter surfaced a day after the Senate
Intelligence Committee questioned Mueller about it in a closed
session. It marked the first known time that any of the FBI's
own agents have formally complained about the bureau's failure
to pursue aggressively potential warnings before Sept. 11.
Rowley's 13-page letter, which accused FBI headquarters of
erecting a “roadblock” to the Moussaoui investigation, was
delivered Tuesday. A Senate source, speaking only on condition
of anonymity, said she was interviewed by congressional
After the Minnesota agents violated agency protocol by going to
the CIA, they were reprimanded, Rowley said.
“When, in a desperate 11th-hour measure to bypass the FBI HQ
roadblock, the Minneapolis division undertook to directly notify
the CIA's counterterrorist center, FBI HQ personnel chastised
the Minneapolis agents for making the direct notification
without their approval,” she wrote.
The allegations surfaced hours after President Bush said he
wanted congressional intelligence committees, not a special
commission, to investigate how the government dealt with terror
warnings before Sept. 11.
After receiving Rowley's letter, Mueller acknowledged his agency
needed a “different approach” to fighting terrorism.
In November, the FBI director wrote a memo to all employees that
promised protection for whistleblowers.
“I will not tolerate reprisals or intimidation by any bureau
employee against those who make protected disclosures, nor will
I tolerate attempts to prevent employees from making such
disclosures,” he wrote.
Moussaoui, a French citizen of Moroccan descent, is the only
person charged as an accomplice with Osama bin Laden and the 19
hijackers in the Sept. 11 suicide hijackings. He was arrested a
month before the attacks after arousing suspicions with his
Government officials confirmed Thursday night that the CIA
received at least two pre-Sept. 11 contacts from the FBI
In mid-August, the FBI told the CIA of concerns Moussaoui might
be a terrorist, and the CIA checked its own files and found
nothing on him. The CIA also made a routine request from foreign
governments that yielded intelligence from France that Moussaoui
was a known Islamic extremist, the officials said.
The second contact came in late August when FBI agents in
Minnesota told CIA officers they were seeking a warrant on
Moussaoui, the official said.
Government officials familiar with Rowley's letter, who spoke on
condition of anonymity, said the agent asserted that FBI
headquarters did not fully appreciate the terrorist threat
Moussaoui posed and hindered local agent's efforts to get
warrants to gather more evidence.
“The agents in Minneapolis who were closest to the action, and
in the best position to gauge the situation locally, did fully
appreciate the terrorist risk/danger posed by Moussaoui and the
possible co-conspirators even prior to Sept. 11,” Rowley wrote.
Mueller said in his statement, “I am convinced that a different
approach is required. New strategies, new technologies, new
analytical capacities and a different culture makes us an agency
that is changing post-Sept. 11.
“There is no room after the attacks for the types of problems
and attitudes that could inhibit our efforts.”
Sen. Charles Grassley, R-Iowa, a critic of the FBI and a strong
defender of whistleblowers, said he was shocked but not
surprised by Rowley's allegations.
Sen. John McCain, R-Ariz., co-sponsor of legislation for an
independent investigation, said the problems the Minnesota
office experienced were “not an intelligence failure per se.
It's the way the FBI works.”
Officials familiar with Rowley's allegations said the agent
claimed the bureau made a series of mistakes last summer when
agents became suspicious of Moussaoui and arrested him after he
wanted training on a 747 simulator at a Minnesota flight school.
The officials, who spoke on condition of anonymity, said some of
the allegations involve how the bureau handled efforts to get a
special national security warrant and a regular search warrant
to gather evidence against Moussaoui.
Law enforcement officials have said previously that information
that came into law enforcement before Sept. 11 included
intelligence from France suggesting Moussaoui had terrorist ties
and had been placed on a watch list in 1999.
But the information was insufficient to show he was an agent of
a foreign power and eligible to be monitored under a national
security warrant, officials have said.
After Sept. 11, FBI agents found evidence on Moussaoui's
computer and elsewhere that linked him to the hijacking plot,
according to court documents.
In another development, the House worked into the night on a $29
billion anti-terrorism bill. The Senate, a target of an anthrax
attack last year, sent President Bush a broad bioterrorism
measure. It would provide $4.6 billion to stockpile vaccines,
improve food inspections and boost security for water systems.