Agents: Clinton-Reno DOJ Nixed FBI Terrorist Probe
The Clinton-Reno Justice Department refused to allow two veteran FBI agents assigned to the anti-terrorist probe to investigate a key figure tied to Osama bin Laden.
According to ABC News correspondent Brian Ross today, the two agents told him they were ordered to stop investigations into a suspected terror cell linked to Osama bin Laden’s al-Qaeda network and the Sept. 11 attacks.
FBI special agents Robert Wright and John Vincent told Ross they were called off criminal investigations of suspected terrorists linked to the deadly bombings of two U.S. embassies in Africa. U.S. officials say al-Qaeda was responsible for the embassy attacks and the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks in the United States.
“September the 11th is a direct result of the incompetence of the FBI’s International Terrorism Unit. No doubt about that. Absolutely no doubt about that,” Wright said. “You can’t know the things I know and not go public.”
Noting that, with growing terrorism in the Middle East in the mid-1990s, Wright and Vincent, then based in Chicago, were assigned to track a connection to a suspected terrorist cell that would later lead them to a link with Osama bin Laden. Wright told Ross that when he pressed for authorization to open a criminal investigation into the money trail, his supervisor stopped him.
Represented by Judicial Watch and former lead House impeachment counsel David Schippers, agents Wright and Vincent have filed suit against the Justice Department over the episode.
Let Sleeping Dogs Train
“Do you know what his response was? ‘I think it’s just better to let sleeping dogs lie,'” Wright told Ross. “Those dogs weren’t sleeping. They were training. They were getting ready.”
“Truthfully, if 9/11 had not occurred, we wouldn’t be here” giving the interview, said Vincent, a 27-year veteran at the bureau until he retired a few days after being interviewed by ABC News. “Because of 9/11, we’re here because we see the danger.”
The suspected terrorist cell in Chicago was the basis of the investigation, yet Wright, who is still with the FBI, says he soon learned that all the FBI intelligence division wanted him to do was to follow suspected terrorists and file reports – but make no arrests.
‘I Forbid You’
“The supervisor who was there from headquarters was right straight across from me and started yelling at me: ‘You will not open criminal investigations. I forbid any of you. You will not open criminal investigations against any of these intelligence subjects,'” Wright said.
Ross says that despite the fact that the agents were on a terrorism task force and said they had proof of criminal activity, Wright reported he was told not to pursue the matter.
Ross recalled that after al-Qaeda terrorists bombed two American embassies in Africa in 1998, Wright and Vincent said that some of the money for the attacks led back to the people they had been tracking in Chicago and to a powerful Saudi Arabian businessman, Yassin al-Kadi. Al-Kadi is one of 12 Saudi businessmen suspected of funneling millions of dollars to al-Qaeda and who had extensive business and financial ties in Chicago.
Chicago federal prosecutor Mark Flessner was assigned to the case despite efforts Wright and Vincent say were made by superiors to block the probe. Flessner told Ross that the two agents were helping him build a strong criminal case against al-Kadi and others.
“There were powers bigger than I was in the [Janet Reno] Justice Department and within the FBI that simply were not going to let it happen. And it didn’t happen,” Flessner said.
He added that he still can’t figure out why Washington stopped the case – whether it was Saudi influence or bureaucratic ineptitude.
“I think there were very serious mistakes made,” said Flessner. “And I think, it perhaps cost, it cost people their lives ultimately.”
“Perhaps most astounding of the many mistakes, according to Flessner and an affidavit filed by Wright, is how an FBI agent named Gamal Abdel-Hafiz seriously damaged the investigation,” Ross reported.
‘A Muslim Doesn’t Record Another Muslim’
Wright told him that Abdel-Hafiz, who is Muslim, refused to secretly record one of al-Kadi’s suspected associates, who was also Muslim. Wright says Abdel-Hafiz told him, Vincent and other agents that “a Muslim doesn’t record another Muslim.”
“He wouldn’t have any problems interviewing or recording somebody who wasn’t a Muslim, but he could never record another Muslim,” said Vincent.
Wright told Ross he “was floored” by Abdel-Hafiz’s refusal and immediately called the FBI headquarters. Their reaction surprised him even more: “The supervisor from headquarters says, ‘Well, you have to understand where he’s coming from, Bob.’ I said no, no, no, no, no. I understand where I’m coming from,” said Wright.
“We both took the same damn oath to defend this country against all enemies foreign and domestic, and he just said no? No way in hell.”
Far from being reprimanded, Abdel-Hafiz was promoted to one of the FBI’s most important anti-terrorism posts, the American Embassy in Saudi Arabia, to handle investigations for the FBI in that Muslim country.
And on Sept. 11, 2001, Wright and Vincent watched in horror at a deadly terrorist attack that could have been foreseen and prevented had the FBI and the Clinton-Reno Justice Department listened to them back in the 1990s.