April 15, 2004

John had heard the alarm bells, too, and we used to talk about it. And he knew that there was a lot of noise out there and that there were a lot of warnings, a lot of red flags, and that it was at a similar level that they were hearing before...

The 9/11 Commission's two days of public hearings on
the pre-9/11 activities of US DoJ, FBI and CIA have
concluded. The name of John O'Neill was bravely
invoked by Richard Ben-Veniste (D-Truth and
Reconciliation) at the beginning of Tuesday's hearing,
but that's it. There was no exploration over the
disturbing questions that swirl around John O'Neill's
resignation from FBI Counterterrorism in the Summer of
2001. There is nothing more disturbing in all of this
miserable business. What happened on Tuesday, April
13, 2004? Why didn't the 9/11 Commission lower the
boom on Attorney General John Ashcroft (R-Misery) for
his well-documented indifference to the threat from Al
Qaeda prior to 9/11? Why is the "US mainstream news
media" ignoring the fact the either Ashcroft or his
chief accuser Tom Pickard perjured themselves? And
most importantly, why wasn't the story of John O'Neill
examined in public and under oath? What is on the 28
blacked out pages of the congressional 9/11 report?
Even the Saudis have asked to have it declassified.
What has happened in this country? If the "US
mainstream news media" is too timid or too complicit
to provide you the CONTEXT and CONTINUITY you need,
the LNS will, if the 9/11 Commission is unable to open
this file, the LNS will...Here is the October 2002 PBS
Frontline documentary on John O'Neill. It is
excellent, and sadly it is all there is except for a
New Yorker (which I will also forward you this
morning) and the French best-seller Forbidden
Truth..."Out, out damn spot!"

"The Man Who Knew," PBS Frontline: John had heard the alarm bells, too, and we used to talk about it. And he knew that there was a lot of noise out there and that there were a lot of warnings, a lot of red flags, and that it was at a similar level that they were hearing before the millennium, which was an indication that there was something going on. And yet
he felt that he was frozen out, that he was not in a
capacity to really do anything about it anymore
because of his relationship with the FBI. So it was a
source of real anguish for him.

Repudiate the 9/11 Cover-Up and the Iraq War Lies,
Show Up for Democracy in 2004: Defeat (again!)


Program #2103
"The Man Who Knew"
Air date: October 3, 2002

The Man Who Knew

Produced and Directed by:

Co-Produced and Reported by:

Written by

September 11

3,025 Murdered

One of them knew it was going to happen

JERRY HAUER, Dir. Emergency Mgmt. NYC '96-'00: The
night before he died, he had said to me, "We're due,
and we're due for something big."

NARRATOR: His name was John O'Neill. And long before
the world knew about Osama bin Laden, FBI agent
O'Neill was obsessed with him.

TEDDY LEB: He was among the first people to see the
bin Laden threat.

NARRATOR: He warned of Al Qaeda.

TEDDY LEB: He said that we're at war with these

NARRATOR: He warned of the threat to the United

TEDDY LEB: And we better not take them for granted
because they are here to hurt us.

NARRATOR: But people at FBI headquarters thought John
O'Neill was too much of a maverick and they stopped
listening to him.

JOE CANTAMESSA, FBI Special Agent NYC: You could be
flagged as a problem, and your career could pretty
much be over.

NARRATOR: Last summer, O'Neill left the FBI and took a
new job as head of security at the World Trade Center.

JOE CANTAMESSA: Of all the places to go to work, and
of all the ways that you could lose your life.

NARRATOR: Tonight FRONTLINE investigates the internal
power struggle at the heart of the FBI's failure on
September 11th.

NARRATOR: There was after the horror of September 11th
the inevitable question: Did anyone in the government

The move from Chicago to headquarters was a big
promotion for Special Agent John O'Neill. He'd be the
chief of the counterterrorism section. He drove all
night from Chicago and went straight to the office on
a Sunday morning.

September 5, 1995

He'd just arrived when the White House called.

RICHARD CLARKE, NSC Chief of Counterterrorism '92-'01:
It was a Sunday morning and I was in my office and I
was reading intelligence. And I saw a report that
indicated that the man who had plotted the World Trade
Center bombing in 1993, the ringleader, Ramzi Ahmed
Yousef --

Subject: Ramzi Ahmed Yousef

WTC bombing
Pope assassination
Pacific airline bombings

Place of Birth:

RICHARD CLARK: He was about to move within Pakistan.
And there was a small window, a closing window, to
catch him. And so thinking there might be somebody at
the FBI on a Sunday morning, I called.

FRAN TOWNSEND, Deputy U.S. Attorney general '95-'01:
It's sort of typical -- I mean, you know, John in the
office on a Sunday. John, a new job, was going to get
his feet on the ground and get himself settled in and
was going to make sure that he was -- if that was his
job, he was going to be the expert in it in short

NARRATOR: O'Neill had made his reputation
investigating white-collar crime, drug rings and
abortion clinic bombings.

Subject: John P. O'Neill

Age: 43

1976: Baltimore -- White Collar Crime
1991: Chicago -- Drugs and Organized Crime
1994: Task Force Abortion Clinic Violence

RICHARD CLARKE: I said, "Who's this?" And he
responded, "Well, who the hell are you? I'm John
O'Neill." And I explained, "Well, I'm from the White
House, and I do terrorism. And I need some help." And
I told him my story on the classified phone line.

And he went into action, and over the course of the
next two or three days, he never left the office. He
worked the phones out to Pakistan. He worked the
phones to the Pentagon. He works the phones at the
State Department.

NARRATOR: O'Neill was new to the counterterrorism
game. In 20 years, he'd chased a lot of bad guys but
nobody like Ramzi Yousef.

MARY JO WHITE, U.S. Atty. So. District of NY '93-'02:
Yousef is one of the most dangerous people on the
planet -- very smart. Getting him and incapacitating
him was a significant public safety issue, and John
O'Neill recognized that, was not about to take no for
an answer anywhere before he was taken into custody.

RICHARD CLARKE: O'Neill put together an arrest team
that managed to catch Ramzi Ahmed Yousef in Pakistan
just before he moved into Afghanistan, which would be
been beyond our reach. It was a pretty intense couple
of days, but it worked.

NARRATOR: At headquarters, down in the SIOC -- the
situation room -- they waited for word from New York
that Yousef was in the lock-up.

LEWIS SCHILIRO, Director of FBI NYC '98-'00: When we
loaded him on the helicopter, he had been blindfolded.
It was a very clear night -- very, very clear --
sometime in January. And one of the agents asked me if
he could take the blindfold off Yousef, and I said,
"Sure. Go right ahead." And it was ironic because as
he finally focused his eyes, we were right adjacent to
the World Trade Center, and he kind of focused in on
that. And of course, one of the agents sitting next to
him gave him a little bit of a nudge and said, "Do you
see? It still stands?"

And Yousef, in no uncertain terms, said, "It would not
have been had we had more funding." And I looked at
him at that point. Really, just the way that he said
that, the coldness of it, is something that I'll
probably never forget.

NARRATOR: For the next six years, O'Neill and his
agents would follow the bloody and complex trail from
Ramzi Yousef to Osama bin Laden. He'd painstakingly
pieced together bits of information gathered from
sources around the world, sources who would sometimes
become close friends. One of them was a journalist.

CHRIS ISHAM, ABC News: He was one of those rare birds
that -- inside a government, who had access to highly
classified information, and yet also understood that
talking to a journalist was not necessarily a
violation of any rules, and it could actually be
helpful on both sides.

NARRATOR: In analyzing the information about Ramzi
Yousef, Isham said his friend, O'Neill, saw a
different sort of terrorist with a new kind of

CHRIS ISHAM: The picture was still fuzzy -- I mean, it
was by no means sharp -- that there was an emerging
global Islamic fundamentalist terrorist network that
was becoming more and more engaged in the objective of
attacking American targets.

MARY JO WHITE: When Yousef fled from the Trade Center
bombing in 1993, among the places he went, really
right before he was apprehended in Pakistan, was to
the Philippines, where he was mixing the bombs to blow
up, you know, 12 jumbo jets in a 48-hour period, and
was not far away from at least attempting to carry out
that plot, which would have resulted in thousands of
deaths in two days.

NARRATOR: For Agent O'Neill, the trail of Ramzi Yousef
was an introduction into the sophisticated and
interconnected world of the new terrorism.

JAMES WOOLSEY, CIA Director '93-'95: We now know that
he was planning an operation to crash a dozen American
airliners virtually simultaneously with bombs. Now,
one version of this, I believe, from the Philippines,
has it that he was planning on crashing one of the 12
not in the Pacific but into the CIA headquarters in
Langley. What's interesting is whether that was part
of his plan or not. If you look together at crashing
airliners and at Ramzi Yousef's plot to blow up the
World Trade Center in '93 by explosives, what happened
in September 11th, 2001, is some kind of a weird
amalgam of those two Ramzi Yousef plots.

NARRATOR: Another of O'Neill's friends worked in the
upper reaches of the Justice Department.

FRAN TOWNSEND: John completely throws himself into
this. He's reading everything he can get his hands on
about radical fundamentalism. He's already got in his
mind this is a major and long-term problem for us that
we are ill-equipped to deal with, not because we lack
the commitment to deal with it, but because it's a
mindset he's now read. He's studied it.

NARRATOR: From the beginning, O'Neill obsessed about
the details of the Ramzi Yousef case. He dug into that
plan to blow up the planes, known as the Bojinka plot.
Investigators had found a connection with the World
Trade Center bombing that led to Yousef's
co-conspirator, Ahmad Ajaj, and a terrorist training
manual with a title that would translate into "Al
Qaeda" --"the base."

They uncovered a list of phone numbers called by
Yousef and other World Trade Center conspirators from
their safe houses. One of those numbers belonged to
Osama bin Laden, identified by an early CIA report as
an "Islamic extremist financier."

RICHARD CLARKE: I think if you ask most terrorism
experts in the mid-1990s, "Well, what about this man,
bin Laden?" most people in the mid-1990s would have
said, "Ah, yes, the financier, the terrorist
financier." What O'Neill said was, "No, this man is
not a financier. The money is money for a purpose. The
purpose is building a worldwide terrorist network
based out of Afghanistan, the point of which is going
after the United States and after governments friendly
to the United States, particularly in the Arab world."

NARRATOR: Once convinced bin Laden was a threat to
America, O'Neill began a campaign within the FBI to
sound the alarm.

ROBERT "BEAR" BRYANT, Deputy Director FBI '97-'99: The
first time I ever heard the name Osama bin Laden was
from John O'Neill. And John O'Neill was very much
aware of who he was, who his group was, Al Qaeda.

NARRATOR: Over time, Robert "Bear" Bryant would become
second in command at the FBI and a supporter of John

ROBERT "BEAR" BRYANT: He was a person that I had
immense personal regard for, and we could argue like a
couple of thieves in the night over issues because we
were both hard-headed. We were both a little bit
Irish, and he much more so than I. And we had strong
opinions about things, and we could get into it really

NARRATOR: O'Neill argued for a plan that would
represent a seismic shift in the way the FBI had
always operated. He would give authority to a new,
more analytic agent who would have enhanced technology
to fight the new terrorism. That directly threatened
the dominance of the group who held sway over the
culture, the criminal division.

ROBERT "BEAR" BRYANT: From his point of view, it was
very clear what had to be done. You would basically
have a whole branch of the FBI that would be -- not be
touched by the criminal side.

NARRATOR: The criminal side -- the J. Edgar Hoover
G-men who carried the guns and made cases and arrests.
The man who would eventually lead the criminal
division, Tom Pickard, aggressively competed with
O'Neill for the attention of the director, Louis

Subject: Louis J. Freeh

1974: J.D. Rutgers Law
1975: Agent FBI
1981: Federal Prosecutor
1991: Federal Judge
1993: Director FBI

NARRATOR: As a former street agent himself, Freeh
identified with the criminal division, and Tom Pickard
was a long-time friend. O'Neill's counterterrorism
section was on the FBI's radar, but just barely.

JOE CANTAMESSA, FBI Special Agent NYC: A lot of people
don't realize that a year prior to the first bombing
of the World Trade Center, all but one squad was
eliminated or reconsolidated in New York, so -- and we
were the flagship office that had most of the
counterterrorism issues. We were pretty much scaling
back. And while we would never close the program, it
certainly was given much less resource support, and
the thought -- and the threat was thought to have been

NARRATOR: To reinvigorate the counterterrorism effort,
O'Neill would try to muscle his way through the
bureaucracy that surrounded Louis Freeh. But in that
struggle, O'Neill's personal style got in the way.
They said he was too intense, pushed too hard, had
what they called "sharp elbows."

JOE CANTAMESSA: We often talked and joked about the
fact that we weren't really in the club, and we really
didn't care. And that was something that John and I
had shared on occasion. And there is a difference
between those people who spend time in an organization
and are happy to make it to the top and have never
rolled over a stone or created a problem or solved a
problem, you know, just to carefully run through, and
be there and be promoted. John was not like that.

NARRATOR: O'Neill just didn't do anything the FBI way.
Where at the end of a long shift, they went home to
their families --

MICHAEL SHEEHAN, Chief Counterterrorism, State Dept.
'98-'01: He was the type of guy who'd put his arm
around you and take you out to dinner, and smoke
cigars and drink whiskey with at the end of the day,
and really -- and talk about all the issues in great
depth. And he -- that's -- he took this -- the
business -- his business beyond the work hours and
well into the evening, or he'd like to do that.

NARRATOR: O'Neill's evenings were spent at
Washington's watering holes with a network of spies --
CIA, DIA, NSC and foreign intelligence officers.

JERRY HAUER, Dir. Emergency Mgmt. NYC '96-'00: John
tended to be a little more flamboyant than a lot of
the traditional agents in the FBI. I think there were
jealousies. John did know everybody all over the
world. John could pick up a phone and talk to somebody
in an embassy in a foreign intelligence service
anywhere in the world, and they all knew him.

NARRATOR: And in the buttoned-down FBI, O'Neill was
considered too flashy.

FRAN TOWNSEND: It was the presentation. It was the --
as he would call it, it was the "package." They
resented sort of the Burberry suit and the white
pocket square and the expensive tie and the Bruno
Magli shoes. You know, this wasn't the bureau.

CLINT GUENTHER, FBI Agent NYC - Counterterrorism: I
kind of thought he was kind of a dandy. You know, he
was impeccably dressed and looked like his fingernails
were polished and his hair swooped back. And a bunch
of us kind of, you know, started to call him the
"Prince of Darkness."

ROBERT "BEAR" BRYANT: He worked both ends of the
candle pretty hard. We had a morning briefing every
morning at 7:30, and sometimes he would come in late.
And I told him I wanted him there. I don't care if he
came in his slippers and pajamas, be there. And he

NARRATOR: O'Neill's days were spent analyzing
fragments of information. There was the story about
two of Ramzi Yousef's Bojinka co-conspirators, Wali
Khan Amin Shah and Abdul Hakim Murad. In 1995, Murad
told a story of Middle Eastern pilots training at U.S.
flight schools and of a proposal to divebomb a
jetliner into a federal building. It was a tantalizing
bit of information. Agents were dispatched but then
withdrawn. The investigation languished.

JAMES KALLSTROM, Director FBI NYC '95-'97: I had a
fairly low opinion of headquarters throughout my whole
career. It seemed like, you know, the headquarters was
a very negative place, where they would find a million
reasons why you couldn't do something, as opposed to
why you could do something. It was not the type of
place where you always felt you were getting a lot of

John was the opposite of that. John you could talk to,
and you could tell John what you needed and John would
get it.

NARRATOR: James Kallstrom was the powerful boss of the
FBI's New York office. Watching from a distance, he
saw O'Neill's attitude and expertise make enemies
among the group that surrounded Louis Freeh.

JAMES KALLSTROM: Yeah, I'm sure there was some
jealousy in the bureaucracy. There always is. You can
get by with some sharper elbows for a while, but you
need to be right a lot. You know the old saying, "When
you run with the wolves, don't trip," you know? You
can have those types of character traits -- you really
need to have those to get the job done sometimes --
but there'll always be a comeuppance in bureaucracies
if you exercise that too much and you don't restrain

NARRATOR: At headquarters there were those in the
upper reaches of the bureaucracy who looked for ways
to wound O'Neill. A whispering campaign began about
O'Neill's personal life. There was one version:
married his high school sweetheart and had a couple of
kids. Then there was the truth.

FRAN TOWNSEND: John had been separated from his family
for some time. And I think John would have said to you
his family suffered as a result of that, as a result
of his devotion to his job.

VALERIE JAMES: I think the FBI was his mistress. He
loved it. He loved it more than he loved any woman in
his life. He loved it.

NARRATOR: And he loved Valerie James.

VALERIE JAMES: Very first time I saw John, I did
something I had never done before and will never do
again. I sent him a drink. He just had the most -- he
was standing at the bar, and he had the most
compelling eyes I had ever seen.

NARRATOR: She had her own children, and after a while,
they started calling him "Dad." He hinted he might
marry their mom. The trouble was, he hadn't told her
he was already married.

VALERIE JAMES: I didn't know that for two or three
years. And someone that John worked with in the FBI's
wife told me, and it was bad. I was shocked. You know,
my family was shocked. I loved him. It had been two or
three years, by that point. What are you going to do,
you know?

NARRATOR: There weren't exactly FBI regulations
against O'Neill's behavior, but there were unwritten
rules of the road, and the whisperers said O'Neill's
lifestyle made him unfit for his sensitive job.

VALERIE JAMES: John's brilliant. He's a guy that gets
it. He is working on this incredible stuff day after
day that he can basically talk to none of us about. He
can talk to very few, some people in law enforcement.
He can't even tell any of his peers about what he's
working on, it's that intense. Does a man like that
come home and eat roast chicken and mashed potatoes
every night? You know, I think his whole life needed
to be complicated. I think he was complicated.

NARRATOR: O'Neill said he could care less what the
bureaucrats thought. The only one he was concerned
about was Louis Freeh.

FRAN TOWNSEND, Deputy U.S. Attorney general '95-'01:
Louis Freeh is extraordinary, in the sense of being
sort of a regular person, very committed to his
children and his wife. He wasn't one to be out late or
wasn't a big drinker, wasn't -- that was not his style
at all.

NARRATOR: O'Neill figured a personal connection to
Freeh was out of the question. He'd have to find
another way to make his case about reorganizing the

Then, after Islamic militants in Saudi Arabia blew up
the U.S. Air Force barracks known as Khobar Towers,
O'Neill saw his chance. Both O'Neill and Freeh got
deeply involved, taking 14-hour plane rides to Saudi
Arabia, time enough for a sustained O'Neill terrorism

From the beginning, O'Neill's cop instincts told him
the Saudis weren't fully cooperating. They were hiding

RICHARD CLARKE, NSC Chief of Counterterrorism '92-'01:
On at least one occasion, John told me that he
believed that the Saudis were telling us one thing but
doing another, and that he tried to persuade the
director of the FBI of that, but the director wanted
to believe that the Saudis were cooperating.

NARRATOR: Finally, on a flight back to Washington,
O'Neill decided to give Freeh a piece of his mind. The
way they tell the story at the bureau, O'Neill uttered
an indelicate phrase, telling his boss the Saudis were
blowing smoke up a particular portion of the
director's anatomy.

CHRIS ISHAM, ABC News: He never told me the precise
words, but I can hear John saying them. I -- you know,
I think that he felt that the Saudis were definitely
playing games and that the senior officials in the
U.S. government, including Louis Freeh, just didn't
get it.

NARRATOR: The story has it that Freeh didn't
appreciate the bluntness. The two flew home in silence
for 12 hours.

FRAN TOWNSEND: If that was what John said, and he said
it in that indelicate a way, it wouldn't surprise me
that Freeh would have viewed that as inappropriate and
therefore disrespectful. If John said it in that way,
it wouldn't surprise me if Louis chose not to sort of
deal with him while he was in that mood.

NARRATOR: Louis Freeh has reportedly denied this
story, but declined FRONTLINE's request to talk with

And as to the substance of the dispute between Freeh
and O'Neill, over at the White House, where they
always thought Iran was behind the bombing, they
eventually learned the truth about the way the Saudis
were acting.

RICHARD CLARKE: Well, it turns out that the Saudi
government had a suspicion that it was Iran, and the
Saudi government didn't really want the United States
to conclude that it was Iran and go off and start
bombing Iran. So the Saudi government decided at a
very high level to give the United States and the FBI
only a little bit of cooperation, not the full

NARRATOR: O'Neill's instincts had been right, but it
was a Pyrrhic victory.

JOE CANTAMESSA, FBI Special Agent NYC: Well, remember
about this being in the club I mentioned? You have to
be a little bit of a minimal threat to the
organization and the director and the management
structure. John, because of his aggressive posture,
his aggressive nature, his willingness to go forward
when it may not be politically correct -- I think a
few people were just uncomfortable with John's
aggressive style.

NARRATOR: But for every enemy O'Neill made at
headquarters, it seems he'd made an ally elsewhere.
One of them, in the midst of her own struggle with
Louis Freeh and the headquarters bureaucracy, he kept

FRAN TOWNSEND, Deputy U.S. Attorney general '95-'01:
The attorney general had seen John at meetings, knew
he was an expert from his position at the FBI. And she
would frequently say, "Well, what does John think?"
There were times I was sitting in her office, and
she'd ask that, and I'd say I didn't know. And she
said, "Well, call him."

And literally, I would be dialing John's cell phone
from the attorney general of the United States'
office. And you know, he'd get on the phone, "Hi. How
are you?" And I'd -- "Look, I'm in Ms. Reno's office."
And so if she wanted to know, she knew she had the
ability to reach out to him. This made him, in
fairness, a little bit uncomfortable. He knew that
this would not have been looked upon kindly by other
people in the bureau.

NARRATOR: Around Washington, O'Neill's allies and
drinking buddies began to warn him that he should take
his Al Qaeda crusade to a field office. He should
leave headquarters.

JERRY HAUER, Dir. Emergency Mgmt. NYC '96-'00: You got
to be careful whose toes you step on, particularly in
Washington, because there are some pretty big shoes.
And he created some headaches for himself at
headquarters because he did manage to step on some

VALERIE JAMES: He told me that was the most intense
time he spent with the FBI. I mean it burnt John out.
Do you know how Jimmy Carter looked when he started
office and the pictures of him afterwards, how he
aged? I felt that that -- I said it to John. I felt
that job aged John.

NARRATOR: There was an opening in the New York City
division. The boss up there, Jimmy Kallstrom, was also
a tough guy, a thorn in Washington's side. He grabbed
O'Neill -- saved him, really. At headquarters, they
were happy to see him go, and on January 1st, 1997,
John O'Neill moved to New York.

It was a promotion, assistant special agent in charge
of counterterrorism and national security. He'd be in
charge of a team of about 350 agents. And best of all,
it was in New York.

JAMES KALLSTROM, Director FBI NYC '95-'97: New York
was the flagship office of the FBI. It's where it
happens, in New York. I mean, that's where you wanted
to be if you were an FBI agent. So it's only natural
that John O'Neill, who's -- you know, his whole life
was the FBI, from what I could see -- would want to be
in New York.

NARRATOR: In the New York office, they were still
piecing together the evidence in the 1993 World Trade
Center bombing. They also had new information that bin
Laden had been involved in the shooting down of two
American Black Hawk helicopters in Somalia. The
confession of captured Al Qaeda member Jamal Ahmed
al-Fadl told of Osama bin Laden's efforts to develop
chemical weapons, buy weapons-grade uranium and to
spread the Al Qaeda network into Europe.

O'Neill was working to connect all these dots with the
powerful U.S. attorney Mary Jo White.

MARY JO WHITE, U.S. Atty. So. District of NY '93-'02:
I had a reputation of being fairly autonomous also,
and not being afraid to rattle cages to get things
done, and he had that reputation, too. And so when he
came to New York, he wanted to try to get us both off
on the right foot and, you know, not have those two
cage-rattlers, you know, work at counter-purposes.

NARRATOR: U.S. Attorney White was among the first of
his allies in Manhattan. His forays into the night
added more. He connected with many of them at the
epicenter of the New York scene, Elaine's.

ELAINE KAUFMAN, Owner: He's a lovely man, intelligent,
easy to talk to, very well groomed. He wasn't a
braggart. He was low-key. Because I know some of the
others, they tell you they just saved the whole world
out there. But he never spoke like that.

CHRIS ISHAM: Elaine's has a very hierarchical seating
structure. And sort of the tourists and the peasants
are relegated to the back end of the restaurant, and
you simply don't want to be there. And there are about
seven or eight tables in the front. John always made
sure that he was in one of those front tables because
he understood the importance of being completely
wired, and he felt in order to be wired, he needed to
be in the front of the restaurant, not the back of the

ELAINE KAUFMAN: It's like George Plimpton. I mean,
he's George Plimpton on the job. There's no place that
George can't sit. And so it was with John. He could
sit anyplace he wanted. He was the Big Kahuna.

NARRATOR: O'Neill would return to the office often
after midnight. He might have a scrap of information
or a new name.

CLINT GUENTHER, FBI Agent NYC - Counterterrorism: John
always feared that somehow we would miss something. He
would be after his investigators to make sure they
covered every base, and woe be you if you failed to
cover everything.

NARRATOR: O'Neill's investigators now had more
evidence about one of the conspirators in that Bojinka
plot of Ramzi Yousef. Wali Khan Amin Shah admitted
involvement in a plot to assassinate President
Clinton. The plot had links to bin Laden.

CLINT GUENTHER: Under John's investigative leadership,
he pressed his investigators to try to look for the
ties, look for the -- any connectivity between these
organizations. This larger picture turned out to be Al

NARRATOR: O'Neill was becoming obsessed, haunted by
the specter of bin Laden.

JOHN P. O'NEILL, Jr.: My dad had a lot of video of
Osama bin Laden. Whatever was out there was actually
in his apartment. He studied him several times,
watched the videos, I know, several times.

VALERIE JAMES: He would watch videotapes. He would
read whatever material he could get his hands on. We
had a fax in the house. People would fax him
information all the time. John would sit in bed or sit
on the couch or wherever and constantly underline

CHRIS ISHAM: By then, bin Laden was in Afghanistan.
And I organized through some channels to do an
interview with him, which took shape in the early '98
through spring of '98. The interview actually happened
in May of '98 with John Miller.

NARRATOR: And some of O'Neill's information helped
Isham and correspondent John Miller draw up their

JOHN MILLER, Correspondent, ABC News: I wanted to ask
-- did he either -- Mr. Bin Laden, either finance or
order the World Trade Center bombing, because of the
Ramzi Yousef association? Because of the association
is why I would want to ask that. But would you ask him
now if we could ask that before he starts again?

NARRATOR: O'Neill couldn't wait to get his hands on
the tape.

CHRIS ISHAM, ABC News: He wanted to see everything. He
was, well, "I need to see the whole thing. I need to
see the whole interview."

INTERPRETER: He says he doesn't know.

JOHN MILLER: Oh. So [unintelligible] issue. Disregard.

CHRIS ISHAM: I said, "Well, you know, we have this
whole thing about outtakes, and, you know, it -- you
know, it may sound stupid, but we, you know, really
can't give you all the outtakes of the interview." He
says, "No, you don't understand. I have to see the
whole interview." It was like he wasn't taking no for
an answer.

NARRATOR: O'Neill finally saw the entire interview on
the ABC News Web site.

CHRIS ISHAM: He was obsessed by him. I think there's
no question about it. He always knew that there was so
much more that he didn't know, and that's what spooked
him. What spooked him and what really used to drive
him crazy was what he didn't know and how much was out
there that he didn't know.

NEWSCASTER: [August 7, 1998] Two bombs, minutes apart,
exploded without warning Friday outside the U.S.
embassies in Nairobi, Kenya, and Dar es Salaam,

LEWIS SCHILIRO, Director of FBI NYC '98-'00: We had
turned on the TV, watching CNN. And John O'Neill put
it together in relatively short order and was
convinced, in his own mind, that Al Qaeda was behind

MARY JO WHITE: I had the same immediate reaction. What
I did was to call both Lew Schiliro and the attorney
general and I think John O'Neill. And I, in
particular, having been enmeshed in bin Laden and Al
Qaeda, was our immediate reaction.

LEWIS SCHILIRO: And it was really the first time ever
that I began to at least focus in on, really, the
significance of Osama bin Laden.

NARRATOR: Two American embassies had been bombed in
east Africa virtually simultaneously.

MICHAEL SHEEHAN, Chief Counterterrorism, State Dept.
'98-'01: That clearly was the event that changed bin
Laden's profile dramatically because it was such a
major event. Two embassies blown up simultaneously
over 500 miles apart in the continent of Africa was
not expected. Most of the attacks previous to that
were in the Middle East. This was in a part of the
world we didn't expect. Two embassies done
simultaneously showed a great deal of sophistication
in the organization. So this was a major event.

NARRATOR: But at headquarters, the brass were engaged
in a procedural dispute.

FRAN TOWNSEND, Deputy U.S. Attorney general '95-'01:
We're in the command center, and people are being
pulled in. I'm over there. There's all sorts of senior
bureau people there. Everybody's coming together. And
the reason this becomes a significant question almost
immediately is because the FBI's got to deploy people
overseas. They're going to deploy people initially to
Kenya and Tanzania. And who's going to be the on-scene

NARRATOR: O'Neill believed his experience and
expertise made him the obvious choice to lead the
investigation as the on-scene commander.

FRAN TOWNSEND: And he really wanted to roll up his
sleeves and get into it, and wanted to be there and
wanted responsibility. He believed the New York field
office had the greatest depth of expertise of anybody
in the country on this issue. And if it's al-Qaeda,
how could you send anybody else but the people who
know the most?

NARRATOR: But down in the SIOC, there were those who
wanted to cut New York and O'Neill out. On the QT,
Townsend called O'Neill.

FRAN TOWNSEND: And he was -- to say angry,
disappointed, hurt -- there becomes this bureaucratic
arm-wrestle over who's going to be the office of

NARRATOR: O'Neill desperately needed the help of U.S.
Attorney Mary Jo White.

MARY JO WHITE, U.S. Atty. So. District of NY '93-'02:
He and I were both very adamant that the New York
field agents who were most knowledgeable about bin
Laden and the Al Qaeda organization get over to Africa
as quickly as possible as the investigation was
unfolding because those first few days are often the
most critical to whether you capture somebody or not
or figure out who's involved.

And he and I certainly shared the view that you need
the folks who know what they're looking at in charge
of, or very much in the thick of the investigations.

FRAN TOWNSEND: I'm basically sitting at the SIOC, at
this point, as the attorney general's representative.
And so I'm running back and forth across Pennsylvania
Avenue twice a day to brief her, say, "There is
tremendous consternation about who's going to be the
office of origin." You'd think it would be bigger
things than that but you're -- in the early going,
we're involved in that discussion.

NARRATOR: The attorney general decided to stay out of
it. Fran Townsend and Mary Jo White couldn't win the
argument. And as it happened, O'Neill's other ally,
Deputy Director Bear Bryant, was out of cell phone
range, on vacation.

So the head of the criminal division, one of those men
in Louis Freeh's inner circle, Tom Pickard, was
temporarily in charge. He decided the New York team
would not take the lead in the investigation,
Washington would. And John O'Neill would not get

FRAN TOWNSEND: This is the World Series, and he's
gotten benched. And that's exactly how he feels about
it. And he is very hurt, very upset about it. And

NARRATOR: O'Neill hit the phones. He ended up venting
to Bear Bryant.

ROBERT "BEAR" BRYANT, Deputy Director FBI '97-'99: I
said, "You're going to have a stroke." He was so

INTERVIEWER: This is the first guy you heard the word
Al Qaeda and bin Laden from. Shouldn't he be there?

ROBERT "BEAR" BRYANT: Well, he wasn't.

INTERVIEWER: But that wasn't your decision. I got a
feeling that wasn't your decision.

ROBERT "BEAR" BRYANT: Well, he wasn't there.

INTERVIEWER: It wasn't your decision, was it?

ROBERT "BEAR" BRYANT: He wasn't there.

NARRATOR: After a couple of weeks, O'Neill's belief
that Al Qaeda was responsible for the bombings turned
out to be right. Headquarters reversed itself and gave
the investigation to O'Neill's New York team. But
Washington refused to send O'Neill himself. Stuck in
New York, he had to be content to learn as much as
possible long-distance from his agents.

RICHARD CLARKE, NSC Chief of Counterterrorism '92-'01:
You'd go into John's office, and on the wall there
would be a chart with lines connecting phone numbers
in the United States and phone numbers in the Middle
East and phone numbers in Africa -- names. This guy
was involved in this case, and he talked to that guy
over in that case.

NARRATOR: O'Neill's agents in east Africa had found
another training manual nearly identical to the one
found in the World Trade Center bombing. One
cooperating witness revealed that bin Laden was
planning to send operatives to the U.S for pilot
training. A computer found in a raid showed hundreds
of targets around the world already surveilled and

O'Neill's agents identified a man named Mohamed
Rasheed Daoud al-'Owhali. He led them to a safe house
in Yemen that acted as a kind of terrorist telephone
exchange, relaying messages to and from bin Laden in

[www.pbs.org: Explore the full map of connections]

RICHARD CLARKE: Certainly, after the embassy bombing
in Africa in '98, it was very obvious that what John
was saying was right, that this was more than a
nuisance, that this was a real threat.

But I don't think everyone came to the understanding
that it was an existential threat. Question was, "You
know, this group is more than a nuisance, but are they
worth going to war with? After all, they've only
attacked two embassies, and maybe that's a cost of
doing business. This kind of thing happens. Yes, we
should spend some time and some energy trying to get
them, but it's not the number-one priority we have."

NARRATOR: O'Neill's message still hadn't gotten
through, and yet he had come to believe Al Qaeda had
infiltrated the United States.

He had studied the videotapes of bin Laden's training
camp in Afghanistan. He knew thousands of Al Qaeda
fighters had been exported throughout the world. His
police contacts in Germany, Spain, Italy were tracing
their movements. But he could not convince
headquarters that they were in the United States.

CLINT GUENTHER, FBI Agent NYC - Counterterrorism: He
fully believed that they had moved in and had cells
here for a long time, that groups were coming in from
various parts of the world. And we couldn't really
find out what they were about, but we could see
movements of groups into this country.

CHRIS ISHAM: John understood that this was a global
operation and that if we were going to get a handle on
this, we had to work very, very closely with liaison
services, such as the British, the Jordanians and the
Egyptians and the Yemenis and the French.

RICHARD CLARKE: What John O'Neill was trying to do was
to get a momentum going in the FBI to look seriously
for those cells, to look for the connections, which,
frankly, most FBI offices were not doing. It was not
one of the priorities of most FBI field offices.

NARRATOR: At headquarters, as he prepared to retire,
Bear Bryant tried one last push of the reorganization
plan he and O'Neill had been talking about for years.
It would emphasize new ways of gathering and passing
on information about groups like Al Qaeda.

ROBERT "BEAR" BRYANT: The trouble with the FBI, it
never knew what it knew. I mean, it had information,
but it never got to the right places. And that goes to
automation. That goes to, you know, analysts. It goes
to a lot of things.

NARRATOR: The reform plan meandered up the ladder at
the FBI, through the Justice Department, the Congress
and the White House. But it was never enacted.

ROBERT "BEAR" BRYANT: It was never funded. It was just
-- it was put in the back burner somewhere.


ROBERT "BEAR" BRYANT: I don't know. I left in '99. I
left in December of '99. The thing I saw was that it
was never properly funded. Whether it's priorities or
whatever, I don't know. I wasn't there.

[www.pbs.org: Read the complete interview]

NARRATOR: At just this time in New York, a new crisis
was emerging that would eventually get the entire
bureau's attention. O'Neill's international contacts
were on full alert about the upcoming millennium
celebrations, and O'Neill was lobbying for a
full-blown FBI response in the United States.

MARY JO WHITE: The millennium, not only because of
what that represented symbolically -- which, again,
raises its danger value tremendously -- but also
because of intelligence we were getting throughout our
government -- had us all extremely concerned.

NARRATOR: From the New York SIOC, O'Neill and his team
began to track a case that proved his theory that Al
Qaeda had infiltrated the United States. An Algerian
national, Ahmed Ressam, had been arrested on the
border between Canada and the state of Washington.
Among his possessions they found bomb-making material
and maps. He had circled the Los Angeles airport on
this one.

RICHARD CLARKE: We had always talked about the
possibility that there were Al Qaeda cells in the
United States, and we had looked for evidence. And we
had encouraged FBI offices other than John O'Neill's
office in New York to start looking for evidence.

FRAN TOWNSEND, Deputy U.S. Attorney general '95-'01:
Anybody who's anybody, who could be anybody related to
this, we're watching. We're -- the entire FBI is

NARRATOR: The agents dug into the details of the plot.
From the plan to blow up the Los Angeles airport,
another trail led from Boston to a planned attack in
Jordan. There were other conspirators in Seattle,
Brooklyn, and Manhattan, where O'Neill was worried
about the massive New Year's Eve celebration in Times

LEWIS SCHILIRO: Certain documents were found on
Ressam's possession, documents that indicated a New
York connection -- in fact, a pretty strong connection
to New York.

FRAN TOWNSEND: John's frankly terrified. New York
presents a real target to him. He's got the New York
City Police Department, he's got hundreds of agents
working. He's got all kinds of things in his world of
work that he's got to worry about.

NARRATOR: O'Neill personally hit the streets, seeking
fast-track warrants and pushing the investigative
envelope. One of Ressam's co-conspirators lived in New
York. Abdel Meskini was supposed to deliver money and
a cell phone to Ressam. O'Neill's agents arrested him.

MARY JO WHITE: Arrests were made that, had they not
been uncovered, the plot had not been uncovered and
those arrests made, we could have had horrific
tragedies around the millennium.

NEWSCASTER: We have two million people -- two million
people -- compressed in this small area here in
mid-town Manhattan. No incidents in --

NARRATOR: O'Neill was one of those two million people.
If Al Qaeda struck here, this was where he wanted to

FRAN TOWNSEND: We were in the SIOC. The attorney
general was there. And we waited for midnight with
sort of bated breath on the East Coast. And he called
in to the SIOC, and we put him on speakerphone, and he
clearly couldn't have been any more pleased that we
had gotten through it.

LEWIS SCHILIRO: And I remember talking to John shortly
after midnight. There was a sense of accomplishment.
We had just made the arrests in the Ressam spin-off.
And you know, certainly, we believed that we got
everybody that we needed to find, but you know, you're
never really 100 percent sure of that.

RICHARD CLARKE: And so I think a lot of the FBI
leadership for the first time realized that O'Neill
was right, that there probably were Al Qaeda people in
the United States. They realized that only after they
looked at the results of the investigation of the
millennium bombing plot. So by February of 2000, I
think senior people in the FBI were saying, "There
probably is a network here in the United States, and
we have to change the way the FBI goes about finding
that network."

NARRATOR: If the bureau was finally going to
reorganize itself to take on terror, O'Neill wanted
significant influence in that process. He needed a
highly visible, powerful platform. As it happened,
Jimmy Kallstrom's old job, head of the New York
office, was open. O'Neill pulled out all the stops and
made a play for it.

FRAN TOWNSEND: He couldn't stop himself. He
desperately wanted that job. He really wanted that
promotion. And it would have been unlike John to want
something and not really throw himself into it.

NARRATOR: O'Neill aggressively lobbied. But there were
some administrative problems on his record. He'd lost
a bureau cell phone and a Palm Pilot. Then there was
the time his old Buick broke down. Val was with him.
He figured he'd just pop into an FBI safe house to
pick up a bureau car. He'd take her home, and that
would be that. But headquarters called taking the car
"unauthorized use of government property." And letting
Val use the bathroom at the safe house was considered
a security breach.

VALERIE JAMES: John went through a couple of really
bad years here. The first really bad year was in 1999.
And I believe that was the first year that the car
issue came up. And it was hideous. It was horrendous.

NARRATOR: Headquarters initiated a formal inquiry.

ROBERT "BEAR" BRYANT, Deputy Director FBI '97-'99: I
think what happens in the FBI -- it's a very
militaristic society, and you have to -- if you're
being investigated by OPR, Office of Professional
Responsibility, there's a question, they don't want to
promote somebody that's got a cloud over them, even a
minor thing like a vehicle.

NARRATOR: Bear Bryant, O'Neill's biggest supporter at
headquarters, had retired. Louis Freeh promoted his
long-time friend, Tom Pickard, to deputy director. It
was not good news for Agent O'Neill. It was Pickard
who decided O'Neill would not lead the investigation
in east Africa, and now Pickard and Freeh decided John
O'Neill would not get the big job in New York.

CHRIS ISHAM, ABC News: John was somebody that the
bureaucrats were not always pleased with because they
felt that he wasn't marching to their tune, that he
was too ambitious and too -- that he operated out of
the box too often. And this was an FBI that believed
very much, under the Freeh regime, of operating within
the box. This was a guy that was constantly pushing
the envelope, when the envelope didn't want to be
pushed. And so the envelope fought back.

NARRATOR: At 48, it looked like the bureaucracy was
sending John O'Neill a message. The old-timers had
seen it all before.

ROBERT "BEAR" BRYANT: My daddy always said don't kill
your mavericks. They might save your life some day,
and they're the ones that will always have the great
ideas. So try to take care of them. And John was a
maverick. A brilliant maverick.

NARRATOR: The buzz around the New York office was that
the new boss, Barry Mawn, wasn't keen on keeping
O'Neill around.

BARRY MAWN, Director FBI NYC '00-'02: I had heard
stories that, you know, he was "Mr. New York," that he
was the FBI in New York. And so if you needed anything
or wanted anything, you had to go through John. And he
was also -- I think he enjoyed being -- having the
contacts liaison, being a power broker, the Elaine's.
I think John enjoyed all of that.

NARRATOR: Mawn had all but made up his mind to move
O'Neill out of the New York office.

FRAN TOWNSEND: Barry was a skeptic. He had heard sort
of the headquarters gossip about John O'Neill's style,
But it was funny. I can remember saying to John,
"Barry doesn't stand a chance. If you decide to win
him over, you'll win him over. You just have to -- if
you put your mind to it, you know very well you'll do
it." And I used to tell John, John was his own best
advocate, when he put his mind to it.

BARRY MAWN: There was a knock on the door, and John
was holding two beers. And he said, "Well I understand
you're an Irishman, and you like to drink beer. These
are for you." So I laughed and said, "Well, you got
that correct." And he said, "Well, where are we at?"
referring to the relationship between us.

[www.pbs.org: Read more O'Neill anecdotes]

CHRIS ISHAM: John loved the bureau. He loved the FBI.
And he also felt that there was a lot that he could be
doing for the FBI and that, given the war on terrorism
was escalating, it wasn't in any way getting resolved,
it was getting worse and not better.

BARRY MAWN: He wanted to stay in New York. He said, "I
will be your most loyal supporter, and all I ask in
return is that you be supportive of me in my efforts."
And so I said, "Well, we got a deal. And we'll go
forward." So I -- we went forward, and essentially, he
lived up to his agreement, and I believe I lived up to
my agreement.

FRAN TOWNSEND: Bless Barry. I give him credit. Barry
saw John O'Neill's talent. He saw past the sort of --
the package issue, if you will, the style issue. And
Barry recognized John's enormous contribution and how
bright John was. And Barry came to rely on John.

NARRATOR: As the weeks wore on, and just as that
investigation about the car incident seemed a thing of
the past, headquarters ordered O'Neill to attend a
conference of other agents in Florida.

VALERIE JAMES: We were meeting in Bal Harbor at the
Marriott. John came in. He is just -- I don't remember
seeing John as distraught as he was this night. What
has happened? He told me he left his briefcase in this
room of 150 FBI agents and got a phone call, couldn't
hear on his cell phone, so he just walked outside to
take his call. Walked back in, his briefcase was gone.
He was completely freaked.

NARRATOR: O'Neill's bag contained classified
documents. Taking them out of his FBI office was
against the rules.

FRAN TOWNSEND: It's one of those moments I remember
where I was. I remember what I was doing and because I
could -- John was a -- you know, you used to say he
swaggered. You know, he had all this -- he exuded
self-confidence. And I could hear the fear in his
voice. I could hear his throat tighten. I could hear
he was wound that he had lost -- that this bag was
gone. And he knew -- even if there had been nothing in
it, his sense was, because the bureau had come down
hard on him the time before for something stupid, that
even if it was nothing more than he lost bureau
equipment, he was going to get -- this was going to
become a federal case. This was going to be a big deal
in terms of the bureau, and it was going to be used to
hurt him.

NARRATOR: Hours later, the bag was retrieved.
Fingerprint analysis showed the documents hadn't been
tampered with. But the damage was done.

RICHARDCLARKE: John always wanted to be thought of as
being close to perfect. At the end of any meeting, he
would hang around and say, "How'd I do? What can I do
better next time? What am I doing wrong?" And of
course, he was doing nothing wrong. He was doing
everything spectacularly well. But he always wanted to
do better. He always needed that reassurance.

And for him to be criticized for something like the
suitcase -- the briefcase incident, whatever the truth
value of that incident was, it hurt him a lot because
he always wanted to be thought of as close to perfect
-- perfectly dressed, perfectly briefed -- and didn't
want anybody to think that he was in any way not the
number-one guy in terms of performance.

NARRATOR: At headquarters, they pounced. Upstairs,
they said that O'Neill was getting sloppy, burning the
candle at both ends. Carrying around classified
documents was a serious problem. The FBI's Office of
Professional Responsibility began a criminal

BARRY MAWN: I knew it wasn't good. He knew it wasn't
good. He felt that this would probably be used by some
of the detractors -- unnamed detractors at
headquarters that would use this against him.

NARRATOR: O'Neill was in real trouble. He hired a
lawyer and hunkered down to save his job.

FRAN TOWNSEND: He was consumed by this job, and the
job turned on him. When he would make some foolish
mistake, they came down awfully hard on him. Given
what his contribution was, given what he had
sacrificed, there was a sense of entitlement. And it's
a terrible sense of unfairness. "Why? Because you
don't like that I had a drink at Elaine's? You don't
like my suit?" Well, because -- and he really -- he
really felt people -- he didn't -- people above him --
his view was people above him felt threatened by him,
by his expertise, and so didn't really want him

NARRATOR: As the criminal investigation against
O'Neill dragged on inside the FBI, he and his team
began noticing increased telephone activity from that
safe house in Yemen. One intercepted message,
confirmed by millennium bomber Ahmed Ressam, said bin
Laden was planning a "Hiroshima-type" event.

O'Neill had his agents paying attention to American
embassies, especially in Jordan and Saudi Arabia, and
U.S. military targets because an Egyptian informant
had told them an American warship would be hit by Al

Then, on October 12th, 2000, Al Qaeda struck. The
guided missile destroyer USS Cole was the target of a
suicide mission. Seventeen sailors died.

BARRY MAWN, Director FBI NYC '00-'02: John came to me
and said "It's Al Qaeda," and I totally agreed with
him. And he said, "You got to get to the director, and
we got to get this so the New York office responds

NARRATOR: At headquarters, down in the SIOC, there was
once again strong resistance to the idea of sending
O'Neill and his crew from New York to Yemen. It took
hours for Barry Mawn to convince Director Freeh to let
New York take the lead and to authorize O'Neill as the
on-scene commander.

INTERVIEWER: Washington Headquarters of the FBI happy
that O'Neill was going?

BARRY MAWN: My recollection is that I got questioned
on it. "Is John the best guy to send?" And I had no
hesitancy and said, "Absolutely, he's the best guy to

INTERVIEWER: Why would they have said that?

BARRY MAWN: Well, again, I think it kind of goes back
to a little bit of the history John had with some of
the folks back there, that there was probably some
questioning as, "Well, do we want to send O'Neill?"
And "He does have sharp elbows" or "His style may be
-- " they were concerned that he wasn't the best guy
to go, and that you needed someone more of a diplomat
to -- in my view, to a certain extent, is when you
have a major incident like that, you really don't need
a diplomat at that particular point in time. You need
somebody that knows what to do and is going to do it
and get it done.

NARRATOR: Headquarters gave in to Mawn. This time,
O'Neill was named on-scene commander in charge of the
Yemen investigation.

FRAN TOWNSEND: And he was like a kid. He couldn't have
been any more excited. I can remember him leaving the
office to go to his apartment to pack a bag to go. And
he was so pleased. He said, "This is it for me." You
know, "I needed this. I needed this." And in some
ways, he believed it was a vindication of him, and
that the bag incident wasn't that important, because
if it had been that important, they wouldn't have sent
him, if the bureau thought it was that important.

NARRATOR: O'Neill and the members of his rapid
deployment team immediately headed for Yemen. O'Neill
knew time was of the essence. The Al Qaeda attacks had
been coming more frequently.

CHRIS ISHAM: This was a case that he was really
pushing hard on, that he understood that this wasn't
just a venue where they set off a bomb, that there
were connections between Yemen and east Africa, and
Yemen and Afghanistan, and Yemen and Europe, and that
there were -- this was very much of an important
operational base for these guys, and that if he could
illuminate that base, that he could begin to really
put a dent in this network.

NARRATOR: But when he got to Yemen, O'Neill discovered
how hard his task was going to be.

MICHAEL DORSEY, Naval Criminal Investigative Service:
It's much like living in a 14th-century or a
15th-century country, listening to sporadic gunfire
from AK-47s. And certainly, Yemen was bin Laden's back
yard. That's where he was from. That's where his
family is from. That's where he lived. And we
recognized that. It was very difficult to get
information out of the Yemeni security forces to
actually cooperate with us initially. They were
suspect of the U.S. government being in their
territory and what our ultimate purposes were.

FRAN TOWNSEND: They're in impossible conditions, the
agents. They don't have anyplace to sleep. He's got
agents sleeping on the floor. They're working
ridiculous hours. It's hot as all get-out. And you're
in an impossible -- and it's in a hostile environment.

MICHAEL DORSEY: We had to move in caravans from the
hotel out to the Cole, or from the hotel to some of
the sites where we believed the terrorists and their
support network had been. And those were in caravans
of NCIS-FBI personnel, all armed, surrounded by Yemeni
security force personnel. So these caravans would be
8, 10, 12 cars long. It was certainly announcing our
presence. Any time we went somewhere, everybody in
that city knew who we were and where we were going.
And it gave us an uneasy feeling.

NARRATOR: To protect the hundreds of investigators on
the ground, O'Neill and American military commanders
wanted to show the Yemenis a forceful presence -- guns
ready, perimeters established. But much to O'Neill's
surprise, that approach quickly angered the American
ambassador, Barbara Bodine, who felt his actions were
harming U.S.-Yemeni government relations.

Subject: Amb. Barbara K. Bodine

Age: 53

Career Diplomat
Postings: Hong Kong

RICHARD CLARKE, NSC Chief of Counterterrorism '92-'01:
You had an ambassador who wanted to be fully in
control of everything that every American official did
in the country and resented the fact that suddenly
there were hundreds of FBI personnel in the country
and only a handful of State Department personnel. She
wanted good relations with Yemen as the number-one
priority. John O'Neill wanted to stop terrorism as the
number-one priority. And the two conflicted.

FRAN TOWNSEND, Deputy U.S. Attorney general '95-'01:
This results in meetings between the attorney general
and State, FBI, C.I.A. and Justice. But Ambassador
Pickering is at it, the undersecretary, and the
attorney general. Things are getting raised to that
kind of a level, this has become such a bone of
contention between them.

RICHARD CLARKE: Almost all of us who were following
the details in Washington, whether we were in the
Justice Department, the FBI, the White House, the
State Department, the Defense Department -- almost all
of us thought that John O'Neill was doing the right

NARRATOR: But not the higher-ups at the FBI.

BARRY MAWN, Director FBI NYC '00-'02: There may have
been people at FBI headquarters that were going, "See?
I told you so." You know, "John does upset people and
get them upset. And maybe he wasn't the right guy."
But that's -- I mean, that's all childish gossip and
rumoring, as far as I'm concerned.

NARRATOR: But on the ground in Yemen, the law
enforcement agents saw a very different John O'Neill.

MICHAEL DORSEY: I think he developed a real sense of
closeness with the senior Yemeni officials. They
referred to him in Arabic as "Alach [sp?]," which is
"the brother," and oftentimes referred to him as "the
commander" or "your commander." They had a real sense
of appreciation for his seniority in the U.S.
government and for what he represented. And I knew
that they came to trust John.

NARRATOR: For six years at the center of the FBI's
counterterrorism effort, O'Neill and his team had
built the evidence on the mounting bin Laden threat:
failed plots to kill hundreds of Americans in Jordan,
Ressam's explosives headed to LAX, an aborted Al Qaeda
plot to blow up another American warship, the USS The
Sullivans, and now the Cole. The Yemenis finally
agreed to let the FBI join in the interrogation of one
of their most prominent suspects, Fahad al Quso.

O'Neill and his agents believed al Quso knew about bin
Laden's desire to videotape the destruction of the
Cole, and possibly a whole lot more. O'Neill worked
his newly developed Yemeni police officials and old
allies in the CIA.

NARRATOR: He had come to believe that some Yemeni
officials were not being forthcoming about information
from al Quso and other suspects. It was the Khobar
Towers investigation all over again.

But the weeks were taking their toll. O'Neill needed a
break. He'd get back to al Quso after he returned from
New York at the first of the year.

VALERIE JAMES: I have to tell you, when John came home
-- he got home, I think it was two days before
Thanksgiving because he kept telling me he was going
to try to be home for Thanksgiving. He -- John had
dropped 20, 25 pounds.

NARRATOR: In New York, he plotted his return to Yemen.
He had taken a Yemeni police delegation on a tour of
Elaine's and other hotspots. He was working them,
trying to get unfettered access to al Quso and what he
knew. But then he was told he wouldn't be allowed to
return to Yemen. Ambassador Bodine denied his visa.

CHRIS ISHAM, ABC News: I mean, John was not rational
on the topic of Ambassador Barbara Bodine. He was -- I
mean, "livid" would be putting it mildly. I mean, one
can't forget that John was -- he very American, but he
was also very Irish.

INTERVIEWER: And that means?

CHRIS ISHAM: That means when he got hot, he got hot.
And he was hot. There's no question about it. I think
he felt that she was on the wrong side.

NARRATOR: Ambassador Bodine would not grant
FRONTLINE's request for an interview. She was quoted
in The New Yorker magazine. "The idea that John or his
people or the FBI were somehow barred from doing their
job is insulting to the U.S. government, which was
working on Al Qaeda before John ever showed up. This
is all my embassy did for 10 months."

For weeks, the ambassador had been making the case
against O'Neill, even lobbying Louis Freeh. Finally,
her accusations had their intended effect.
Headquarters supported her decision not to let O'Neill
back into Yemen.

BARRY MAWN: John was upset. She was bad-mouthing him.
She had caused a stir at headquarters. I actually
think John was more disappointed that our headquarters
didn't back us, as far as sending him back and taking
a stronger stand with the State Department.
Eventually, our headquarters said, "Well, let's try
and work around not having John go back." And so
that's what I had to do.

NARRATOR: So O'Neill would not be in Yemen. The
investigation slowed to a crawl.

MICHAEL SHEEHAN, Chief Counterterrorism, State Dept.
'98-'01: I watched with dismay as the issue of the USS
Cole completely disappeared from the U.S. scene,
completely -- again, in a new administration. It was
just not on their agenda. Clearly, it was not on the
agenda of the Congress, the media or anyone else.
Again, it went into oblivion.

NARRATOR: By spring, intelligence about Al Qaeda
forces in Yemen convinced O'Neill they were about to
target his agents. O'Neill pleaded with Barry Mawn to
pull them out, and Mawn agreed. O'Neill's
investigation in Yemen was effectively over.

[www.pbs.org: More on the FBI, CIA and Yemen]

CHRIS ISHAM: We don't know what would have happened if
John could have done his job in Yemen and had really
had the full back-up to go and to really push in Yemen
and what kind of networks he could have exposed. But
you know, we do know there were Yemenis involved in
the attacks of September 11th. So is it possible that
if he had been able to really open up that network and
really expose that network, that he could have in some
way deterred the tragedy of September 11th? I don't
think we know, but it's sad because we won't know the
answer to that. But I think there is a fighting -- he
would have had had a fighting chance if he'd been able
to do his job.

NARRATOR: By early summer of 2001, other intelligence
services were putting the Bush White House on full
alert. Every single indication was that Al Qaeda was
planning a major attack on the United States.

RICHARD CLARKE: In June of 2001, the intelligence
community issued a warning that a major Al Qaeda
terrorist attack would take place in the next many
weeks. They said they were unable to find out exactly
where it might take place. They said they thought it
might take place in Saudi Arabia. We asked, "Could it
take place in the United States?" They said, "We can't
rule that out."

And so in my office in the White House complex, the
CIA sat, briefed the domestic U.S. federal law
enforcement agencies, Immigration, Federal Aviation,
Coast Guard, Customs -- and the FBI was there, as
well, agreeing with CIA -- told them that we were
entering a period where there was a very high
probability of a major terrorist attack.

NARRATOR: In New York, O'Neill was also convinced Al
Qaeda had picked a target. But he was by now more
marginalized than ever at the FBI. And so in July of
2001, when that memo from the Phoenix office pleading
for investigations of flight schools made its way to
headquarters, it was not passed on to O'Neill or Mawn
in New York, nor was the struggle that August of the
Minnesota office to investigate the alleged 20th
hijacker, Zacarias Moussaoui.

The most sophisticated office in the FBI, the office
that, under O'Neill, had been dealing with these
matters for six years, apparently was out of the loop.

CHRIS ISHAM: John had heard the alarm bells, too, and
we used to talk about it. And he knew that there was a
lot of noise out there and that there were a lot of
warnings, a lot of red flags, and that it was at a
similar level that they were hearing before the
millennium, which was an indication that there was
something going on. And yet he felt that he was frozen
out, that he was not in a capacity to really do
anything about it anymore because of his relationship
with the FBI. So it was a source of real anguish for

NARRATOR: O'Neill's after-hours reveries around
Manhattan took on a morose quality. He knew it was
time to go. But where? His friend at the White House,
Dick Clarke, had an idea.

RICHARD CLARKE, NSC Chief of Counterterrorism '92-'01:
Shortly after the Bush administration came into
office, the question came, "Well, who would you
recommend to do the terrorism job?" And I came up with
four or five names. The first name that came to mind
was John O'Neill.

NARRATOR: But the job required Senate confirmation.
The FBI would have to endorse him, and O'Neill knew
better than to believe they would. And then, 13 months
after that briefcase incident, with the investigation
still open, a well-placed leak to a newspaper made
sure his government career was over.

FRAN TOWNSEND: The New York Times is now starting to
ask questions about that incident both at the
headquarters level and at the New York field office.
In spite of sort of Jimmy Kallstrom and others trying
to persuade The New York Times that somebody had an
agenda here, this was really sort of ill-motivated, it
was clear that they were going to run with it.

VALERIE JAMES: And that was the final nail in John
O'Neill's coffin that they were going to use to have
him retire.

INTERVIEWER: Did he know who did it?

VALERIE JAMES: He suspected.

INTERVIEWER: Did he confront them?


INTERVIEWER: And what happened?

VALERIE JAMES: It was completely denied. The person
that he felt did it said, "Absolutely not. Wouldn't
want to hurt you in any way, shape or form."

INTERVIEWER: It's been reported that was Tom Pickard.

VALERIE JAMES: That's who John felt it was, Tom
Pickard. And John really never knew. He was out to get
John for a long time, and John never really knew why.

NARRATOR: At the time, Tom Pickard was interim

Posted by richard at April 15, 2004 10:12 AM