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  The Observer  
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  In this section
~This week's Observer International news

~Islam and the West: special report

~War in Afghanistan: special report

~Liberty Watch: Observer campaign

~Observer Terrorism comment in full

~War on terrorism: view from America

~Observer Worldview: international commentary

~9/11 satire: Chris Morris Observer special

Agent blasts FBI over 11 September 'cover-up'

US plan to strike enemy with Valium

Ground Zero operation winds down

Bin Laden mastermind 'still hiding in Britain'

Britain's most wanted

Defiant Iraq resigned to Bush attack

Bug is due to army medical cuts

Marines are 'psyched' and 'desperate' to begin battle

~Troops fight boredom in the war on terror

'Secret' war prevents us from learning the truth

British-led Operation Snipe mounts big push and heads for the hills

Indonesia uses war on terror to win US arms

The path to destruction

Kabul blooms as war recedes

Return to Islamabad

The inside story: how the crisis developed

How the perfect terrorist plotted the ultimate crime

Al-Qaeda's bombers used Britain to plot slaughter

Bin Laden's men wait to take bloody revenge

The making of the world's most wanted man

~The making of the world's most wanted man: Part 2

~Bin Laden and son: the grooming of a dynasty

How bin Laden network spread its tentacles

~Bin Laden's global network

~Hazem Saghiyeh: Al-Qaeda loses itself in dream world

What the US papers say

Inside a vile republic

Our enemy's enemies

Should we go to war against Saddam?

From friend to foe

How to deal with the American goliath

~David L. Mack: Iraq after Saddam

~David Rose: Why the doves are wrong - again

~John Lloyd: How anti-Americanism betrays the left

With a friend like this...

Iraq war could be Blair's nemesis

~Mary Riddell: Let go of Dubya's coat-tails

~Nick Cohen: Blair's just a Bush baby

~The ex-CIA man: 'Bombing Saddam is ignorance'

Blair to back US war on Iraq

~Army fear over Blair war plans (17 March)

~Bush wants 25,000 UK Iraq force (10 March 2002)

~Blair and Bush to plot war on Iraq (24 Feb 2002)

~Bush's secret US plan for Iraq war (2 Dec 2001)

~Iraq warns West against 'unjust' attack (28 Oct 2001)

Tell us, Mr Bush

Has the US lost its way?

~Henry Porter: The triumph of reason

~Kanan Makiya: Fighting Islam's Ku Klux Klan

New world, but the same old disorder

Yes, the world has changed

~We must respond - wisely (Sept 23 2001)

~Seek justice, not war (Sept 16 2001)

Terror law takes liberties

MI6: We now need twice as many spies

Bush knew of terrorist plot to hijack US planes

A bad call?

America gears up for a new kind of war

~Outrage as Pentagon nuclear hitlist revealed

Why America isn't listening

Is America too powerful for its own good?

Armed to the teeth

Why military power is no longer enough

Americans are masters of destruction

Old buddies' act hides a powerful alliance

His greatest gamble

Blair on the war: the Observer interview in full

~Blair: I will strive for peace in Middle East

Six months that changed a year

Terror's march backwards

~Your letters on the 9/11 special: Satirical or just sick?

Out of the ashes

~Leader: Yes, the world has changed

My world changed forever

~795,763 tonnes of building rubble, and other facts

~Where is Osama bin Laden?

America gears up for a new kind of war

~US military might - the facts

~How experts see the world now

Americans are masters of destruction

Economic winners and losers

Terror law takes liberties

New York: Big, bad and back to its ballsy best

A mass grave or prime real estate?

The recovery: 'You must mind the mini earthquakes and 30ft drops'

Twin Towers finally give up their grim haul

'Let's roll...'

New York factfile

Charting the progress of British forces

Unfinished Business

The rout of the Taliban

~The rout of the Taliban. Part two

Afghan voices

The making of a human timebomb

~Unanswered questions

~MI5 blunders over bomber

AK-47 training held at London mosque

~Terror video used to lure UK Muslims

~'You have to kill in the name of Allah until you are killed'

Two months on, the new battles at Ground Zero

The attack: when our world changed forever

~When our world changed forever (part three)

~When our world changed forever (part two)

'We close our eyes and say a prayer, although I don't know who I'm praying to. There is no God.'

~Toby Young: When the city found its soul

~Henry Porter: Nobler Manhattan

~Henry Porter: Drinks and dignity in the rubble

The globalisation debate

Special report: attack on America

Special report: terrorism crisis

Special report: Afghanistan

Special report: Pakistan

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Agent blasts FBI over 11 September 'cover-up'

Terrorism crisis - Observer special

Edward Helmore
Sunday May 26, 2002
The Observer


The FBI was under intense pressure yesterday to explain why its top officials had apparently stymied efforts by their own agents to investigate a long and clear pattern of evidence that Islamic extremists were plotting terror attacks on US soil.

In a letter to FBI director Robert Mueller, Coleen Rowley, the FBI agent in Minnesota who tipped off her superiors last August to the activities of Zacarias Moussaoui, the alleged '20th hijacker' and the sole person charged in the 11 September attacks, accused the agency of operating in 'a climate of fear which has chilled aggressive... law enforcement action'.

In a scathing indictment, Rowley accused her supervisor of altering her application to investigate Moussaoui in order to play down the significance of information provided by French intelligence that Moussaoui was a suspected terrorist - not merely a radical Islamic fundamentalist.

Rowley accused Mueller of making 'misleading' statements on how the FBI handled the Moussaoui case before and after 11 September, and claimed Mueller had covered up FBI mistakes.

Rowley said she and her Minneapolis colleagues came to the 'sad realization that someone, possibly with your approval, had decided to circle the wagons at FBI headquarters in an apparent attempt to protect the FBI from embarrassment and the relevant FBI officials from scrutiny. I have deep concerns that a delicate and subtle shading - skewing of facts by you and others at the highest levels of FBI management - has occurred and is occurring.'

In Washington, there is growing fury at the daily revelations of FBI incompetence and accusations of trying to deflect responsibility. Senator Charles E. Grassley, a frequent FBI critic, expressed outrage after he learned of the letter. 'Director Mueller can label this letter classified but a cover-up is not going to work,' he said.

Furthermore, Rowley disputes FBI claims that their failure to act last summer did not make a difference in preventing the attacks. After her application to investigate Moussaoui was turned down, Rowley took her suspicions to the CIA. She was later reprimanded for going to the rival agency.

The impression of incompetence at FBI headquarters in Washington is further underscored by new revelations that Rowley's 'Minnesota memo' was sent to the same counter-terrorism supervisor who received the now infamous 'Phoenix memo' that warned of Arab nationals enrolled in flight schools who should be urgently investigated.

For unknown reasons, David Frasca, who heads the FBI's Radical Fundamentalist Unit, did not see Agent Kenneth Williams's 'Phoenix memo' until after 11 September, officials said yesterday. A congressional official who asked not to be identified said lawmakers will seek to determine whether Frasca did in fact see Williams's memo and why his unit never adequately linked Williams's suspicions to the Moussaoui case.

Why Frasca did not see the Phoenix memo is likely to be the key question in a congressional intelligence committee inquiry into the spectacular failure of intelligence and interpretation in the months before the World Trade Centre attacks.

As one congressional source said, the two cases were 'at the same desk. You'd think they could have put it together. The only explanations can be that either [Frasca] did not make the mental connection or he did not read a memo that was addressed to him'.

Williams has accused his superiors of ignoring abundant evidence that Middle Eastern extremists were operating in Arizona. In a letter written five months before the Phoenix memo last July, he complained that counter-terrorism was 'the lowest investigative priority in the Phoenix Division'.

As far back as 1994, Williams wrote, his office had evidence of Islamic potential terrorists operating in the region. That year agents were monitoring a Phoenix FBI informant who had been recruited as a suicide bomber, he said. One of those recruiting the informant, according to a source, was linked to a terrorist involved in the 1993 World Trade Centre bombing.

Bush in Europe
26.05.2002: Bush grins again after summit hiccup
26.05.2002: Henry Porter: Don't wag your finger at us, Mr Bush
26.05.2002: Dan Plesch: Why Bush's deal doesn't make the world safer
Worldview highlights: debating America

Terrorism crisis
26.05.2002: Agent blasts FBI over 11 September 'cover-up'
26.05.2002: US plan to strike enemy with Valium
War on Terrorism

Afghanistan
26.05.2002: Jason Burke on life at Bagram air base
War in Afghanistan

More from The Observer
Observer Worldview
The Bush files: special report
War on Terrorism: The Iraq debate
Observer international news

More from Guardian Unlimited
Special report: George Bush's America
17.03.2002: Should we go to war against Saddam?
24.03.2002: Toby Dodge: Iraq and the Bush doctrine
03.03.2002: Mary Riddell: Let go of Dubya's coat-tails
24.02.2002: Andrew Rawnsley: How to deal with the American goliath
17.02.2002: Terry Jones: OK, George, make with the friendly bombs
17.02.2002: Will Hutton: Backing Bush could be New Labour's nemesis
16.12.2001: David L Mack: Iraq after Saddam
02.12.2001: David Rose: Why the doves are wrong, again
23.12.2001: Henry Porter: The triumph of reason

Special reports
Observer Worldview
The globalisation debate
Special report: Enron
War on Terrorism





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