FBI Informant Says Agency Blew Chance to Stop 9/11

Tomorrow is the 8th anniversary of the 9/11 attacks. Tonight, on ABC World News with Charles Gibson and Nightline, Elie Assaad, a former FBI informant, says he became suspicious of Mohammed Atta in early 2001, when the FBI sent him to infiltrate a small mosque outside Miami. Atta was there with Adnan Shukrujuman, an al Qaeda fugitive who now has a $5 million U.S. reward on his head.

Assaad, who worked in at least 10 states and overseas since becoming an FBI operative in 199, tells ABC News the FBI was so focused on undercover stings they missed a chance to stop Mohammed Atta and prevent the al Qaeda plot.

Assaad, who posed as "Mohammed" – a personal representative of Osama bin Laden, says he's a "million percent positive" the 9/11 attacks could have been stopped if the FBI had gone after Atta and Shukrujumah. But because Atta and his men were suspicious of the FBI undercover operative, and secretive, Assaad says his FBI agent handlers sent him after the easier target – two wannabe terrorists whose cases were easy to crack and who were both eventually convicted and sent to prison.


The FBI won't comment, but Former national security official Richard Clarke, says the case is "yet another example of the way the system broke down prior to 9/11."

"If the system had worked," Clarke said, "we might have been able to identify these people before the attacks."

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    Assaad's re-assignment (5.00 / 1) (#7)
    by cal1942 on Fri Sep 11, 2009 at 04:07:27 AM EST
    to lower hanging fruit makes me conclude that the FBI is very stat concious like many police agencies.

    Why risk failure? (5.00 / 3) (#8)
    by Fabian on Fri Sep 11, 2009 at 07:14:55 AM EST
    Being risk averse, especially when it comes to the perception of failure, isn't unique to law enforcement.  Some people fight the good fight even if they might fail and some people prefer small victories to any failure.  

    We are all judged by our numbers.  Lawyers need to win, prosecutors need to convict, hospitals need to heal, schools need to graduate students.  The ways we measure productivity are skewed, but we are all held to others' standards, even if we don't agree with them.


    These kinds of revelations upset me (none / 0) (#1)
    by shoephone on Thu Sep 10, 2009 at 06:17:56 PM EST
    for two reasons:

    1. They show just how inept our intelligence agencies were at the time -- even after the first WTO bombing, after Tanzania and Kenya, and after Colleen Rowley and Richard Clark were running around with their "hair on fire" trying to warn the agencies and the administration.

    2. They give ammunition to the wacky truthers and, already, I cannot abide them.

    Anyone who believes the truthers (5.00 / 1) (#2)
    by andgarden on Thu Sep 10, 2009 at 06:27:39 PM EST
    will believe anything. I mean, you have to believe that Barbara Olson was considered expendable.  

    Unfortunately, (none / 0) (#4)
    by shoephone on Thu Sep 10, 2009 at 06:46:07 PM EST
    there are people who believe the truther nonsense. I know that science and common sense mean nothing to them and that they will not go away, with or without these new revelations.

    I wish we could focus on the import of the revelations without the conspiracy nuts creating their white noise in the background. It's one of the reasons I stopped reading so many so-called "lefty" blogs.


    Disturbing, but not surprising. (none / 0) (#3)
    by inclusiveheart on Thu Sep 10, 2009 at 06:37:22 PM EST
    I'll never forget that the authorities were able to give the media 18 of 19 of the hijackers' photos and dossier information within 48 hours after the attack.  That means that they knew who they were - which was widely reported here in DC during that first week afterwards.

    I thought that you don't trust snitches... (none / 0) (#5)
    by diogenes on Thu Sep 10, 2009 at 08:55:55 PM EST
    Gee, you always say that snitches can't be trusted for anything.  Are you now saying that FBI informants are highly dependable?

    20/20 hindsight (none / 0) (#6)
    by Fabian on Thu Sep 10, 2009 at 10:46:49 PM EST
    I'm glad that we actually knew who they were.  It would be worse if we had been totally clueless.

    Now we trust informants (none / 0) (#9)
    by maddog on Fri Sep 11, 2009 at 08:33:13 AM EST
    In just about every other post on this blog about informants, it is said "they can't be trusted",  "they are out to save themselves", etc.  But in this case, because it may make the former administration look bad, well then "Why didn't we listen to the informant?"  Now the FBI is incompetent for not using informant information and all they care about is numbers.  

    The hypocrisy is astounding.


    I'd certainly take... (none / 0) (#10)
    by kdog on Fri Sep 11, 2009 at 09:03:29 AM EST
    anything an informant says with many many grains of salt...they are inherently not credible...professional liars.

    That being said, this certainly sounds like our law enforcement m.o....get a bust, any bust.


    Oy. (none / 0) (#11)
    by sarcastic unnamed one on Fri Sep 11, 2009 at 09:45:51 AM EST
    "If only you'd listened to me this never would have happened."


    FBI, etc. (none / 0) (#12)
    by norris morris on Fri Sep 11, 2009 at 05:05:12 PM EST
    There is absolutely nothing new here. We all know there was a monumental failure of intelligence, and no coordination  between FBI and CIA.  FBI didn't  and [still may not] have a workable, current and sophisticated computer system in place.

    The head of security at the WTC predicted that an attack was imminent. As an ex intelligence operative he gave warnings that went unheeded, and he too  perished on 9/11.

    On 9/11 New York City was left wanting for coordination between first responders Fire Dept and Police Dept. Guilliani had stubbornly created a huge bunker/orginization for himself at the WTC after being warned that this could compromise the city in the event of attack. Had he created one  in an outer borough there would have been an effective command post. Guiliani and Kerik were on the street as they had no place to go.

    But at great cost to the city, Guiliani proceeded to enshrine himself at the WTC and of course on 9/11 he had no operations center. Also along with his corrupt Police Chief Kerik, there  was no communications plan  in place in the event of such an emergency.

    Guiliani's bad judgement caused the unnecessary deaths of many police and fire fighters as  no communication had been enabled for them.

    Our Air Command was also at sea and confused, and there were mixed signals all over the place. Even Cheney's orders to take out '93 could not be enacted in time. I won't even discuss the debacle at the Pentagon.

    We all know too that Bush,Condi and Co were all warned from CIA,Clinton, Clarke, et al.about Bin Laden.

    So why is this news? Today as a New Yorker who lived through this nightmare  the lesson of  9/11 has become a day for every sleazy phony patriot politician to strut their stuff. Guiliani has virtually lived on the myth about himself he's created about 9/11.  Bloomberg has put many new security plans in place, but I wish we knew more about the questions that haunt us about overall security in NYC and the country.

    Have we learned anything?