Missed Opportunities
August 2, 2006 6:11 PM   Subscribe

Missed Opportunities...Lawrence Wright tells, for the first time, the story of the F.B.I. agent who had the best chance of foiling the 9/11 plot. Here, with Amy Davidson, Wright talks about how turf wars with the C.I.A. got in the way. Wright’s book “The Looming Tower: Al-Qaeda and the Road to 9/11” will be published by Knopf in August.
posted by Postroad (13 comments total) 1 user marked this as a favorite
See also "The Man Who Knew" for more about another FBI agent that had some inkling.
posted by Eekacat at 6:59 PM on August 2, 2006

I read the original article by Wright in the New Yorker, and its both amazing and extremely disheartning. It illustrates so many of the ways our nation is failing in the war against Al Qaeda:

Here we had two Al Qaeda operatives living in California for a year and a half. Ali Soufan, the FBI agent, had all the pieces necessary to link them to the Al-Qaeda via the Malaysia meeting, but it never happened due to the wall between the FBI and CIA.

Soufan was one of eight Arabic speaking FBI agents when he joined the agency. Eight. It would be interesting to hear how much the agency has improved in their efforts to get agents of Arab descent.

Soufan was successful in actually getting useful information out of terrorists using direct, humane means. He treated his subjects like human beings, debated Muslim theology with them, and ultimately won them over and got info. The great tragedy of torture that the CIA/administration insist on is that it just doesn't work. The strong resist, and the weak say anything to get it stop. Alfred McCoy's book on torture covers this in depth. The FBI maintains a sympathetic, emotional approach to interrogation, which gets accurate info more often then not, but the administration has gone with torture. Our country will carry that damaging heritage for a long time.

Finally, there is "the wall" between the different intelligence agencies that Wright and many others have covered extensively. Now we have Homeland Security, so another layor of beauracracy to restrict the flow of info.

Its truly amazing to me that we haven't been attacked many times over since 9-11.
posted by rsanheim at 7:23 PM on August 2, 2006

Eekacat: its funny you link to an article on O'Neil, as he discovered Ali Soufan and was a good friend and mentor while he was in the FBI. The information and "what if's" that the PBS report shows are the same ones Soufan was investigation as the lead on O'Neils team. So they were really all part of the same investigation that got so close to stopping 9-11.
posted by rsanheim at 7:27 PM on August 2, 2006

It illustrates so many of the ways our nation is failing in the war against Al Qaeda.

Not to mention that, most of all, Al Quaeda is an idea. The only way to win a war against an idea is with a better idea.
posted by ZenMasterThis at 8:08 PM on August 2, 2006

rsanheim, yes I thought that link dovetailed nicely with the FPP. It's astounding how much was actually known, and how bullshit political crap kept them from preventing it. Thing is, I don't see the political crap changing any time soon.
posted by Eekacat at 8:09 PM on August 2, 2006

That was a very interesting article and what happend to O'Neil is a particularly bitter irony.
posted by ob at 8:41 PM on August 2, 2006

The full New Yorker article which ran about a month ago by Larry Wright was gut-wrenching reading. All the missed opportunities. All the inter-departmental fuck ups.

As much as I can't wait to read this book, I'm afraid it's the kind of thing that will drain me of any faith in our government that still remains.
posted by ColdChef at 8:51 PM on August 2, 2006

ColdChef: Agreed, I'm sure it will have much the same effect of Hersch's latest book in destroying any remaining faith I have left in the gov't.

Ignorance really is bliss.

posted by rsanheim at 10:47 PM on August 2, 2006

Because the US Government is run by an MBA, surely the rolling heads will ....
posted by rough ashlar at 3:41 AM on August 3, 2006

Don't be silly, the first instinct of business is always to paper over problems, lest the shareholders lose trust and sell the stock.

I haven't read the hole interview, but I think the New Yorker missed an opportunity:
We’ve heard about the warnings that went unheeded before 9/11, and the famous Presidential daily intelligence briefing with the headline “Bin Laden Determined to Attack Inside the U.S.” Do you think that a warning from Soufan would have been received differently?
The real issue is, if the "Bin Laden determined to attack" brief had led to a heightened alert level (ala Clinton at the millennium), the odds of this information finding an ear would have been much higher.
posted by Chuckles at 6:48 AM on August 3, 2006

Wait...according to "Loose Change" the whole thing was an inside job. You mean to tell me now that it wasn't?

Help, my head hurts.
posted by dsquid at 7:15 AM on August 3, 2006

"I call upon all nations to do everything they can to stop these terrorist killers. Thank you...Now, watch this drive." -- George .W Bush, September 10, 2001
posted by neuron at 1:09 PM on August 3, 2006

rsanheim wrote: It would be interesting to hear how much the agency has improved in their efforts to get agents of Arab descent.

The FBI has put some billboards down in Warrendale (heavily Arab part of Detroit), but that doesn't do much next to FBI agents defacing Qurans and scribbling anti-Muslim grafitti on the walls of apartments they are searching. Or the general bullying of Muslim and/or Arab people on the streets.
posted by QIbHom at 8:31 AM on August 5, 2006

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