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FBI Agent Slams Bosses at Moussaoui Trial

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  • Greg Cannon
    http://www.breitbart.com/news/2006/03/20/D8GFKGTO0.html FBI Agent Slams Bosses at Moussaoui Trial Mar 20 7:27 PM US/Eastern By MICHAEL J. SNIFFEN Associated
    Message 1 of 1 , Mar 20, 2006
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      http://www.breitbart.com/news/2006/03/20/D8GFKGTO0.html

      FBI Agent Slams Bosses at Moussaoui Trial
      Mar 20 7:27 PM US/Eastern

      By MICHAEL J. SNIFFEN
      Associated Press Writer

      ALEXANDRIA, Va.

      The FBI agent who arrested Zacarias Moussaoui in
      August 2001 testified Monday he spent almost four
      weeks trying to warn U.S. officials about the radical
      Islamic student pilot but "criminal negligence" by
      superiors in Washington thwarted a chance to stop the
      9/11 attacks.

      FBI agent Harry Samit of Minneapolis originally
      testified as a government witness, on March 9, but his
      daylong cross examination by defense attorney Edward
      MacMahon was the strongest moment so far for the
      court-appointed lawyers defending Moussaoui. The
      37-year-old Frenchman of Moroccan descent is the only
      person charged in this country in connection with
      al-Qaida's Sept. 11, 2001, attacks on the World Trade
      Center and the Pentagon.

      MacMahon displayed a communication addressed to Samit
      and FBI headquarters agent Mike Maltbie from a bureau
      agent in Paris relaying word from French intelligence
      that Moussaoui was "very dangerous," had been
      indoctrinated in radical Islamic Fundamentalism at
      London's Finnsbury Park mosque, was "completely
      devoted" to a variety of radical fundamentalism that
      Osama bin Laden espoused, and had been to Afghanistan.

      Based on what he already knew, Samit suspected that
      meant Moussaoui had been to training camps there,
      although the communication did not say that.

      The communication arrived Aug. 30, 2001. The Sept. 11
      Commission reported that British intelligence told
      U.S. officials on Sept 13, that Moussaoui had attended
      an al-Qaida training camp in Afghanistan. "Had this
      information been available in late August 2001, the
      Moussaoui case would almost certainly have received
      intense, high- level attention," the commission
      concluded.

      But Samit told MacMahon he couldn't persuade FBI
      headquarters or the Justice Department to take his
      fears seriously. No one from Washington called Samit
      to say this intelligence altered the picture the agent
      had been painting since Aug. 18 in a running battle
      with Maltbie and Maltbie's boss, David Frasca, chief
      of the radical fundamentalist unit at headquarters.

      They fought over Samit's desire for a warrant to
      search Moussaoui's computer and belongings. Maltbie
      and Frasca said Samit had not established a link
      between Moussaoui and terrorists.

      Samit testified that on Aug. 22 he had learned from
      the French that Moussaoui had recruited someone to go
      to Chechnya in 2000 to fight with Islamic radicals
      under Emir Ibn al-Khattab. He said a CIA official told
      him on Aug. 22 or 23 that al-Khattab had fought
      alongside bin Laden in the past. This, too, failed to
      sway Maltbie or Frasca.

      Under questioning from MacMahon, Samit acknowledged
      that he had told the Justice Department inspector
      general that "obstructionism, criminal negligence and
      careerism" on the part of FBI headquarters officials
      had prevented him from getting a warrant that would
      have revealed more about Moussaoui's associates. He
      said that opposition blocked "a serious opportunity to
      stop the 9/11 attacks."

      The FBI's actions between Moussaoui's arrest, in
      Minnesota on immigration violations on Aug. 16, 2001,
      and Sept. 11, 2001, are crucial to his trial because
      prosecutors allege that Moussaoui's lies prevented the
      FBI from discovering the identities of 9/11 hijackers
      and the Federal Aviation Administration from taking
      airport security steps.

      But MacMahon made clear the Moussaoui's lies never
      fooled Samit. The agent sent a memo to FBI
      headquarters on Aug. 18 accusing Moussaoui of plotting
      international terrorism and air piracy over the United
      States, two of the six crimes he pleaded guilty to in
      2005.

      To obtain a death penalty, prosecutors must prove that
      Moussaoui's actions led directly to the death of at
      least one person on 9/11.

      Moussaoui pleaded guilty last April to conspiring with
      al-Qaida to fly planes into U.S. buildings. But he
      says he had nothing to do with 9/11 and was training
      to fly a 747 jetliner into the White House as part of
      a possible later attack.

      Samit's complaints echoed those raised in 2002 by
      Coleen Rowley, the bureau's agent-lawyer in the
      Minneapolis office, who tried to help get a warrant.
      Rowley went public with her frustrations, was named a
      Time magazine person of the year for whistleblowing
      and is now running for Congress.

      Samit revealed far more than Rowley of the details of
      the investigation.

      MacMahon walked Samit through e-mails and letters the
      agent sent seeking help from the FBI's London, Paris
      and Oklahoma City offices, FBI headquarters files, the
      CIA's counterterrorism center, the Secret Service, the
      Immigration and Naturalization Service, the Federal
      Aviation Administration, an intelligence agency not
      identified publicly by name in court (possibly the
      National Security Agency), and the FBI's Iran, Osama
      bin Laden, radical fundamentalist, and national
      security law units at headquarters.

      Samit described useful information from French
      intelligence and the CIA before 9/11 but said he was
      not told that CIA Director George Tenet was briefed on
      the Moussaoui threat on Aug. 23 and never saw until
      after 9/11 a memo from an FBI agent in Phoenix about
      radical Islamists taking flight training there.

      For each nugget of information, MacMahon asked Samit
      if Washington officials called to assess the
      implications. Time after time, Samit said no.

      MacMahon introduced an Aug. 31 letter Samit drafted
      "to advise the FAA of a potential threat to security
      of commercial aircraft" from whomever Moussaoui was
      conspiring with.

      But Maltbie barred him from sending it to FAA
      headquarters, saying he would handle that, Samit
      testified. The agent added that he did tell FAA
      officials in Minneapolis of his suspicions.

      ___

      Associated Press Writer Matthew Barakat contributed to
      this report.
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