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Feature Story September 19, 2002
John O'Neill: An Unbelievable Life
By Mark Ames Browse author Email
Page 2 of 8
In 1997, O'Neill continued his ascent, moving to the FBI's National Security Division office in New York where he became the special agent in charge of counter-terrorism. His specialty was Islamic extremism.

In a speech about terrorism that year, O'Neill said: "A lot of these groups now have the capability and the support infrastructure in the U.S. to attack us here, if they choose to."

In 1998, O'Neill headed the FBI's investigation into the bombing of the American embassies in Kenya and Tanzania, which were blamed on Osama bin Laden's al Qaeda. O'Neill was already familiar with bin Laden from his investigations into the 1993 World Trade Center bombing and the 1996 bombing of the Khobar Towers barracks in Saudi Arabia, in which 19 American servicemen died.

Barry W. Mawn, assistant director of the F.B.I. in charge of the New York office, is quoted as saying that from the time O'Neill set up in the New York division, he was single-mindedly obsessed with pursuing bin Laden. He became the government's leading expert as well as its lead investigative weapon in the fight against al Qaeda. On the eve of the millennium, the government, acting on information gathered by the FBI, issued warnings that al Qaeda was planning large terrorist acts. At least two plots, one at Los Angeles International Airport and another in Jordan targeting Americans, were foiled.

In another millennium plot, Islamic terrorists tried to blow up a U.S. warship docked in Yemen's port. The attack narrowly failed when the rubber dinghy sank due to the weight of the explosives before it could reach the ships.

Ten months later -- despite all the warning a terrorist could give -- another al Qaeda suicide bomber succeeded in getting his rubber dinghy up to the side of another American warship, the USS Cole, in Yemen's harbor, killing 17 US sailors.

O'Neill led the investigation into the bombing of the Cole, which again was blamed on Osama bin Laden. And this is where the story starts to get very weird.

As O'Neill and his team probed deeper into the Cole bombing, his investigation was abruptly thwarted by, of all people, the United States ambassador to Yemen, Barbara Bodine. In the official version reported in the American press almost a year later, O'Neill's team was booted out of Yemen in November, 2000, because Bodine objected to O'Neill's "heavy-handed style." Another State Department source at the time confirmed that Bodine refused to allow O'Neill and his team to return to continue their investigation because his team was "too large" and many of the agents carried "heavy weapons" -- automatics -- that she found objectionable.

This account of how a local ambassador was able to thwart the single most important investigation to America's national security just because she didn't like the lead investigator's manners is impossible to swallow. What's more incredible is that the FBI allegedly wasn't allowed to return to Yemen to continue their investigation until Bodine left her ambassadorship in August 2001. Keep that date in mind, August 2001. A lot of people seemed to retire right around then. But I'll get to that later.

Bodine is an interesting character herself. She had served as the State Department's Political-Military officer for the Arabian Peninsula, as Deputy Principal Officer in the embassy in Baghdad and then moved to Deputy Chief of Mission in Kuwait during the Iraqi invasion and occupation in 1990. She was one of the last Americans to leave Kuwait. In 1997 Bodine, after serving as the State Department's associate director in counter-terrorism, was appointed ambassador to Yemen, birthplace of bin Laden.

Clearly Bodine wasn't your typical rich-donor ambassador. Yet just as clearly, she couldn't have stopped O'Neill's, and the FBI's, investigation, all on her own. The move must have been blessed by then-Secretary of State Madeleine Albright and/or others at her level. The coincidences in Bodine's timing should alone raise eyebrows: the FBI's lead al Qaeda expert barred from investigating the terrorists' attack from November 2000 until August 2001 -- that is, until the next attack. If it's not strange, it is at the very least infuriating as hell that the investigation was thwarted due to bad manners. It's possible that information from the Cole investigation could have led to information about the 9/11 plans. Why wasn't this ever mentioned in press accounts? Why don't they care enough to push it further? I WANNA KNOW!

The Seige: Another example of careless plotting and low-rent coincidence

The Seige: Another example of careless plotting and low-rent coincidence

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Megatons and Memory Holes : Richard Rhodes, Richard Perle, and the Man Who Saved the World

Feis The Music! Buns Moons Moscow Nightclubs :

Your Letters :
Who Whacked Kozlov?
Who Whacked Kozlov? : An update on last year’s Central Bank murder mystery


Save The eXile: The War Nerd Calls Mayday
The future of The eXile is in your hands! We're holding a fundraiser to save the paper, and your soul. Tune in to Gary Brecher's urgent request for reinforcements and donate as much as you can. If you don't, we'll be overrun and wiped off the face of the earth, forever.

Scanning Moscow’s Traffic Cops
Automotive Section
We’re happy to introduce a new column in which we publish Moscow’s raw radio communications, courtesy of a Russian amateur radio enthusiast. This issue, eXile readers are given a peek into the secret conversations of Moscow’s traffic police, the notorious "GAIshniki."

Eleven Years of Threats: The eXile's Incredible Journey
Feature Story By The eXile
Good Night, and Bad Luck: In a nation terrorized by its own government, one newspaper dared to fart in its face. Get out your hankies, cuz we’re taking a look back at the impossible crises we overcame.

Your Letters
Russia's freedom-loving free market martyr Mikhail Khodorkovsky answers some of this week's letters, and he's got nothing but praise for President Medvedev.

Clubbing Adventures Through Time
Club Review By Dmitriy Babooshka
eXile club reviewer Babooshka takes a trip through time with the ghost of Moscow clubbing past, present and future, and true to form, gets laid in the process.

The Fortnight Spin
Bardak Calendar By Jared Lindquist
Jared comes out with yet another roundup of upcoming bardak sessions.

Your Letters
Richard Gere tackles this week's letters. Now reformed, he fights for gerbil rights all around the world.

13 Toxic Talents: Hollywood’s Worst Polluters
America By Eileen Jones
Everybody complains about celebrities, but nobody does anything about them. People, it’s time to stop fretting about whether we’re a celebrity-obsessed culture—we are, we have been, we’re going to be—and instead take practical steps to clean up the celebrity-obsessed culture we’ve got...


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