By Kevin Ryan
In the summer of 2001, Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) agent Robert Wright, a counterterrorism expert from the Chicago office, made some startling claims about the Bureau in a written statement outlining the difficulties he had doing his job. Three months before 9/11, he wrote: “The FBI has proven for the past decade it cannot identify and prevent acts of terrorism against the United States and its citizens at home and abroad. Even worse, there is virtually no effort on the part of the FBI’s International Terrorism Unit to neutralize known and suspected terrorists residing within the United States.”
Revelations since 9/11 have confirmed Wright’s claims. FBI management did little or nothing to stop terrorism in the decade before 9/11 and, in some cases, appeared to have supported terrorists. This is more disturbing considering that the power of the FBI over terrorism investigations was supreme. In 1998, the FBI’s strategic plan stated that terrorist activities fell “almost exclusively within the jurisdiction of the FBI” and that “the FBI has no higher priority than to combat terrorism.”
A number of people are suspect in these failures, including the leaders of the FBI’s counterterrorism programs. But at the time of Wright’s written complaint, which was not shared with the public until May 2002, the man most responsible was Louis Freeh, Director of the FBI from 1993 to 2001.