May 23, 2002

20/20 HINDSIGHT :

Pre-Sept. 11 FBI Phoenix memo submitted as routine (Tabassum Zakaria, 23 May 2002, Reuters)
The FBI agent who wrote the "Phoenix memo" became concerned about Middle Eastern men linked to Osama bin Laden taking flying lessons in the United States after interviewing one of them who expressed radical views, lawmakers said on Wednesday.

But agent Kenneth Williams of the FBI's Phoenix office said he placed a "routine" rather than an "urgent" status on the memo he subsequently wrote recommending that flight schools be surveyed to see if they also had Middle Eastern students who potentially could be linked to bin Laden, lawmakers said.

The FBI has come under fire for what lawmakers say were missteps in failing to act on the memo written by Williams in July, two months before the Sept. 11 attack, and not correlating that with the August arrest of Zacarias Moussaoui, who sought flight lessons in Minnesota and is now charged with conspiring in the attack. [...]

Lawmakers said Williams defended the FBI and said he had sent the memo onward with a "routine" status, which takes 60 days to process.

"He felt it did not deserve urgent status, that he never envisioned planes being flown into buildings at any time," said Sen. Richard Durbin, an Illinois Democrat.

"What he presented in that memo was so close to the fact pattern that emerged on Sept. 11 that as you read it, it just takes your breath away to think that two months before Sept. 11 this man sitting out in Phoenix envisioned foreign nationals acting as terrorists associated with Osama bin Laden going to aviation training school, using their ability to disrupt the civil aviation system in America," Durbin said.


Kind of amusing--though admittedly, grimly amusing--that even this guy, who's been turned into a cross between Dick Tracy and Jack Ryan, for "predicting" and "warning" of something "exactly like 9-11", didn't even consider it urgent. Yet Democrats and the media are claiming that guys further up the bureaucratic mountain should have recognized its dire threat immediately. Posted by Orrin Judd at May 23, 2002 9:56 PM
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