This post is written out of respect for FBI Agent John O’Neill who came so close to connecting all the dots in not only the attack on the USS Cole, but Al-Qaeda’s next attack which would be on 09/11/01. The attack in which he would be killed as well. How ironic, and how sad. Both the Cole attack and 9/11 were tragedies in so many ways. Both attacks are excellent examples of what can happen when you have presidents, politicians, and other government employees more worried about their own selfish interests and egos than the welfare and safety of the people and the country.
I was only able to talk with Agent O’Neill one time if memory serves me right. I do know that he kept in contact with another father who had lost a son in the Cole attack. I know that he answered my questions as best as he could at the time. I also know and feel that he really wanted to catch those responsible for the murder of our son and his 16 mates. But then again the other agents tried to answer my questions and concerns as well as they could under the circumstances. I also know that some of them were extremely frustrated at the lack of support that the Cole investigation had received. They were not just disgruntled employees as one politician referred to them as. And no I never gave out the names of those who wrote me, and or talked with me. I am more than sure that the politician who called them disgruntled changed his tune after the 9/11 attack as well.
When one reads how close O’Neill and his fellow agents came to actually discovering the pending attack on 9/11, it makes one sick. Especially when it was other Americans who stopped him from completing his investigation. Americans like President Clinton and Ambassador Bodine who if they had supported the FBI in Yemen after the Cole attack , that the 9/11 attack on America soil could have been prevented. And if only Bush had listened to the FBI while he had the chance too.
The what if’s are endless. But what we do know today is that FBI Agent O’Neill and some other FBI agents as well, knew that there were connections between the Embassy bombings and the Cole bombing. O’Neill also knew that it was Al-Qaeda’s work in the Cole attack and that members of Saleh government were involved in the attack, and interfering with the FBI investigation into the attack.
In reading about O’Neill’s FBI work in Yemen after the Cole attack one thing was obvious right off the bat, that regardless if the people were in the Justice Department, the State Department, and or the Defense Department most of them had one thing in common. They agreed that O’Neill and the FBI were doing the right thing in the investigation into the Cole attack, and wanting access to question members of President Saleh’s government, and family. And that O’Neill was holding the Yemenis feet to the fire. But there was at least one person who disagreed with O’Neill's methods and his requests, and the FBI mission as a whole. That person was Ambassador Bodine to Yemen.
I have tried extremely hard to understand why Bodine interfered with the FBI’s investigation. Everything I have read which is quite abit demonstrates that there was no logical reason for her to effectively hinder the investigation. Except one reason, her ego. All the people involved still shake their heads as to why she butted heads with O’Neill so much. What is know is that Bodine’s tenure as ambassador to Yemen would be up the following August. Some individuals speculate that the State Department, and Clinton only wanted her to finish her time out, and not to make a stink over her and O’Neill's disagreement in how to conduct the investigation. Just let her ride her time out so to speak, and go away quietly instead of firing her.
Either way after O’Neill had incurred her wrath she effectively hindered O’Neill’s and the FBI’s investigation. She at first wanted them to turn in their weapons if you can believe that. O’Neill refused, and rightly so. Yemen has been and still is home to Al-Qaeda. She then put limits on the number of security personnel and investigators that O’Neill could have in country at one time. She also refused to find a place for O’Neill's team to stay at during the investigations. Bodine demanded that she be the Gatekeeper between the FBI and the Yemeni government. The FBI had to write their questions down, and then present them to the Yemeni to give to the terrorists to answer. Then the terrorists would give their written answers back to the Yemenis officials who in turn would delete from the answers what they did not agree with, and then give the censored answers back to the FBI! In short she wanted to be in charge of everything. To O’Neill's credit he overcame just about every obstacle that she threw at him, infuriating her even more. But he could not overcome her connections President Clinton, and her support for the Yemeni Regime. And in the end O’Neill and America lost out to a power hungry and insecure ambassador.
So the Clinton administration made the regrettably mistake in choosing her to support, instead of the FBI. That decision coupled with Bush’s decision later on to let President Saleh’s Political Security Organization to head the investigation would effectively ruin any chances at preventing 9/11. And yes there was no sharing of information between the FBI and the CIA which only made matters worse. O’Neill had tried to overcome even this hurdle, but to no avail. Other FBI agents would fail in their efforts as well to get the CIA to share the much needed information.
O’Neill had fought to improve the FBI’s resources and capabilities to fight terrorism. It would not be until June of 2001 that the CIA and the FBI sat down together to discuss the Cole Case and what information each agency had.With-in weeks of the FBI’s arrivals in Yemen they pressured the Yemeni government to arrest a Yemeni by the name of Fahad al-Quso from a wealthy family. But unfortunately the FBI would not learn just how important Al-Quso was to the overall big picture until it was to late. And why? Because Ambassador Bodine was complaining to her bosses, and President Clinton. And after about a month of Bodine badmouthing him, O’Neill returned stateside. And when he tried to return back to Yemen, Bodine said no, with the backing of the State Department. And not long after that the rest of the FBI team left Yemen too. And Al-Quso would not be questioned again until a few days after 9/11. And then he would go on to tell the FBI that he was a bagman for Al-Qaeda, that both Alhazmi and Almidhar had been at the Malaysia meeting where both the Cole attack and the 9/11 attack had been planned. And that some of the Cole bombers also worked on the 9/11 attack. One of those other terrorists at that meeting in 2000 was Tawfiq bin-Atash who worked both attacks.
The story of FBI Agent John O’Neill and his search for the truth into the attack on the USS Cole is one of the most interesting and tragic stories one can ever read. One post cannot come near to doing that story justice, and or O’Neill's and other agents efforts at obtaining the truth. I received a letter in February of 2001 from an individual who told me just how hard they had tried to get the truth of the USS Cole attack. That letter alluded to all the “politics” involved not only between the America and Yemen Governments, but between different departments and certain individuals too with-in our own government. It was after I received that letter that I began to write members, and the President as to why nothing was being done on the Cole Investigation. Before that I had been calling politicians and asking why nothing was being done. I have also read several times where Agent O'Neill felt that they(the FBI) had not done enough for the victims families. And that even early in his career he was trying to tell anyone who would listen that enough was not being done in the counter terrorism department. Others who worked with him and knew him said that one of his biggest fears is that they the FBI would miss something in a investigation, and that Americans would pay for it. He was dead right in more ways than one.
In August of 2001 the FBI conducted an internal investigation into Agent O’Neill for misplacing a brief case with highly confidential papers. It was later found out that the brief case had been stolen by thieves involved in a series of hotel robberies. It was reported that none of the documents were missing when the brief case was recovered. But O’Neill's career had been damaged by the stolen brief case. O’Neill's friends and supporters, and even some who disliked him, but still respected him say that it was all a smear campaign to discredit him. That he had made some very powerful enemies in his demands that the Cole case have a proper investigation.
O’Neill’s last act at of work on his last day at work was to sign the order which would return the FBI back to Yemen to begin work on the Cole Case again. He also sent an email to the father of one of the murdered sailors before he left his post. After that he then retired from the FBI and went to work for Kroll Associates in the World Trade Center as Head of Security on 9/11. It was his first day at his new job according to some reports. And of course he was killed along with over two thousand more Americans when Al-Qaeda attacked. The attack that many believe could have been prevented if Agent John O’Neill had been allowed to conduct a proper investigation with-out a petty and egotistical bureaucrat by the name of Barbara Bodine trying to protect her turf. Instead her actions contributed to a massive communications failure that resulted in the 9/11 attack.
The people who knew him best, his family, friends, and fellow agents all speak how he was the best one to have accomplished that job. And many of them, and including myself are dumbfounded how politics prevented the FBI from saving the lives of thousands of Americans, including his own. Not to mention that the Cole Case could have been resolved as well.
And what happened to Barabara Bodine? She was later given a promotion by President Bush! She was given a position as the Coordinator for Central Iraq in charge of Baghdad. She was later fired from this position for the same types of behavior that she had displayed in the Cole investigation. And now to my understanding she is teaching at a liberal college, and giving lectures on why she acted the way she did as Ambassador to Yemen.
A good friend of O’Neill related a conversation they had over the phone after he had taken the job at the World Trade Center. This friend told O’Neill that “at least they will not bomb it again!” to which O’Neill replied “ They will probably finish the job.” Unfortunately he was right again.