Whopper of the Week: Robert Mueller.

Gossip, speculation, and scuttlebutt about politics.
May 17 2002 4:46 PM

Whopper of the Week: Robert Mueller

He knew more than he said about 9/11.

"There were no warning signs that I'm aware of that would indicate this type of operation in the country."

FBI Director Robert S. Mueller, at a Sept. 17 Justice Department news briefing about the Sept. 11 attacks.

"The July 10 [FBI field] report from Phoenix was a five-page electronic communication to headquarters outlining links between a group of suspected Middle Eastern terrorists and the Embry-RiddleAeronauticalUniversity in Prescott, Ariz. The agent, whose name has not been divulged, suggested that the FBI should canvass U.S. flight schools for information on other Middle Eastern students. He speculated that bin Laden might be attempting to train operatives to infiltrate the aviation industry.

"FBI Director Robert S. Mueller III has acknowledged that the bureau should have responded more aggressively to that report. But the FBI did not share it within the interagency Counterterrorism Security Group, which had a 'threat subgroup' meeting three times a week. According to sources, the Phoenix report reached no further than FBI headquarters and the New York field office.

" 'Even today I get dozens of reports a day from the CIA and none from the FBI,' said a government counterterrorism official. 'When an FBI SAC [special agent in charge] sends in a message, it never leaves the bureau. In fact, they can still get in trouble if they show it to you.' "

Barton Gellman, "Before Sept. 11, Unshared Clues and Unshaped Policy," in the May 17 Washington Post.

"[T]he F.B.I. had arrested Zacarias Moussaoui in Minneapolis after a flight school there reported that he had wanted to train on a 747 flight simulator, even though he had little experience as a pilot.

"On Aug. 13 … Mr. Moussaoui, a French citizen, was arrested in Minnesota after officials at a flight school there contacted the F.B.I. about their suspicions about his behavior.

"He was arrested on immigration charges, and in one F.B.I. interview, an agent accused Mr. Moussaoui of being a terrorist. Mr. Moussaoui denied it, saying only that he wanted to learn to fly."

David Johnston and James Risen, "Foreboding Increased, but No Single Agency Had All the Clues," in the May 17 New York Times.

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