Coleen Rowley
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The story...

Coleen Rowley, chief attorney for the Minneapolis FBI office, described how the Bureau’s headquarters worked to "deliberately sabotage" the investigation of Zacarias Moussaoui, a suspected conspirator in the September 11th attack.

Our take...

Perhaps the most commonly quoted section of Rowleys letter is this:

"Why would an FBI agent(s) deliberately sabotage a case? (I know I shouldn't be flippant about this, but jokes were actually made that the key FBIHQ personnel had to be spies or moles, like Robert Hansen, who were actually working for Osama bin Ladin to have so undercut Minneapolis' effort.)"

The phrase "deliberately sabotage" has appeal for those who want to believe in a Government conspiracy, but if you keep reading it seems that's not Rowleys view at all:

"Our best real guess, however, is that, in most cases avoidance of all "unnecessary" actions/decisions by FBIHQ managers (and maybe to some extent field managers as well) has, in recent years, been seen as the safest FBI career course. Numerous high-ranking FBI officials who have made decisions or have taken actions which, in hindsight, turned out to be mistaken or just turned out badly (i.e. Ruby Ridge, Waco, etc.) have seen their careers plummet and end. This has in turn resulted in a climate of fear which has chilled aggressive FBI law enforcement action/decisions. In a large hierarchal bureaucracy such as the FBI, with the requirement for numerous superiors approvals/oversight, the premium on career-enhancement, and interjecting a chilling factor brought on by recent extreme public and congressional criticism/oversight, and I think you will see at least the makings of the most likely explanation. Another factor not to be underestimated probably explains the SSA and other FBIHQ personnel's reluctance to act. And so far, I have heard no FBI official even allude to this problem-- which is that FBI Headquarters is staffed with a number of short term careerists* who, like the SSA in question, must only serve an 18 month-just-time-to-get-your-ticket-punched minimum. It's no wonder why very little expertise can be acquired by a Headquarters unit! (And no wonder why FBIHQ is mired in mediocrity! -- that maybe a little strong, but it would definitely be fair to say that there is unevenness in competency among Headquarters personnel.) (It's also a well known fact that the FBI Agents Association has complained for years about the disincentives facing those entering the FBI management career path which results in very few of the FBI's best and brightest choosing to go into management. Instead the ranks of FBI management are filled with many who were failures as street agents. Along these lines, let me ask the question, why has it suddenly become necessary for the Director to "handpick" the FBI management?) It's quite conceivable that many of the HQ personnel who so vigorously disputed Moussaoui's ability/predisposition to fly a plane into a building were simply unaware of all the various incidents and reports worldwide of Al Qaeda terrorists attempting or plotting to do so".

Plenty of institutional reasons why the FBI behaved as it did, then, without requiring foreknowledge of or complicity in the attacks.

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