Primetime Investigation FBI Terrorist Cover Up

ABC News: Primetime Live
December 19, 2002

 

CHARLES GIBSON, ABC NEWS
(Off Camera) See if this gets your attention. A rich, Saudi businessman, suspected of funnelling money to Osama Bin Laden, who is also a suspected owner of a company that creates highly sensitive software for the FBI. Or how about this, a Muslim FBI Agent accused of refusing orders to secretly record another Muslim suspected of terrorist connections. Well tonight, two FBI Agents come forward to say if all of that worries you, it should. They put everything at risk to give Chief Investigative Correspondent Brian Ross a disturbing account that the FBI has tried to keep secret.

BRIAN ROSS, ABC NEWS
(Voice Over) 10:00 last Monday morning in Chicago. This was the day. This was the hour. BRIAN ROSS (CONTINUED) (Voice Over) This was the interview FBI headquarters in Washington feared was coming. Two of the FBI's own. Special Agents Robert Wright(PH) and John Vincent,(PH) breaking ranks.

ROBERT WRIGHT,FBI AGENT
You can't know the things I know and not go public.

BRIAN ROSS
(Voice Over) Finally telling the story they say the FBI has tried to keep secret from Congress and the American public.

ROBERT WRIGHT
September 11th is a direct result of the incompetence of the FBI's International Terrorism Unit. No doubt about that. Absolutely no doubt about that.

BRIAN ROSS
(Off Camera) You're an FBI agent and you're saying that about the FBI?

ROBERT WRIGHT
I know that. Yes.

BRIAN ROSS
(Voice Over) It's a long way from the day 12 years ago when, as a law school graduate from Indiana, Robert Wrighttook the oath to become an agent of the FBI.

ROBERT WRIGHT
To protect America from all enemies, foreign and domestic.

BRIAN ROSS
(Off Camera) And you think you tried to do that?

ROBERT WRIGHT
Others tried to stop me but I tried to do that.

BRIAN ROSS
(Voice Over) Wright's partner, John Vincent, joined the FBI 27 years ago. A young lawyer from South Dakota who would become one of the Bureau's most seasoned street agents before retiring a few days after this interview.

JOHN VINCENT, FBI AGENT
Truthfully, if 9/11 had not occurred we wouldn't be here.

BRIAN ROSS
(Off Camera) Really?

JOHN VINCENT
Because of 9/11, we're here. Because we see the danger.

BRIAN ROSS
(Voice Over) Their story begins in the mid-1990s. With growing terrorism in the Middle East, the two agents were assigned to track a connection to Chicago, a suspected terrorist cell that would later lead them to an Osama Bin Laden connection.

ROBERT WRIGHT
We had a cell in Chicago, right. And that was, that was the premise of how we got the investigation going.

BRIAN ROSS
(Voice Over) But Wright says he soon discovered that all the FBI Intelligence Division wanted him to do was to follow suspected terrorists around town and file reports, but make no arrests.

ROBERT WRIGHT
The supervisor who was there from headquarters was right straight across from me and started yelling at me, "you will not open criminal investigations. I forbid any of you. You will not open criminal investigations against any of these intelligence subjects."

BRIAN ROSS
(Off Camera) You're on the Terrorism Task Force and you were told you will not open criminal cases?

ROBERT WRIGHT
Yes.

BRIAN ROSS
(Voice Over) In 1998, Al-Qaeda terrorists bombed two American Embassies in Africa, killing more than 200 people. The agents say some of the money for the attack led back to the people they had been tracking in Chicago, and to a powerful Saudi Arabian businessman, this man, Yassin Kadi,(PH) who had extensive business and financial ties in Chicago. Yet, even after the bombings, the agents say headquarters ordered no arrests.

ROBERT WRIGHT
Two months after the embassies are hit in Africa, they want to shut down the criminal investigation. They wanted to kill it.

BRIAN ROSS
(Voice Over) The move outraged the Federal Prosecutor in Chicago, who says Agents Wright and Vincent were helping him build a strong criminal case against Kadi and others.

MARK FLESSNER, FORMER FEDERAL PROSECUTOR
There were powers bigger than I was in the Justice Department and within the FBI that simply were not going to let it happen. And it didn't happen.

BRIAN ROSS
(Voice Over) Mark Flessner,(PH) now in private practice, says he still can't figure out why Washington stopped the case, whether it was Saudi influence or bureaucratic ineptness.

MARK FLESSNER
I think there were very serious mistakes made. And I think it, perhaps, cost, it cost people their lives, ultimately.

BRIAN ROSS
(Voice Over) Perhaps most astounding of the many mistakes, according to Flessner and affidavits filed by agent Wright is how another FBI agent who is Muslim seriously damaged the investigation. Telling Wright and Vincent, he would refuse to secretly record one of Kadi's suspected associates who was also Muslim.

ROBERT WRIGHT
A Muslim doesn't record another Muslim. Right out of his own mouth. Five of us, six of us heard it.

JOHN VINCENT
He wouldn't have any problems interviewing or recording somebody who wasn't a Muslim but he could never record another Muslim.

BRIAN ROSS
(Off Camera) What do you make of that? Thinking back to the oath you took as an FBI Agent.

ROBERT WRIGHT
I was floored. I went back upstairs and I called FBI headquarters to tell them what had just happened. And the supervisor from headquarters says, "Well, you have to understand where he's coming from, Bob." I said, "no, no, no, no. I understand where I'm coming from. We both took the same damn oath to defend this country against all enemies foreign and domestic and he just said no? No way in hell."

BRIAN ROSS
(Voice Over) Far from being reprimanded, the FBI promoted the Muslim agent to one of its most important anti-terrorism posts, at the American Embassy in Saudi Arabia, handling sensitive investigations for the FBI in that Muslim country.

BRIAN ROSS (CONTINUED)
(Off Camera) The FBI says when it sent the Muslim agent to Saudi Arabia, it was unaware of the allegations or of two other similar incidents described to "Primetime" by FBI agents in New York and in Tampa.

BRIAN ROSS (CONTINUED)
(Voice Over) In a statement to "Primetime," the FBI also defends the agent as making significant contributions, saying he had a right to refuse because the undercover recording was supposed to take place in a mosque. That's a complete lie, according to former prosecutor Flessner, who says a mosque was never part of the plan and that the FBI is covering up.

MARK FLESSNER
What he said was it was against his religion to record another Muslim. I was dumbfounded by that response.

BRIAN ROSS
(Voice Over) As to Wright, the FBI says the decision to kill his case was appropriate at the time. Something Wright continued to protest to his supervisor through early 2001.

ROBERT WRIGHT
You know what his response was? "I think it's just better to let sleeping dogs lie." This is January of 2001.

BRIAN ROSS
(Off Camera) January 2001? Let sleeping dogs lie.

ROBERT WRIGHT
Those dogs weren't sleeping, they were training, they were getting ready.

BRIAN ROSS
(Voice Over) On September 11th, the two agents watched in horror worried that men they could have stopped years earlier were involved. And now, the White House says they were. One month after the attacks, the US government officially identified Yassin Al Kadi as one of Osama Bin Laden's important financiers, a specially designated global terrorist, the same man, who years earlier, the FBI had ordered agents Vincent and Wright to leave alone.

BRIAN ROSS (CONTINUED)
(Off Camera) No surprise to you?

ROBERT WRIGHT
No.

JOHN VINCENT
No, there's no surprise there.

ROBERT WRIGHT
We knew. Yeah.

BRIAN ROSS
(Voice Over) Kadi, a multimillionaire with ties to the Saudi Royal Family, tells ABC News he can prove his total innocence, repeatedly denying from his office in Riyadh, any connection to Osama Bin Laden or Al Qaeda.

YASSIN KADI, SAUDI BUSINESSMAN
Not even one cent went to Osama Bin Laden.

BRIAN ROSS (CONTINUED)
(Voice Over) But just this month Kadi was back in the news, as agents, not FBI agents, but US customs agents conducted a midnight search of a Boston company believed to be secretly owned and controlled by Kadi. The company, it turns out, provides computer software to the FBI and other Federal agencies, which means Kadi and his employees could have had access to some of the government's most sensitive secrets. In a vindication of what FBI agent Wright has been saying all along, the Federal government now says it is pursuing possible criminal charges against Yassin Kadi.

ROBERT WRIGHT
And there's, there's so much more. God, there's so much more.

DIANE SAWYER, ABC NEWS
(Off Camera) The Bush Administration could hear from the agents yet. They say they're ready, if called, to testify, before the newly appointed independent commission investigating why no one stopped the 9/11 terrorists in time.

ANNOUNCER
Up next, Denzel, a new movie, a new credit. And a new and refreshing take on being a Hollywood superstar.

 

Copyright 2002 American Broadcasting Companies, Inc.

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