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Context of 'January 2001: Interagency Group Urges Increased Protection of Federal Buildings in Manhattan'

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Pat Patterson.Pat Patterson. [Source: Publicity photo]Los Angeles FBI agent Pat Patterson is sent to Yemen to assist in the investigation of the USS Cole bombing (see October 14-Late November, 2000). While there, he spends several evenings with John O’Neill, the special agent in charge of the FBI’s national security division in New York, who is leading the investigation. O’Neill is the FBI’s top expert on al-Qaeda and Osama bin Laden. The two men speculate about what bin Laden’s next target might be, and end up considering the World Trade Center. Patterson will later recall: “I thought it was unlikely they would hit a target a second time, but John was convinced of it. He said, ‘No, they definitely want to bring that building down.’ He just had that sense and was insistent about it.” [New York Magazine, 12/17/2001; Weiss, 2003, pp. 291-292 and 321] After leaving the FBI, O’Neill will actually start work as director of security for the World Trade Center shortly before 9/11 (see August 23, 2001).

Entity Tags: Pat Patterson, John O’Neill

Timeline Tags: Complete 911 Timeline

A white paper is produced, which recommends that federal buildings in Lower Manhattan, where the World Trade Center is located, receive increased protection, due to the threat of terrorism. 9/11 Commissioner Richard Ben-Veniste will describe the white paper during a public hearing of the 9/11 Commission in April 2004. It is produced, he will say, by an “interagency group” and urges “greater protection of federal buildings in Lower Manhattan.” It also notes that “Osama bin Laden, his al-Qaeda organization, and affiliated extremist groups currently pose a clear and immediate threat to US interests.” The white paper is produced in response to the concerns of John O’Neill, special agent in charge of the national security division in the FBI’s New York office. [9/11 Commission, 4/13/2004] O’Neill is the FBI’s “most committed tracker of Osama bin Laden and his al-Qaeda network of terrorists,” the New Yorker magazine will later describe. [New Yorker, 1/14/2002] He has “reiterated since 1995 to any official in Washington who would listen” that he is “sure bin Laden would attack on American soil” and he expects the al-Qaeda leader’s target will be “the Twin Towers again,” according to journalist and author Murray Weiss. [Weiss, 2003, pp. 360]

Entity Tags: Al-Qaeda, John O’Neill, Osama bin Laden

Timeline Tags: Complete 911 Timeline

John O’Neill begins his new job as head of security at the WTC. O’Neill had been the special agent in charge of the FBI’s National Security Division in New York, and was the bureau’s top expert on al-Qaeda and Osama bin Laden. [New York Magazine, 12/17/2001; New Yorker, 1/14/2002] He’d left his job with the FBI just the day before (see August 22, 2001). His friend Jerome Hauer, who is the former head of New York’s Office of Emergency Management, had found him the job at the World Trade Center. Developer Larry Silverstein, who recently took over the lease of the WTC (see July 24, 2001), had been highly impressed with O’Neill but insisted he start in the post no later than the first week of September, when his firm Silverstein Properties is set to assume control of the buildings. O’Neill had agreed to this. [Weiss, 2003, pp. 336-338, 345-346 and 349-351] After hearing that O’Neill has got this job, Chris Isham, a senior producer at ABC News who is a close friend, says to him, “Well, that will be an easy job. They’re not going to bomb that place again.” O’Neill replies, “Well actually they’ve always wanted to finish that job. I think they’re going to try again.” [PBS Frontline, 5/31/2002] After a few days as the WTC security director, O’Neill will move into his new office on the 34th floor of the South Tower. [Weiss, 2003, pp. 353-354 and 366]

Entity Tags: John O’Neill, Jerome Hauer, Larry Silverstein, Chris Isham, World Trade Center

Timeline Tags: Complete 911 Timeline

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