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Profile: Barry Mawn
Barry Mawn was a participant or observer in the following events:
Barbara Bodine at a press conference days after the bombing of the USS Cole. [Source: Reuters]The first FBI agents enter Yemen two days after the bombing of the USS Cole in an attempt to discover who was responsible. However, the main part of the team initially gets stuck in Germany because they do not have permission to enter Yemen and they are then unable to accomplish much due to restrictions placed on them and tensions between lead investigator John O’Neill and US Ambassador to Yemen Barbara Bodine. All but about 50 investigators are forced to leave by the end of October. O’Neill’s boss Barry Mawn visits to assess the situation. [Miller, Stone, and Mitchell, 2002, pp. 237; New Yorker, 1/14/2002; Sunday Times (London), 2/3/2002; New Yorker, 7/10/2006 ] Mawn will later comment, “It became clear [Bodine] simply hated his guts.” After a ten day investigation, he concludes O’Neill is doing a fine job, tells Bodine that she is O’Neill’s “only detractor,” and refuses her request to recall him. [Wright, 2006, pp. 32] But O’Neill and much of his team are pressured to leave by late November and Bodine will not give him permission to return any time after that. The investigation stalls without his personal relationships to top Yemeni officials. [Miller, Stone, and Mitchell, 2002, pp. 237; New Yorker, 1/14/2002; Sunday Times (London), 2/3/2002] Increased security threats force the reduced FBI team still in Yemen to withdraw altogether in June 2001. [PBS Frontline, 10/3/2002] The prime minister of Yemen at the time later claims (see Early October 2001) that hijacker “Khalid Almihdhar was one of the Cole perpetrators, involved in preparations. He was in Yemen at the time and stayed after the Cole bombing for a while, then he left.” The Sunday Times later notes, “The failure in Yemen may have blocked off lines of investigation that could have led directly to the terrorists preparing for September 11.” [Sunday Times (London), 2/3/2002]
Satam Al Suqami’s remarkably undamaged passport, marked and wrapped in plastic. It is shown as evidence in the 2006 Zacarias Moussaoui trial. [Source: FBI]The passport of 9/11 hijacker Satam Al Suqami is reportedly found a few blocks from the World Trade Center. [ABC News, 9/12/2001; Associated Press, 9/16/2001; ABC News, 9/16/2001] Barry Mawn, the director of the FBI’s New York office, will say that police and the FBI found it during a “grid search” of the area. [CNN, 9/18/2001] However, according to the 9/11 Commission, the passport is actually discovered by a male passer-by who is about 30 years old and wearing a business suit. The man gives it to New York City Police Department Detective Yuk H. Chin shortly before 9:59 a.m., when the South Tower of the WTC collapses. The man leaves before he is identified. Chin, according to the 9/11 Commission, will give the passport to the FBI later in the day. [9/11 Commission, 1/26/2004; 9/11 Commission, 8/21/2004, pp. 40 ] An FBI timeline concerned with the 9/11 hijackers will state that the passport is found by a civilian “on the street near [the] World Trade Center,” and is “soaked in jet fuel.” [Federal Bureau of Investigation, 10/2001, pp. 291 ] According to FBI agent Dan Coleman, Al Suqami’s passport is handed to a New York City detective who is “down there, trying to talk to people as they were coming out of the buildings.” By the time the detective looks up again after receiving the passport, the man who handed it to him has run off, “which doesn’t make sense,” Coleman will say. The passport is then given to a detective on the Joint Terrorism Task Force. Coleman will say that by this evening, “we realized… that this was the passport of one of the people that headquarters had identified as one of the 19 probable hijackers.” [France 5, 3/14/2010] Investigative journalist Nick Davies will later write that he talked to “senior British sources who said they believed that the discovery of a terrorist’s passport in the rubble of the Twin Towers in September 2001 had been ‘a throwdown,’ i.e. it was placed there by somebody official.” [Davies, 2009, pp. 248] The Guardian will comment, “The idea that Mohamed Atta’s passport had escaped from that inferno unsinged [tests] the credulity of the staunchest supporter of the FBI’s crackdown on terrorism.” (Note that, as in this Guardian account, the passport will frequently be mistakenly referred to as belonging to Atta, not Al Suqami.) [Guardian, 3/19/2002]
David Kelley. [Source: New York Law School]Barry Mawn, director of the FBI’s New York office, sends specialized teams to the World Trade Center site after hearing Flight 11 crashing into the North Tower, even though he initially thinks the crash is an accident. Mawn is in his office on the 28th floor of 26 Federal Plaza in Lower Manhattan and has just heard the explosion when Flight 11 hit the WTC, at 8:46 a.m. (see 8:46 a.m. September 11, 2001). Kathy MacGowan, his secretary, shouted: “The World Trade! The World Trade!” Mawn now goes to her window, from where he can see smoke billowing from the North Tower. MacGowan says a commercial jet has crashed into the building. However, it supposedly does not occur to Mawn that the incident was a terrorist attack. [Kessler, 2002, pp. 1-2; CNN, 2/18/2002; Wright, 2006, pp. 357] “At that point, I thought it was an accident,” he will later recall. [Washington Post, 10/20/2001] Mawn’s colleagues look to the director for guidance. “People were turning to me and asking, ‘What are we going to do next, boss?’” Mawn will recall. Mawn instructs MacGowan to call the FBI evidence response team. Despite thinking the crash is an accident, he adds, “Just in case, call the SWAT [the FBI special weapons and tactics team] and the Joint Terrorism Task Force,” which has exclusive jurisdiction over local terrorism investigations. He tells MacGowan to send the teams to Church and Vesey Streets, and says he will head that way himself. Before he leaves his office, though, he is called by David Kelley, chief of Manhattan US Attorney Mary Jo White’s terrorism unit. [Kessler, 2002, pp. 2; Wright, 2006, pp. 357; Lawrence Eagle-Tribune, 9/10/2016] White has instructed Kelley to go to the WTC site. [New York Metro Super Lawyers, 7/2006] Mawn agrees to meet him and then goes and joins him outside his building. The two men make their way toward the WTC, which is eight blocks away from the FBI office. They stop at the corner of Church and Vesey Streets, at the northeast corner of the WTC site. There, they join Police Commissioner Bernard Kerik and other law enforcement officials. [Washington Post, 10/20/2001; Kessler, 2002, pp. 2] Mawn and Kelley will be at the WTC site when Flight 175 crashes into the South Tower, at 9:03 a.m. (see 9:03 a.m. September 11, 2001), and Mawn will then realize that the US is under attack (see After 9:03 a.m. September 11, 2001). [New York Daily News, 10/1/2001; CNN, 2/18/2002; New York Metro Super Lawyers, 7/2006]
Barry Mawn, director of the FBI’s New York office, calls FBI Director Robert Mueller sometime after seeing Flight 175 crashing into the World Trade Center and says fighter jets are needed. Mawn was in his office at 26 Federal Plaza in Lower Manhattan when Flight 11 crashed into the North Tower and, in response to the incident, he promptly made his way to the WTC site (see Shortly After 8:46 a.m. September 11, 2001). He was with other officials there when Flight 175 hit the South Tower, at 9:03 a.m. (see 9:03 a.m. September 11, 2001). While he supposedly thought the first crash was accidental, he realizes now that this is terrorism. [Kessler, 2002, pp. 1-2] “At that moment, I think we all knew we were under attack—these are no accidents—that potentially we’re at war here,” he will later comment. [CNN, 2/18/2002] Furthermore, he determines that al-Qaeda is to blame. “At that point I knew it was al-Qaeda,” he will recall. [Wicked Local, 9/15/2011; Treasure Coast Newspapers, 2/18/2013] This conclusion is presumably based on the expertise in terrorism he has acquired in his three decades with the FBI, during which he has been involved in several high-profile terrorism cases. [Washington Post, 10/20/2001; CNN, 2/18/2002] In the 18 months he has spent at the FBI’s New York office, he will say, he and his colleagues have “told everyone… that the biggest threat to the US was al-Qaeda and [Osama] bin Laden.” [Wicked Local, 9/15/2011] Following the second attack, hundreds of FBI agents converge on the WTC site and Mawn instructs some of them to set up a command post. He also tries calling Mueller, who is at the FBI’s headquarters in Washington, DC (see Shortly After 8:48 a.m. September 11, 2001), using his cell phone. His initial attempts are unsuccessful, but he eventually gets through. He tells the FBI director that “the phones [are] down and they needed Air Force jets,” according to journalist and author Ronald Kessler. [Kessler, 2002, pp. 2] It is unclear whether Mueller takes any action in response to this request. Fighters will arrive over Manhattan at 9:25 a.m., according to the 9/11 Commission Report (see 9:25 a.m. September 11, 2001). [9/11 Commission, 7/24/2004, pp. 24] However, numerous witnesses on the ground will recall only noticing fighters overhead after 10:00 a.m. (see (9:45 a.m.-10:45 a.m.) September 11, 2001).
Barry Mawn. [Source: Associated Press]On September 13, New York authorities take into custody ten people of Middle Eastern descent at JFK International and La Guardia Airports, reportedly fearing they intend to hijack aircraft and commit another suicidal terrorist attack on a US target. This leads to all three major New York-area airports—JFK, La Guardia, and Newark—being abruptly shut down, just hours after they reopened for the first time since the 9/11 attacks took place. [Associated Press, 9/14/2001; Dallas Morning News, 9/14/2001; New York Times, 9/14/2001; Washington Post, 9/14/2001]
Armed and Carrying False ID - According to the Washington Post, the detained individuals are carrying knives and false identification. [Washington Post, 9/14/2001] Four of them are reportedly arrested as they try to board a flight from JFK Airport to Los Angeles, and a woman is held on suspicion of assisting these four. Some of the four are reported as having pilots’ certificates from Flight Safety International in Vero Beach, Florida, where some of the alleged 9/11 hijackers are currently believed to have taken flying lessons. Later on, the other five men are arrested at La Guardia Airport “under similar circumstances.” [Dallas Morning News, 9/14/2001] According to the New York Times, “Law enforcement officials said one of those held was carrying a false pilot’s identification.” Furthermore, several of the detained men “showed up at the airport with tickets for flights canceled on Tuesday [September 11] and tried to use them.” Investigators say they believe one of the men had been among a group of passengers that behaved suspiciously and became aggressive after their aircraft—United Airlines Flight 23—had its takeoff canceled on the morning of 9/11 (see (After 9:19 a.m.) September 11, 2001). New York Police Commissioner Bernard Kerik says one of the men arrested at JFK Airport “attempted to clear security and he was stopped.” [New York Times, 9/14/2001]
Men Released, No Connections Found to 9/11 Attacks - However, the following morning the FBI announces that none of the detainees had any connection to the 9/11 attacks, and all but one of them have been released. Barry Mawn, the head of the New York FBI office, says: “The reporting that has been going on all night, I can definitively tell you, is inaccurate.… [W]e did talk to approximately a dozen individuals. We have only one individual left who is still being questioned by the task force. All other ten have been released.” [CNN, 9/14/2001; PBS, 9/14/2001] Justice Department spokeswoman Mindy Tucker says that no knives, box cutters, guns, or other weapons were found on the individuals. [Washington Post, 9/15/2001] After talking to the directors of the FBI and CIA, Senator Joseph Biden (D-DE) tells CNN that the detained men had “no connection whatsoever to what happened at the World Trade towers or the Pentagon, or this organizational network.” He explains: “One guy, an actual pilot, got on the plane, coincidentally had his brother’s identification as well. His brother happened to live in the apartment complex that was one in Boston where some of [the alleged hijackers] had actually been.” Biden adds: “Ten other people were going to a Boeing conference. They had stickers on their bags.… The folks at the airport thought, hey, wait a minute, are they impersonating crew? And they weren’t.” Biden says the one man who has not yet been released “was a screwball who was acting out, you know, acting out and saying and demanding.… Making problems, and they arrested him.” By 11:20 a.m. on September 14, the three New York-area airports are reopened. [Associated Press, 9/14/2001; CNN, 9/14/2001]
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