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Profile: Robert G. Wright, Jr.
a.k.a. Robert Wright
Robert G. Wright, Jr. was a participant or observer in the following events:
In 1991, Saudi multimillionaire Yassin al-Qadi transfers $820,000 from a Swiss bank account to the Quranic Literacy Institute, a Muslim charity based in Chicago. The charity uses the money to purchase land in Woodridge, a quiet town on the outskirts of Chicago. Al-Qadi claims the money is an interest-free loan for charitable purposes, but in a June 1998 affidavit, FBI agent Robert Wright will claim the investment is designed to produce money for Middle East terrorism. According to the affidavit, most of about $110,000 in income generated from the Woodridge property goes to Mohammad Salah, an admitted operative of Hamas. Salah is said to give $96,000 of this money to another Hamas operative to buy automatic rifles, pistols, and ammunition. In March 1992, al-Qadi will send an additional $27,000 directly to Salah. The institute will sell the Woodridge property for more than they had paid for it, but they will never repay al-Qadi’s $820,000. [Wall Street Journal, 11/26/2002] In June 1998, the US will seize the Quranic Literacy Institute’s assets (see June 9, 1998). In 2004, a US court will rule that the money from al-Qadi’s original investment was used to fund a Hamas attack in 1996 that killed a US citizen (see May 12, 2000-December 9, 2004). [Wall Street Journal, 11/26/2002]
Mohammad Salah. [Source: WGN-TV]In January 1993, Mohammad Salah, a Hamas operative living in the US (see 1989-January 1993), is arrested in the West Bank by the Israeli government on suspicion of transferring money to Hamas for guns and ammunition. News reports in February indicate that he is from Chicago and “had been found with more than $100,000 and plans from Hamas leaders in the United States.” Apparently, this causes Chicago FBI agent Robert Wright to begin investigating his fundraising activities (see After January 1993). Salah reportedly quickly confesses to directing certain Hamas military operations, organizing military cells, and to handling more than $1 million to purchase weapons. He names 23 organizations in the US that he says are helping to fund Hamas. He later will claim he was tortured into confessing. One of Salah’s associates is also arrested and reveals the existence of Hamas training camps in the US. Salah secretly will be tried by the Israeli government in 1994 and will plead guilty of the charges in 1995. He will be sentenced to five years in prison and released in 1997. [New York Times, 2/17/1993; Emerson, 2002, pp. 82-83; Federal News Service, 6/2/2003]
FBI agent Robert Wright is assigned to the FBI’s counterterrorism task force in Chicago. He had joined the FBI three years earlier. [New York Post, 7/14/2004; Washington Times, 7/18/2004] He immediately begins to uncover a wide network of suspected Hamas and al-Qaeda financiers inside the US. Apparently, he gets a key head start from the confession of Mohammad Salah in Israel in early 1993 (see January 1993). Salah names 23 organizations in the US who he says are secretly funding Hamas, and Israel shares this information with US officials. Some of his confession, including the mention of the Holy Land Foundation as a key Hamas funder, is even publicly revealed in a February 1993 New York Times article. [New York Times, 2/17/1993; Federal News Service, 6/2/2003] In the next few years, Wright will uncover evidence that leads him to suspect the following:
Mousa Abu Marzouk, the political director of Hamas, has been laundering money and fundraising in the US for Hamas (see July 5, 1995-May 1997).
The Holy Land Foundation charity is secretly financing Hamas suicide bombings (see October 1993; December 4, 2001).
Saudi multimillionaire Yassin Al-Qadi is funding Hamas (see June 9, 1998).
Al-Qadi is funding al-Qaeda attacks (see October 1998).
Several other US residents and entities are also financing Hamas. In 1996, Wright’s investigations will turn into a larger investigation of terrorist financing, code named Vulgar Betrayal (see 1996). It will continue to discover more leads to connect not only to Hamas, but also to al-Qaeda. [New York Post, 7/14/2004]
Sheikh Muhammad Al-Hanooti. [Source: Muslim World League Canada]The FBI secretly records top Hamas leaders meeting in a Philadelphia hotel. Five Hamas leaders meet with three leaders of the Texas-based Holy Land Foundation charity (see 1989), including CEO Shukri Abu Baker and chairman Ghassan Elashi. A peace accord between Israel and the Palestinian Liberation Organization (PLO) had just been made, and this group meets to decide how to best oppose that. It is decided that “most or almost all of the funds collected [by Holy Land] in the future should be directed to enhance [Hamas] and to weaken the self-rule government” of Palestinian and PLO leader Yasser Arafat. According to an FBI memo released in late 2001 that summarizes the surveillance, “In the United States, they could raise funds, propagate their political goals, affect public opinion and influence decision-making of the US government.” The FBI also learns from the meeting that Hamas leader Mousa Abu Marzouk gave Holy Land large sums of cash to get the charity started. Holy Land will eventually grow to become the largest Muslim charity in the US. In a January 1995 public conference also monitored by the FBI, Holy Land CEO Abu Baker will be introduced to the audience as a Hamas senior vice president. One Hamas military leader there will tell the crowd, “I’m going to speak the truth to you. It’s simple. Finish off the Israelis! Kill them all! Exterminate them! No peace ever!” [New York Times, 12/6/2001; Emerson, 2002, pp. 89-90; CBS News, 12/18/2002] Investigators conclude at the time that some of Holy Land’s “key decision makers [are] Hamas members, the foundation [is] the primary US fundraising organ for Hamas, and most of its expenditures [go] to build support for Hamas and its goal of destroying Israel.” [Dallas Morning News, 12/5/2001] Sheikh Muhammad Al-Hanooti is one of the attendees for Hamas. In 1995, he will be listed as an unindicted coconspirator in the 1993 World Trade Center bombing (see February 26, 1993). In the early 1990s, he is the imam at a Jersey City, New Jersey, mosque where at least one of the WTC bombers regularly prays and where al-Qaeda leader Sheikh Omar Abdul-Rahman often delivers incendiary speeches. An FBI report claims Al-Hanooti raised more than $6 million for Hamas in 1993 alone, funneling much of it through the Holy Land Foundation. As of the end of 2005, Al-Hanooti will still be an imam in the US and will continue to deny all charges against him. [Albany Times-Union, 6/30/2002] Chicago FBI agents Robert Wright and John Vincent try and fail to get a criminal prosecution against the attendees of this meeting. Instead, the attendees will not be charged with criminal activity connected to this meeting until 2002 and 2004 (see December 18, 2002-April 2005). Vincent will comment in 2002 that the arrests made that year could have been made in 1993 instead. One of the Hamas attendees of the meeting, Abdelhaleem Ashqar, will be not arrested until 2004 (see August 20, 2004), and other attendees like Ismail Selim Elbarasse have never been arrested. Elbarasse, a college roommate of Hamas leader Mousa Abu Marzouk, will be detained in 2004 on the accusation of working with Marzouk to raise hundreds of thousands of dollars for Hamas, but not charged. [Federal News Service, 6/2/2003; Baltimore Sun, 8/26/2004] Oliver “Buck” Revell, head of the Dallas FBI office at the time, will say after 9/11 that the US government should have shut down Holy Land as soon as it determined it was sending money to Hamas (even though raising money for Hamas is not a criminal act in the US until 1995 (see January 1995)). [Associated Press, 12/12/2001]
Entity Tags: Shukri Abu Baker, Ghassan Elashi, Mousa Abu Marzouk, Palestinian Liberation Organization, Hamas, Sheikh Muhammad Al-Hanooti, Yasser Arafat, Federal Bureau of Investigation, Robert G. Wright, Jr., Oliver (“Buck”) Revell, Holy Land Foundation for Relief and Development, Abdelhaleem Ashqar, John Vincent, Ismail Selim Elbarasse
Timeline Tags: Complete 911 Timeline
FBI agent Robert Wright had begun to investigate terrorism financing in 1993, and apparently quickly discovered many leads (see After January 1993). However, he will later claim that by 1994, he encounters resistance to his investigations from the FBI’s International Terrorism Unit. Wright will claim, “[T]here existed a concerted effort on the part of agents conducting counterterrorism intelligence investigations to insulate the subjects of their investigations from criminal investigation and prosecution.” In 2002, Wright will claim that the agents were doing this because they were lazy, and he will sue these unnamed agents. [United Press International, 5/30/2002] But in 2003, he will suggest that in addition to such incompetence, his investigations into Hamas operatives living in the US were deliberately blocked so Hamas would be able to foment enough violence in Israel to derail the Israeli-Palestinian peace process. He will allege that some people in the FBI had a political agenda regarding Israel contrary to President Clinton’s (see June 2, 2003). [Federal News Service, 6/2/2003]
In January 1995, the New York Times reports, “For more than a year the Federal Bureau of Investigation has closely monitored supporters of the Palestinian terrorist group Hamas in several cities, including Washington, Chicago, Los Angeles, Detroit, and Dallas.” [New York Times, 1/26/1995] In August 1995, the Times reports, “For well over a year, the FBI has monitored Hamas supporters in several American cities.” [New York Times, 8/16/1995] On March 12, 1996, FBI Director Louis Freeh says to Congress, “We have several instances where we have been able to show the transfer of substantial cash funds from the US to areas in the Mideast where we could show Hamas received, and even made expenditure of, those funds.” He says some of the money raised is sent back from the Middle East to the US to support and expand phony front organizations for Hamas. The FBI, he adds, has a “very inadequate picture of what perhaps is much greater activity” in the US. He notes the difficulty of tracing “those funds to actual military or terrorist operations anywhere outside the US.” Hamas leaders say any such money raised is used for charitable and humanitarian purposes. (Legally, after 1995 it became a crime in the US to fund Hamas, no matter how they spent their money (see January 1995)) In 1997, a Congressional analyst will say it is estimated Hamas receives from 30 percent to 80 percent of its budget from sources inside the US. [New York Daily News, 3/13/1996; Associated Press, 5/26/1997] But in 2002, FBI agent Robert Wright will claim, “Against the wishes of some at the FBI in 1995, when I uncovered criminal violations in several of my cases, I promptly initiated active terrorism criminal investigations on these subjects. I developed probable cause to believe that some of these transfers or transmissions had been of money intended to be used in the support of domestic and international terrorism activities. The illegal transfers that supported specific terrorist activities involving extortion, kidnapping, and murder…” Much of Wright’s evidence will focus on Hamas figures Mohammad Salah and Mousa Abu Marzouk. [Federal News Service, 5/30/2002] FBI agent Joe Hummel will say in 1997 that he has evidence “millions of dollars” passed through the bank accounts of Marzouk. But even though Marzouk is in US custody, he will merely be deported later in 1997 (see July 5, 1995-May 1997). [Associated Press, 5/26/1997] Federal prosecutor Mark Flessner will later claim that Wright and others in the Vulgar Betrayal investigation were building a strong criminal case against some in this Hamas support network, but they were not allowed to charge anyone no matter how strong their evidence was (see October 1998). [Federal News Service, 5/30/2002] In March 2002, the FBI will still publicly claim that it is watching an “elaborate network” of Hamas supporters in the US (see March 15, 2002).
The US officially designates Hamas operative Mohammad Salah a “Specially Designated Terrorist.” Wright had begun investigating Salah in early 1993 based on Salah’s widely publicized confession (see January 1993). Wright will later claim that he was ready to begin a criminal investigation in 1995, but he was not allowed to do so. Salah, who is serving a five year prison sentence in Israel at this time, will return to Chicago in November 1997 and live openly in the US despite his terrorist designation. Salah will not be charged for the crimes he allegedly committed in the early 1990s (see 1989-January 1993) until 2004 (see August 20, 2004). [Federal News Service, 5/30/2002; Federal News Service, 6/2/2003]
Mousa Abu Marzouk. [Source: US Department of Corrections]On July 5, 1995, high-level Hamas leader Mousa Abu Marzouk is detained at a New York City airport as he tries to enter the US. An immigration agent checks Marzouk’s name against a watch list and finds a match. Marzouk’s name had apparently been added to the watch list in recent months, so he had not been stopped on previous trips. Although not a US citizen, he had been living in the US for 14 years. Israel considers him the head of Hamas’ political wing, and he is already under indictment in Israel for at least ten attacks that killed at least 47 people. In 1994 he appeared on Lebanese television to take credit for a Hamas suicide attack in Israel, saying, “Death is a goal to every Muslim.” When he is detained in New York, he is found with an address book that the FBI says contains the names, telephone numbers, and addresses of numerous “active and violent terrorists and terrorist organizations.” More than 20 percent of the addresses are in the US. He is also carrying paperwork connecting him to charities and companies worth more than $10 million, which the FBI suspect are part of a Hamas money laundering operation in the US. On August 16, 1995, the US declares him a “Specially Designated Terrorist.” [New York Times, 7/28/1995; Emerson, 2002, pp. 86-87; Federal News Service, 6/2/2003; Wall Street Journal, 6/21/2004] In August 1995, the US announces it will extradite Marzouk to Israel rather than try him in the US. Extradition hearings proceed slowly until 1997, when Marzouk announces he will no longer fight being deported to Israel. Then Israel makes the surprise announcement that it is no longer seeking Marzouk’s extradition. They cite a fear of a highly publicized trial and the fear of retaliatory terrorist attacks. In May 1997, the US deports Marzouk to Jordan, “ending what had become an embarrassing case for both the United States and Israel.” Jordan in turn deports him to Syria, where he will live and continue to work as a top Hamas leader. At the time of his deportation, it is claimed that one reason Marzouk is being deported is because the evidence against him is weak. [New York Times, 4/4/1997; New York Times, 5/6/1997; Emerson, 2002, pp. 87-89] However, FBI agent Robert Wright will later claim that he uncovered more than enough evidence to convict Marzouk, but that higher-ups in the FBI did not want to disrupt the Hamas support network in the US, apparently in hopes that Hamas would commit enough violent attacks to disrupt peace negotiations between Israel and more moderate Palestinians (see June 2, 2003).
Vulgar Betrayal, the most significant US government investigation into terrorist financing before 9/11, is launched. This investigation grows out of investigations Chicago FBI agent Robert Wright had begun in 1993 (see After January 1993), and Wright appears to be the driving force behind Vulgar Betrayal. He later will say, “I named the case Vulgar Betrayal because of the many gross betrayals many Arab terrorists and their supporters” committed against the US, but the name will later prove to be bitterly ironic for him. Over a dozen FBI agents are assigned it and a grand jury is empanelled to hear evidence. Wright will be removed from the investigation in late 1999 (see August 3, 1999), and it will be completely shut down in early 2000 (see August 2000). [Federal News Service, 6/2/2003; Chicago Tribune, 8/22/2004; LA Weekly, 8/25/2004; Judicial Watch, 12/15/2004] The investigation will first identify suspected terrorism financier Yassin al-Qadi as a target in 1997, but it will run into many obstacles in investigating him and others. Assistant US attorney Mark Flessner, the lead prosecutor for Vulgar Betrayal, will later claim that supervisors at the Justice Department’s headquarters obstructed the investigation because it appeared to trace terrorism financing to important figures in Saudi Arabia, a key US ally. Wright will later state that had the leads into al-Qadi and others been fully investigated, “I believe the FBI could have identified other significant links to Osama bin Laden, links which may have been addressed to prevent future attacks against the United States by bin Laden and his terrorist trainees.” [Federal News Service, 6/2/2003; Chicago Tribune, 8/22/2004]
FBI agent Robert Wright begins investigating two known Hamas suspects believed to be residing in the Chicago area. He asks a relief supervisor whether he has any information about these suspects. The relief supervisor says he does not. Wright spends several weeks investigating the location of these two terrorist suspects, only to later learn the relief supervisor not only knew one of the suspects had been arrested overseas in 1995 as a result of terrorist activities, but that he had placed a copy of a statement provided by the arrested terrorist to overseas authorities in an obscure location where no one would find it. Wright will make this claim in a 1995 court case. He will allege this is just one instance of FBI superiors withholding information from his Vulgar Betrayal investigation. [Robert G. Wright, Jr., v. Federal Bureau of Investigation, 5/16/2005] One suspect who seems to fit the description of one of the two suspects is Chicago resident Mohammed Joma Hilmi Jarad. He was arrested in Israel in 1995, confessed to being a Hamas operative, then was released and returned to live in Chicago. [New York Times, 8/16/1995]
The US government once again considers going after the Holy Land Foundation for its ties to Hamas. Israel freezes the foundation’s assets this year, and the Treasury Department proposes making a similar asset freeze in the US as well. [Wall Street Journal, 2/27/2002] In 2000, the New York Times will report, “Some government officials recommended that the group be prosecuted in 1997 for supporting Hamas, the militant Islamic group. But others opposed the effort, fearing that it would expose intelligence sources and spur public criticism of the administration as anti-Muslim.” [New York Times, 2/19/2000] Those pushing to prosecute the group would certainly include Vulgar Betrayal investigation FBI agents like Robert Wright. Wright had been aware of Holy Land’s ties to Hamas since 1993 (see After January 1993 and October 1993). However, Attorney General Janet Reno blocks the proposal and no action is taken. [Wall Street Journal, 2/27/2002] Counterterrorism “tsar” Richard Clarke claims that in 1995 he pushed for something to be done to Holy Land, but higher-ups overruled him (see January 1995-April 1996).
John Vincent. [Source: Patriot TV]FBI agent Robert Wright will later recall that at this time, he is pleasantly surprised when FBI management provides his Vulgar Betrayal investigation with a 10 year veteran agent to assist with his efforts. According to Wright, the unnamed agent is assigned to “investigate a company and its 20-plus subsidiaries which were linked to a major financer of international terrorism.” However, Wright and fellow agent John Vincent will soon become dismayed when they realize the agent is not actually doing any work. He merely shuffles papers to look busy when people walk by. He will continue to do no work on this important assignment until the Vulgar Betrayal investigation is effectively shut down one year later (see August 3, 1999). Wright will claim in 2003, “The important assignment he was given involved both the founder and the financier of Ptech.” Presumably these could be references to Oussama Ziade, the president and chief founder of Ptech, and Yassin al-Qadi, apparently Ptech’s largest investor. [Federal News Service, 6/2/2003]
FBI agent Robert Wright, apparently frustrated that his Vulgar Betrayal investigation is not allowed to criminally charge Hamas operative Mohammad Salah and Saudi multimillionaire Yassin al-Qadi, gets a court order to seize $1.4 million in bank accounts and the Chicago house Salah owns. Wright says in the suit that the money is linked directly to al-Qadi and would be destined for terrorist activities. Wright uses a civil forfeiture law that had been frequently used to seize properties and funds of drug dealers or gangsters, but had never been used for accused terrorists. Salah had living in Chicago since his release from an Israeli prison in November 1997. A highly detailed affidavit tracks wire transfers from the US and Switzerland to specific Hamas attacks in Israel. Al-Qadi’s money was deposited in bank accounts controlled by Salah, who is called an important courier and financial agent for Hamas. Then Salah invested the money in BMI Inc., a real estate investment firm with ties to many suspected terrorism financiers (see 1986-October 1999). Some of the money is eventually withdrawn by Salah, brought to the West Bank, and given to Hamas operatives there (see 1989-January 1993). Salah denies the charges and says all the transfers were for charitable causes. Al-Qadi also claims innocence. [New York Times, 6/14/1998; United Press International, 5/30/2002; Wall Street Journal, 12/6/2002] However, a federal judge agrees to the defendants’ request for a stay order, and the suit is said to “languish” in a Chicago federal court. The funds remain frozen and Salah continues to live in his house. [Wall Street Journal, 9/25/2001] During the summer of 2001, the government will negotiate with Salah to settle the civil case, according to court records. [Chicago Tribune, 8/22/2004] The Justice Department will even move ahead with plans to return $1.4 million that Wright had seized from al-Qadi. But the transfer will be set for October 2001, “and the 9/11 attacks came first, prompting wiser minds at Justice to quash the move.” [New York Post, 7/14/2004] But also, in 2000, the parents of a US teenager said to have been killed by a Hamas attack in Israel will sue Salah and others for damaged based on this investigation, and they will win the suit in 2004 (see May 12, 2000-December 9, 2004). The US government will finally arrest Salah in 2004, and will charge him for many of the same offenses described in this 1998 case (see August 20, 2004). As of the end of 2005, al-Qadi has not been charged of any crime.
Two months after the US embassy bombings in Africa (see 10:35-10:39 a.m., August 7, 1998), FBI agent Robert Wright and his Vulgar Betrayal investigation discover evidence they think ties Saudi multimillionaire Yassin al-Qadi to the bombings. Since 1997, Wright had been investigating a suspected terrorist cell in Chicago that was connected to fundraising for Hamas. They discovered what they considered to be clear proof that al-Qadi and other people they were already investigating had helped fund the embassy bombings. Wright asks FBI headquarters for permission to open an investigation into this money trail at this time, but the permission is not granted. Wright will later recall, “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.’” Instead, they are told to merely follow the suspects and file reports, but make no arrests. Federal prosecutor Mark Flessner, working with the Vulgar Betrayal investigation, later will claim that a strong criminal case was building against al-Qadi and his associates. “There were powers bigger than I was in the Justice Department and within the FBI that simply were not going to let [the building of a criminal case] happen. And it didn’t happen.… I think there were very serious mistakes made. And I think, it perhaps cost, it cost people their lives ultimately.” [ABC News, 12/19/2002] Flessner later will speculate that Saudi influence may have played a role. ABC News will report in 2002, “According to US officials, al-Qadi [has] close personal and business connections with the Saudi royal family.” [ABC News, 11/26/2002] Wright later will allege that FBI headquarters even attempted to shut down the Vulgar Betrayal investigation altogether at this time. He says, “They wanted to kill it.” [ABC News, 12/19/2002] However, he will claim, “Fortunately an assistant special agent in Chicago interceded to prevent FBI headquarters from closing Operation Vulgar Betrayal.” [Federal News Service, 6/2/2003] He claims that a new supervisor will write in late 1998, “Agent Wright has spearheaded this effort despite embarrassing lack of investigative resources available to the case, such as computers, financial analysis software, and a team of financial analysts. Although far from being concluded, the success of this investigation so far has been entirely due to the foresight and perseverance of Agent Wright.” [Federal News Service, 5/30/2002] When the story of this interference in the alleged al-Qadi-embassy bombings connection will be reported in late 2002, Wright will conclude, “September the 11th is a direct result of the incompetence of the FBI’s International Terrorism Unit. No doubt about that. Absolutely no doubt about that. You can’t know the things I know and not go public.” He will remain prohibited from telling all he knows, merely hinting, “There’s so much more. God, there’s so much more. A lot more.” [ABC News, 12/19/2002]
BMI Inc. is a New Jersey-based investment firm with connections to a remarkable number of suspected terrorist financiers (see 1986-October 1999). In 1999, a former BMI accountant contacts the FBI and says that he believes BMI is supporting terrorism. He claims that money he “was transferring overseas on behalf of the company may have been used to finance the embassy bombings in Africa.”(see 10:35-10:39 a.m., August 7, 1998) US investigators establish a financial link between BMI and an Islamic charity named Mercy International. A Nairobi, Kenya, branch of that charity helped support the embassy bombings. FBI agent Robert Wright’s Vulgar Betrayal investigation had recently discovered evidence suggesting a link between Saudi multimillionaire Yassin al-Qadi and the embassy bombings (see October 1998), and al-Qadi is a major investor of BMI. The Vulgar Betrayal investigation begins looking at this new possible link. BMI president Soliman Biheiri hears that FBI agent Gamal Abdel-Hafiz has been told about this, and he asks to meet with Abdel-Hafiz to explain. Apparently, he does not realize that Abdel-Hafiz is an undercover FBI agent. Wright asks Abdel-Hafiz to wear a wire to the meeting, and Abdel-Hafiz refuses to do so (see Early 1999-March 21, 2000). Apparently the meeting with Biheiri never takes place and the possible connections between BMI and the embassy bombings are not fully investigated before 9/11. [Wall Street Journal, 11/26/2002; Washington Post, 8/20/2003; Frontline, 10/16/2003]
Gamal Abdel-Hafiz. [Source: Charles Ommanney]Gamal Abdel-Hafiz, one of only a few Muslim FBI agents in the years just prior to 9/11, becomes involved in FBI agent Robert Wright’s Vulgar Betrayal investigation in early 1999. An accountant working for BMI Inc., an investment firm with connections to many suspected terrorism financiers (see 1986-October 1999), tells Abdel-Hafiz that he is worried that BMI funds had helped fund the 1998 US embassy bombings in Africa (see 10:35-10:39 a.m., August 7, 1998). BMI president Soliman Biheiri hears that Abdel-Hafiz had been told about this, and wants to meet with him to discuss it (apparently without realizing that Abdel-Hafiz is an undercover FBI agent). Wrights asks Abdel-Hafiz to wear a wire to the meeting, but Abdel-Hafiz refuses to do so. This leads to infighting within the FBI. On July 6, 1999, Abdel-Hafiz files a religious discrimination complaint, accusing Wright of making derogatory comments to fellow agents. [Frontline, 10/16/2003] On March 21, 2000, Wright makes a formal internal complaint about Abdel-Hafiz. FBI agent Barry Carmody seconds Wright’s complaint. Wright and Carmody accuse Abdel-Hafiz of hindering investigations by openly refusing to record other Muslims. In an affidavit, Wright claims that Abdel-Hafiz refused to wear the wire “based on religious reasons saying, ‘A Muslim doesn’t record another Muslim.’” Abdel-Hafiz does not deny the quote, but claims it was taken out of context. [Wall Street Journal, 11/26/2002; ABC News, 12/19/2002; Frontline, 10/16/2003] Federal prosecutor Mark Flessner and other FBI agents back up the allegations against Abdel-Hafiz. [ABC News, 12/19/2002] Carmody will also claim that, in a different investigation, Abdel-Hafiz hindered an inquiry into the possible ties to Islamic militants of fired University of South Florida Professor Sami al-Arian by refusing to record a conversation with the professor in 1998. [Tampa Tribune, 3/4/2003] Complaints to superiors and headquarters about Abdel-Hafiz never get a response. [Fox News, 3/6/2003] “Far from being reprimanded, in February 2001 Abdel-Hafiz [is] promoted to one of the FBI’s most important anti-terrorism posts, the American Embassy in Saudi Arabia, to handle investigations for the FBI in that Muslim country.” [ABC News, 12/19/2002; Frontline, 10/16/2003] In 2003, FBI agent John Vincent will complain, “Five different FBI field divisions complained of this agent’s activities, and the FBI headquarters response was to promote him to a sensitive position in Riyadh, Saudi Arabia.” [Federal News Service, 6/2/2003] Abdel-Hafiz will be suspended in February 2003 over charges that he faked a break-in of his own house in order to collect $25,000 in insurance benefits and then failed an FBI polygraph test when asked about it. In January 2004, the FBI’s Disciplinary Review Board will reinstate him after deciding there was insufficient evidence in the case. [Tampa Tribune, 3/4/2003; Frontline, 10/16/2003]
Chicago FBI agent Robert Wright is abruptly removed from the Vulgar Betrayal investigation into terrorism financing (see 1996). The entire investigation apparently winds down without his involvement, and will shut down altogether in 2000 (see August 2000). A New York Post article will state, “[T]he official reason was a fear that Wright’s work would disrupt FBI intelligence-gathering. My sources find this dubious: After years of monitoring these individuals, the bureau had likely learned all it could.… [But] conversations with FBI personnel indicate that he was told informally that his work was too embarrassing to the Saudis. In support of this is the fact that Wright was shut down as he seemed to be closing in on Yassin al-Qadi.” [Washington Post, 5/11/2002; New York Post, 7/14/2004] Wright later will claim that a reason he is given for being taken off the investigation is a recent dispute he is having with a Muslim FBI agent who refuses to wear a wire (see Early 1999-March 21, 2000). [Federal News Service, 6/2/2003] He is also accused of sexually harassing a female FBI agent. This charge is investigated and later dropped. [Chicago Tribune, 8/22/2004] Wright is removed from counterterrorism work altogether and remains that way at least through early 2002. [Associated Press, 3/15/2002] In September 1999, he will hire Chicago lawyer David Schippers, famed as House investigative counsel in the Clinton impeachment, to help fight the closure of the investigation. Although Schippers is known as an enemy of President Clinton, Wright will say, “I’m confident President Clinton had absolutely nothing to do with the lack of support and eventual closure of the Vulgar Betrayal investigation.” [Federal News Service, 6/2/2003; CNN, 6/19/2003]
David Boim. [Source: Public domain]The parents of a US teenager killed in a West Bank attack sue Mohammad Salah, Mousa Abu Marzouk, the Holy Land Foundation, Quranic Literacy Institute, and Islamic Association for Palestine (IAP) for $600 million. Stanley and Joyce Boim claim these people and entities were a “a network of front organizations” in the US that funded the attack that killed their 17-year-old David Boim. Their son was gunned down in 1996 while waiting at a bus stop; the attack was blamed on Hamas. Suing suspected terrorists for damages is allowed under a 1992 law, but it had never been done before. The suit claims that the Hamas finance network paid for the vehicle, machine guns, and ammunition used to kill Boim. The case is based on the investigative work of FBI agent Robert Wright and his Vulgar Betrayal investigation. Salah’s house and bank accounts were seized as part of the investigation. [Associated Press, 5/14/2000; Associated Press, 6/6/2002] The Holy Land Foundation is defended in the suit by Akin, Gump, Strauss, Hauer & Feld, a Washington law firm said to have influence with the Bush family. For instance, one firm partner is James Langdon, one of the future President Bush’s close Texas friends. [Boston Herald, 12/11/2001] On December 9, 2004, it will be announced that the elder Boims have won the suit. All of the above-mentioned people and entities will be found guilty and ordered to pay the Boims a total of $156 million. There is little chance the Boims will ever see all of that large sum, especially since the organizations will be shut down and have their assets frozen in the years since the suit began. Joyce Boim will say, “I finally have justice for David. He’s up there, smiling down.” [Associated Press, 12/9/2004]
Entity Tags: Vulgar Betrayal, Hamas, Mousa Abu Marzouk, Islamic Association for Palestine, Robert G. Wright, Jr., Mohammad Salah, Quranic Literacy Institute, Akin, Gump, Strauss, Hauer & Feld, David Boim, Joyce Boim, Holy Land Foundation for Relief and Development, Stanley Boim
Timeline Tags: Complete 911 Timeline
FISA court judge Royce Lamberth was angry with the FBI over misleading statements made in FISA wiretap applications. [Source: Public domain]While monitoring foreign terrorists in the US, the FBI listens to calls made by suspects as a part of an operation called Catcher’s Mitt, which is curtailed at this time due to misleading statements by FBI agents. It is never revealed who the targets of the FBI’s surveillance are under this operation, but below are some of the terrorism suspects under investigation in the US at the time:
Imran Mandhai, Shuyeb Mossa Jokhan and Adnan El Shukrijumah in Florida. They are plotting a series of attacks there, but Mandhai and Jokhan are brought in for questioning by the FBI and surveillance of them stops in late spring (see November 2000-Spring 2002 and May 2, 2001);
Another Florida cell connected to Blind Sheikh Omar Abdul-Rahman. The FBI has been investigating it since 1993 (see (October 1993-November 2001));
Al-Qaeda operatives in Denver (see March 2000);
A Boston-based al-Qaeda cell involving Nabil al-Marabh and Raed Hijazi. Cell members provide funding to terrorists, fight abroad, and are involved in document forging (see January 2001, Spring 2001, and Early September 2001);
Fourteen of the hijackers’ associates the FBI investigates before 9/11. The FBI is still investigating four of these people while the hijackers associate with them; [US Congress, 7/24/2003, pp. 169 ]
Hamas operatives such as Mohammed Salah in Chicago. Salah invests money in the US and sends it to the occupied territories to fund attacks (see June 9, 1998).
When problems are found with the applications for the wiretap warrants, an investigation is launched (see Summer-October 2000), and new requirements for warrant applications are put in place (see October 2000). From this time well into 2001, the FBI is forced to shut down wiretaps of al-Qaeda-related suspects connected to the 1998 US embassy bombings and Hamas (see March 2001 and April 2001). One source familiar with the case says that about 10 to 20 al-Qaeda related wiretaps have to be shut down and it becomes more difficult to get permission for new FISA wiretaps. Newsweek notes, “The effect [is] to stymie terror surveillance at exactly the moment it was needed most: requests from both Phoenix [with the Ken Williams memo (see July 10, 2001)] and Minneapolis [with Zacarias Moussaoui’s arrest] for wiretaps [will be] turned down [by FBI superiors],” (see August 21, 2001 and August 28, 2001). [Newsweek, 5/27/2002] Robert Wright is an FBI agent who led the Vulgar Betrayal investigation looking into allegations that Saudi businessman Yassin al-Qadi helped finance the embassy bombings, and other matters. In late 2002, he will claim to discover evidence that some of the FBI intelligence agents who stalled and obstructed his investigation were the same FBI agents who misrepresented the FISA petitions. [Judicial Watch, 9/11/2002]
Entity Tags: Royce Lamberth, Shuyeb Mossa Jokhan, Catcher’s Mitt, Robert G. Wright, Jr., Zacarias Moussaoui, Raed Hijazi, Mohammad Salah, Federal Bureau of Investigation, Al-Qaeda, Adnan Shukrijumah, Central Intelligence Agency, Nabil al-Marabh, Ken Williams, Imran Mandhai, Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act
Timeline Tags: Complete 911 Timeline, 9/11 Timeline
[Source: FBI]FBI agent Robert Wright is continuing to protest and fight the cancellation of the Vulgar Betrayal investigation (see August 2000). In January 2001, he claims that his supervisor tells him, “I think it’s just better to let sleeping dogs lie.” FBI agent John Vincent backs up the allegation. [ABC News, 12/19/2002] In March 2001, Wright meets with the Chicago special agent-in-charge, who appears to be Kathleen McChesney, given that Wright calls this person “she” and McChesney held that position since January 1999. [Federal Bureau of Investigation, 12/2001; Federal News Service, 6/2/2003] He tells her that “the international terrorism unit of the FBI is a complete joke.” Within three weeks, the FBI opens another disciplinary investigation on Wright, charging that he had supplied classified information to an assistant US attorney. Wright is later cleared of the charges. In 2002, Wright will claim, “This was a pathetic attempt… before the Sept. 11th attacks, to further silence me from going public about the FBI’s negligence and incompetence.” [CNN, 6/19/2003; New York Post, 7/14/2004] A lawyer speaking for Wright after 9/11 will blame Assistant Attorney General for the Criminal Division Michael Chertoff for refusing to take Wright’s concerns seriously before 9/11. Chertoff will later be promoted to head the Department of Homeland Security. [Fox News, 5/30/2002]
David Schippers, the House Judiciary Committee’s chief investigator in the Clinton impeachment trial, was hired to represent FBI agent Robert Wright in September 1999 (see August 3, 1999). After 9/11, Schippers will claim that he began privately informing congresspeople about Wright’s investigation into terrorism financing in the US in early 2001, but found little interest (see February-March 2001). Schippers appears to have had different sources than Wright who began telling him about attack warnings. Supposedly, the first warning was based on a secret February 1995 report which stated that bin Laden was planning three attacks on the US: the bombing of a federal building in the heartland of the US, shooting down or blowing up an airplane, and a massive attack in lower Manhattan. Schippers believes the first warning was a prediction of the April 1995 Oklahoma City bombing (see 8:35 a.m. - 9:02 a.m. April 19, 1995) and the second was a prediction of the 1996 explosion of TWA Flight 800 (see July 17, 1996-September 1996). In some versions of this warning, the Manhattan attack was meant to be caused by a “dirty bomb” - explosives mixed with radioactive materials - but other accounts described the use of planes as weapons instead. He says one of his sources for this early warning was Yossef Bodansky, director of the Congressional Task Force on Terrorism and Unconventional Warfare. Schippers will claim that his sources continued to uncover further information. The Manhattan warning “had started out just a general threat, but they narrowed it and narrowed it, more and more with time,” until the “same people who came out with the first warning” tell him in May 2001 that “an attack on lower Manhattan is imminent.” Schippers speaks to several FBI agents directly, and hears that “there are [other agents] all over the country who are frustrated and just waiting to come out.” They are frustrated by “a bureaucratic elite in Washington short-stopping information,” which gives “terrorism a free reign in the United States.” Schippers later claims that some FBI agents later told him that before 9/11, “they had [Mohamed] Atta in their sights.” They also had attempted to “check out” the names and activities of “very strange characters training at flight schools.” He will claim that “FBI agents in Chicago and Minnesota” tell him “there [is] going to be an attack on lower Manhattan.” Schippers will later claim that he will attempt to contact Attorney General John Ashcroft and other politicians about this warning in coming months, but that they will show little interest (see July-Late August 2001). [WorldNetDaily, 10/21/2001; Indianapolis Star, 5/18/2002; Ahmed, 2004, pp. 258-260]
FBI agent Robert Wright gives the FBI a mission statement he wrote that outlines his complaints against his agency. It reads, in part, “Knowing what I know, I can confidently say that until the investigative responsibilities for terrorism are removed from the FBI, I will not feel safe. The FBI has proven for the past decade it cannot identify and prevent acts of terrorism against the United States and its citizens at home and abroad. Even worse, there is virtually no effort on the part of the FBI’s International Terrorism Unit to neutralize known and suspected terrorists residing within the United States. Unfortunately, more terrorist attacks against American interests, coupled with the loss of American lives, will have to occur before those in power give this matter the urgent attention it deserves.” Wright asks the FBI for permission to make his complaints public. Larry Klayman, chairman of the public-interest group Judicial Watch, claims that regulations require the FBI to give or deny clearance within 30 days, which would have made FBI failures an issue before 9/11. But the FBI delays making a decision and will only allow Wright to publicly reveal his mission statement in May 2002. [Cybercast News Service, 5/30/2002; Federal News Service, 5/30/2002] One month later, Wright and his lawyer David Schippers have a meeting with a reporter from the CBS news program 60 Minutes to express the concerns in his statement. He claims that he says it is only a matter of time before there will be an attack on US soil. However, he is prohibited by his superior from speaking to 60 Minutes or any other media outlet. [Federal News Service, 6/2/2003] Schippers will later claim that this month he also attempts to contact a number of important politicians with his concerns based on information from Wright and other FBI agents that he knows, but he was rebuffed (see July-Late August 2001).
[Source: Publicity photo]David Schippers, the House Judiciary Committee’s chief investigator in the Clinton impeachment trial and the lawyer for FBI agent Robert Wright since September 1999, will later claim that he was warned about an upcoming al-Qaeda attack on lower Manhattan in May 2001 (see May 2001). After May, Schippers continues to get increasingly precise information about this attack from FBI agents in Chicago and Minnesota, and around July he renews efforts to pass the warning to politicians. He will claim, “I tried to see if I could get a Congressman to go to bat for me and at least bring these people [to Washington] and listen to them. I sent them information and nobody cared. It was always, ‘We’ll get back to you,’ ‘We’ll get back to you,’ ‘We’ll get back to you.’” At the same time he is attempting to pass on this warning, he will claim he is also attempting to pass on the work of reporter Jayna Davis and her theory that Middle Easterners were involved in the 1995 Oklahoma City bombing (see 8:35 a.m. - 9:02 a.m. April 19, 1995), and also Wright’s claim that Hamas operatives were operating freely inside the US (see February-March 2001). The three claims put together seem to lead to a bad response; Schippers later comments, “People thought I was crazy.” Around July 15, he attempts to contact Attorney General John Ashcroft. Conservative activist “Phyllis Schlafly finally apparently made some calls. She called me one day and said, ‘I’ve talked to John Ashcroft, and he’ll call you tomorrow.’” The next day, one of Ashcroft’s underlings in the Justice Department calls him back and says, “We don’t start our investigations with the Attorney General. Let me look into this, and I’ll have somebody get back to you right away.” Schippers will say he never did hear back from anyone in the Justice Department. Perhaps coincidentally, on July 26 it will be reported that Ashcroft has stopped flying commercial aircraft due to an unnamed threat (see July 26, 2001). In late August, his FBI agent sources again confirm that an al-Qaeda attack on lower Manhattan is imminent. [WorldNetDaily, 10/21/2001; Indianapolis Star, 5/18/2002; Ahmed, 2004, pp. 258-260] In 2003, Wright will say, “In 2000 and in 2001, [Schippers] contacted several US congressmen well before the September 11th attacks. Unfortunately, these congressmen failed to follow through with Mr. Schippers’ request that they investigate my concerns.” It is not clear if Wright was one of the Chicago FBI agents that Schippers claims gave warnings about a Manhattan attack, or if Wright is only referring to Wright’s investigation into funding for Hamas and other groups that Schippers was also warning politicians about (see February-March 2001). [Federal News Service, 6/2/2003]
Entity Tags: William Jefferson (“Bill”) Clinton, US Department of Justice, Al-Qaeda, Robert G. Wright, Jr., Phyllis Schlafly, John Ashcroft, Hamas, Federal Bureau of Investigation, David Schippers, Jayna Davis
Timeline Tags: Complete 911 Timeline, 9/11 Timeline
FBI agent Robert Wright will later claim that the FBI takes extraordinary efforts to gag him in the wake of the 9/11 attacks. According to Wright, “On September the 11th, as I watched the World Trade Center towers burn, I did not initially share the same feelings of surprise and shock and dismay most Americans felt. I just thought to myself, ‘It has begun.’” On the afternoon of 9/11, he claims that he is called by reporters from the New York Times and 60 Minutes who already are aware of his issues with FBI management (see June 9, 2001-July 10, 2001). They ask if he would be willing to go public with his story. He declines. “I’m confident if I had gone public at that time I would have been fired. I realized my termination would only aid the FBI by allowing management to claim I was simply a former employee who was disgruntled over his termination.” Over the next few days, his former supervisor prohibits him from working with the 9/11 investigation. He is not allowed to answer any incoming telephone calls from the general public. The FBI prohibits him from publishing his recently completed book on FBI failures (see May 9, 2002). His lawyers contact a congressman who invites him to come to Washington and present his information to Congress. Wright is immediately prohibited from traveling outside of Chicago without FBI approval. Larry Klayman, one of two lawyers now representing Wright, later says he calls the Justice Department a few days after 9/11 and asks that Wright be allowed to present his issues to Attorney General John Ashcroft. Klayman claims he receives a reply from Michael Chertoff, then head of the Criminal division, who refuses to meet with Wright and says, “We are tired of conspiracy theories.” [Federal News Service, 5/30/2002; Federal News Service, 6/2/2003] On September 20, Wright’s legal representatives publish a list of 20 entities described as “Tax Exempt and Other Entities to Investigate Immediately.” The US will later shut down many of these entities. [Judicial Watch, 9/20/2001] The restrictions placed on Wright will largely continue to hold in the years afterwards. For instance, as of the end of 2005, his book still has not been approved for publication (see May 9, 2002).
FBI agents John Vincent (left), and Robert Wright (right) appear on ABC News. [Source: ABC News]In early March 2002, New York Times reporter Judith Miller hears that FBI agent Robert Wright is complaining about the FBI’s mishandling of the Vulgar Betrayal investigation. Miller submits a list of written questions to Wright about his allegations. She also submits a similar list to FBI agent John Vincent, who also worked on Vulgar Betrayal and shares many of Wright’s views. Wright and Vincent quickly reply, but the FBI does not allow Miller to read their answers. Meanwhile, Miller contacts some other FBI officials to hear their side of the issue. She is allowed to speak to them. Because Miller is unable to hear from Wright or Vincent, she decides not to write the story. In December 2002, the Justice Department will hear an appeal from Wright and rule that no classified information was contained in the answers to Miller’s questions. But as of the end of 2005, all of Wright and Vincent’s answers still have not been released by the FBI. [Robert G. Wright, Jr., v. Federal Bureau of Investigation, 5/16/2005]
Days after FBI agent Robert Wright renewed efforts to make his disputes with the FBI public (see Early March 2002), the Associated Press releases a story that seems designed to counter Wright’s upcoming claims that the FBI has let large numbers of Hamas operatives live and fundraise openly in the US. The article says the FBI is conducting a “broad financial assault” against an “elaborate network of businesses and charities supporting Hamas” in the US. Further, “FBI terrorist tracking units monitoring, intercepting, and disrupting financial transactions from US supporters to Hamas overseas are moving closer to building criminal cases against some of the players.” The article notes that the FBI’s current efforts are based on Wright’s pre-9/11 work in Chicago. The article also says, “Information developed during and after [Wright’s] Chicago case has resulted in the execution of several national security warrants permitting electronic intercepts of key suspects here and overseas… In several instances, the FBI and other US agencies have decided to forgo arrests or indictments and instead have secretly disrupted Hamas activities so that agents could continue to monitor suspects and the flow of their money, officials said.” [Associated Press, 3/15/2002] Presumably, if any of the Hamas operatives were not suspicious that they were under surveillance before reading this article, they would be after reading it.
FBI agent Robert Wright, feeling that he had been gagged by FBI superiors (see September 11, 2001-October 2001), files a formal complaint in early 2002 with the Inspector General’s Office (IGO) of the Justice Department. The IGO probes agency wrongdoing and mistakes. However, the IGO turns him away. On May 5, 2002, the IGO writes that “Mr. Wright raises serious charges concerning the FBI’s handling of a criminal matter relating to suspected terrorists,” but the IGO does “not have the resources to conduct an investigation of [the] anticipated size and scope.” Instead, the IGO recommends Wright to refer his complaints to Congress. The IGO had previously conducted large-scale investigations, for instance looking into the FBI’s alleged mishandling of evidence in the trial of convicted Oklahoma City bomber Timothy McVeigh. David Schippers, one of Wright’s lawyers, scoffs at the IGO’s explanation: “The truth is, they don’t want to investigate FBI dereliction of duty.” The 9/11 Congressional Inquiry will interview Wright in late 2002. [LA Weekly, 8/9/2002] However, neither his name, nor Yassin al-Qadi’s name, nor any details about the Vulgar Betrayal investigation will appear in the Inquiry’s heavily censored 2003 final report. He will not be interviewed by the 9/11 Commission, and neither his name, nor Yassin al-Qadi’s name, nor any details about the Vulgar Betrayal investigation will appear in the 9/11 Commission Final Report in 2004. Supposedly, the FBI “stalled Wright’s appearance before the 9/11 Commission until it was too late for him to appear before its public hearings.” [US Congress, 7/24/2003 ; US Congress, 7/24/2003; DebbieSchlussel (.com), 7/14/2004; 9/11 Commission, 7/24/2004]
FBI Special Agent Robert Wright sues the FBI for violating his First Amendment rights, the regulation governing the FBI’s prepublication review policies and procedures, and the Administrative Procedure Act, by failing to clear for publication his book manuscript, two complaints he’d submitted to the Department of Justice Office of the Inspector General (OIG), and his answers to questions posed by New York Times reporter Judy Miller. In October 2001, pursuant to the FBI’s prepublication review policy and his employment agreement, Wright submitted to the FBI a 500-page single-spaced manuscript titled “Fatal Betrayals of the Intelligence Mission.” Generally, agencies are required to complete review within 30 days, barring extenuating circumstances. In early January 2002, the FBI responded, stating that 18 percent of the manuscript contained “classified information; information containing sensitive investigative material and information protected by the Privacy Act.” Wright edited his manuscript to address these concerns and resubmitted it with three binders documenting public sources for the many factual claims, including affidavits and other court documents from his investigations. On November 13, 2001, Wright submitted his two OIG complaints to the FBI’s Office of Public and Congressional Affairs (OPCA) for prepublication review. OPCA responded on January 7, 2002, “taking issue with only 4 percent of the first document and 6 percent of the second.” On January 18, 2002, Wright resubmitted his manuscript with edits. After not receiving clearance to publish or any further response from the FBI, Wright sues in federal court on May 9, 2002. [New York Times, 5/12/2002; Memorandum Opinion: Wright, v. FBI, 7/31/2006] In a May 30, 2002 press conference, Wright will say he began writing the book in August 1999, and adds: “The manuscript outlines the FBI’s intentional, at times, failure, to pursue the terrorists and thereby prevent terrorist attacks. Ironically, I completed the text of the manuscript two days after the September 11th attack. On September 10th, I had all but the last three pages completed.” He will also say that his motive for writing the book was to “[expose] the bureau’s dereliction of duty in the terrorism arena,” that he is “seeking a thorough review and complete ‘house cleaning’ to identify and fix the FBI’s problems,” and that “as a nation we must work together in seeking to regain the confidence level we once had in the FBI to achieve its vital mission of protecting the safety and welfare of its citizens at home and abroad.” [Judicial Watch, 5/30/2002]
Robert Wright tears up as he apologizes to 9/11 victims’ relatives in his 2002 press conference. [Source: Getty Images]FBI agent Robert Wright holds a press conference. He makes a statement that has been preapproved by the FBI. As one account puts it, “Robert Wright’s story is difficult to piece together because he is on government orders to remain silent.… [T]his is in distinct contrast to the free speech and whistle-blower protections offered to Colleen Rowley, general counsel in the FBI Minneapolis office, who got her story out before the agency could silence her. Wright, a 12-year bureau veteran, has followed proper channels” but has been frustrated by limitations on what he is allowed to say (see September 11, 2001-October 2001). “The best he could do [is a] press conference in Washington, D.C., where he [tells] curious reporters that he [has] a whopper of a tale to tell, if only he could.” Wright says that FBI bureaucrats “intentionally and repeatedly thwarted [his] attempts to launch a more comprehensive investigation to identify and neutralize terrorists.” He also claims, “FBI management failed to take seriously the threat of terrorism in the US.” [Fox News, 5/30/2002; Federal News Service, 5/30/2002; LA Weekly, 8/2/2002] Larry Klayman, a lawyer representing Wright, says at the conference that he believes one reason Wright’s investigations were blocked “is because these monies were going through some very powerful US banks with some very powerful interests in the United States. These banks knew or had reason to know that these monies were laundered by terrorists. And there are very significant potential conflicts of interests in both the Clinton and Bush Administrations—with the country primarily responsible for funding these charities, mainly Saudi Arabia. We have both Clinton and Bush, and in particular this Bush Administration, who is as tight with Saudi Arabia as you can get.” He also says, “Corruption is knowing when something is not being done, knowing when the American people are being left unprotected and when you make a decision not to do something to protect the American people… And you effectively allow 9/11 to occur. That is the ultimate form of government corruption—dereliction of duty. That’s subject in the military to prosecution, to court martial…. Frankly, if not treason.” [Federal News Service, 5/30/2002]
Robert Wright, the FBI agent in charge of some groundbreaking investigations into charity fronts before 9/11, has been suspended and under investigation since at least early 2001 (see August 2000 and January-March 2001). However, at this time, his suspension is cleared and he is allowed to work as an FBI agent again. But he is specifically prohibited from working on topics he was investigating before, such as BMI and Yassin al-Qadi. He is not even allowed access to his own files from before his suspension. Wright will later be fired and then reinstated, but it does not appear he is ever able to continue his charity front investigations (see April 30, 2005-October 19, 2005). [Katz, 2003, pp. 186]
FBI agent Robert Wright holds a second press conference, accusing the FBI of obstructing the Vulgar Betrayal investigation before 9/11, and then engaging in a cover up after 9/11. He criticizes what he calls the FBI’s “pathetic anti-terrorism efforts.” He says, “the FBI does not want Congress and others to know how the FBI’s international terrorism unit was instrumental in the collapse of the Middle East peace process. The documents detail how the FBI allowed known terrorists, their co-conspirators and financiers to operate and roam freely throughout the United States while simultaneously turning a blind eye to the criminal activities of terrorists and obstructing those of us who are truly trying to identify them and neutralize them.” He also states, “I blame the FBI’s international terrorism unit for being instrumental in the collapse in the Middle East peace process in the 1990s.” [Federal News Service, 6/2/2003; CNN, 6/19/2003] The FBI responds by launching a dubious disciplinary investigation into Wright (see After June 2, 2003-December 2003). The same day Wright makes these allegations, news reports will indicate suspected Hamas operatives are still living openly in the US (see June 2-5, 2003).
Robert Jordan. [Source: KGW]Beginning in 1999, the FBI had conducted five disciplinary investigations of FBI agent Robert Wright and failed to find any wrongdoing. But within days of Wright’s second press conference (see June 2, 2003), they launch yet another investigation about him, claiming his media appearances show he was insubordinate. [Chicago Tribune, 4/22/2005] Senators Charles Grassley (R-IA) and Patrick Leahy (D-VT) quickly hear of this new investigation and co-author a letter to FBI Director Robert Mueller on July 12. The letter states, “We are troubled by the FBI’s apparent haste to launch [a disciplinary] investigation every time an agent speaks publicly about problems within the FBI… The FBI should worry more about catching terrorists than gagging its own agents.” The senators demand a briefing on what is happening. [CNN, 6/19/2003; Chicago Tribune, 7/13/2004] In July 2003, FBI agent Royden Rice speaks to a reporter from the LA Weekly. Wright will later sue the FBI, alleging that Rice disclosed classified information to the reporter in an attempt to smear him. Rice denies the charges and the case is still pending. [LA Weekly, 7/22/2005] In December 2003, John Roberts, the third highest ranking official in the FBI’s disciplinary office, writes a memo about FBI Assistant Director Robert Jordan and Deputy Assistant Director Jody Weis. The memo claims that Jordan and Weis were overheard saying that Wright’s second press conference (see June 2, 2003) would give them an opportunity to “take him out.” Roberts also refers to an e-mail from a higher up in the Chicago FBI office asking for permission to do a media smear job on Wright (it is not known if this agent is Rice or someone else). Roberts claims that Jordan and Weis are misusing the FBI’s disciplinary process to silence and punish whistleblowers like Wright. He also claims that the allegations against Wright were not serious enough for a disciplinary investigation and at most Wright should have faced a written reprimand, since no classified information was disclosed. Roberts says, “I was left with the clear understanding that I was to… deceive, misrepresent, and hide… the facts of this matter.” [Chicago Tribune, 7/13/2004; New York Post, 7/14/2004] Even though details of Roberts’ memo will be revealed to the press in 2004, the investigation into Wright will continue and result in him being fired in 2005. Senators Grassley and Leahy will write at least three more letters to Mueller demanding explanations, but still will receive no answer. Later in 2005, Wright’s dismissal will be overruled by the Justice Department and he will be reinstated (see April 30, 2005-October 19, 2005). There appears to have been no investigation into the behavior of Jordan and Weis. [LA Weekly, 7/22/2005]
Entity Tags: Robert S. Mueller III, Robert G. Wright, Jr., Robert Jordan, Patrick J. Leahy, Jody Weis, Royden Rice, John E. Roberts, Charles Grassley, Federal Bureau of Investigation, US Department of Justice
Timeline Tags: Complete 911 Timeline
On April 30, 2005, FBI agent Robert Wright is notified that the FBI plans to fire him within 30 days. He is immediately ordered to cease work. [Chicago Tribune, 4/22/2005] However, on October 19, 2005, it is announced that the Justice Department overruled the FBI and orders Wright reinstated as an FBI agent. However, he is placed on probation for one year and downgraded in pay. The Chicago Tribune comments, “Wright has been the subject of at least six disciplinary investigations in his career. His supporters have long suspected that the FBI retaliated against him for his public criticism of the bureau and its ability to safeguard the nation from future terrorist attacks.” [Chicago Tribune, 10/19/2005] He has two lawsuits still pending against the FBI. One alleges that the FBI improperly released confidential information from his personnel file (see After June 2, 2003-December 2003), and the other accuses the FBI of violating his rights of free expression by blocking the publication of a book he wrote before 9/11. [Washington Post, 4/23/2005]
FBI special agent and whistleblower Robert G. Wright Jr. wins the right to publish most of the information over which he has been fighting the FBI in court for nearly seven years (see May 9, 2002). US District Court Judge Gladys Kessler rules that Wright can publish most of the information in his 500-page manuscript, all of the information in two complaints he had filed with the Department of Justice Office of Inspector General regarding the FBI’s handling of terrorism investigations, and his answers to New York Times reporter Judith Miller’s questions. Kessler also rules that Wright’s colleague and co-plaintiff, FBI Special Agent John Vincent, can publish his answers to Miller’s questions.
Judge Repeatedly Faults FBI - In her 41-page memorandum opinion, Kessler repeatedly finds fault with the FBI. The preface to the opinion summarizes the proceedings and the related issues in this way: “This is a sad and discouraging tale about the determined efforts of the FBI to censor various portions of a 500-page manuscript, written by a former long-time FBI agent, severely criticizing the FBI’s conduct of the investigation of a money laundering scheme in which United States-based members of the Hamas terrorist organization were using non-profit organizations in this country to recruit and train terrorists and fund terrorist activities both here and abroad. The FBI also sought to censor answers given by both plaintiffs to a series of written questions presented to them by a New York Times reporter concerning Wright’s allegations about the FBI’s alleged mishandling of the investigation. In its efforts to suppress this information, the FBI repeatedly changed its position, presented formalistic objections to release of various portions of the documents in question, admitted finally that much of the material it sought to suppress was in fact in the public domain and had been all along, and now concedes that several of the reasons it originally offered for censorship no longer have any validity. Unfortunately, the issues of terrorism and of alleged FBI incompetence remain as timely as ever.” [Memorandum Opinion: Wright, v. FBI (PDF), 5/6/2009 ]
A 'Pyrrhic Victory' for Wright - Reporting on the case for Politico, Josh Gerstein will call the outcome “a pyrrhic victory for [Wright], since the passage of time appears to have diminished the market for his book.” Gerstein will quote one of Wright and Vincent’s lawyers, Paul Orfanedes of Judical Watch, as saying, “It’s a perfect example of how delaying somebody’s ability to publish is a clear violation of their rights.” Gerstein will also report, “Orfanedes said Wright’s book ‘might be made public in a reduced format,’ but that the group’s main hope now was to expose how the government system for pre-publication reviews of books by FBI, CIA, and other national security-related officials, is dysfunctional.” [Politico, 5/11/2009]
FBI Attempts to Censor Judge's Memorandum Opinion and Fails - In an ironic twist, an FBI demand for redaction of a portion of Kessler’s memorandum opinion calls attention to that portion of the text, which is easily readable due to improper redaction technique; the text under the blacked out portion can be copied and pasted. The redacted portion is an FBI argument for why a portion of Wright’s manuscript must be redacted. It reads, “[D]isclosure of the location and use of this infrastructure could allow individuals to survey, attempt to penetrate, or disrupt the activities that take place in the infrastructure.” It is unclear why the FBI believes that a general reference to sensitive infrastructure is sensitive in itself. [Memorandum Opinion: Wright, v. FBI (PDF), 5/6/2009 ; Memorandum Opinion: Wright, v. FBI (PDF), 5/6/2009; Memorandum Opinion: Wright, v. FBI (PDF), 5/6/2009]
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