8/20/2005

Tribute To John P. O'Neill - An FBI Agent Who Stood Tall

By Martin Dillon
The answer to the burning question - how much did President Bush know - and when he knew about the threat of suicide attacks - may have passed beyond the grave - taken there by the greatest agent who ever served with the FBI.

He was John P. O'Neill the FBI's Executive Agent-in-Charge in New York, who died in the attack on the World Trade Center. Those who stand tall alongside him are the team who worked with him and field agents in places like San Diego.

JP, as I knew him, had resigned from the Bureau in July 2001. Two weeks before the attack on America he had taken up his new job as Head of Security at the World Trade Center.

He, the team of agents he worked with in the Bureau's New York office, and the agents in San Diego, who warned of Al Qaeda members taking flight training, can only but be commended.

But it is John P. O'Neill who stands out as the balanced voice about the threats from Al Qaeda in the years preceding 9/11. Following the bombing of the World Trade Center in 1993, he had become the foremost expert on the global threat from terrorism and the rise of Osama Bin Laden and his terrorist army..

John O'Neill felt that was not only a short-sighted analysis but a dangerous one. The plotters, and their mastermind, Ramzi Yousef, had links stretching into Pakistan, Afghanistan, the Middle East and the Philippines.

A detailed study of Ramzi Yousef led directly to the Saudi millionaire, Osama Bin-Laden and back to that war against the Soviets in Afghanistan.

There were other terror events which equally troubled the sharp mind of the FBI executive agent: the sarin attack in the Tokyo subway by the group known as the Cult of Supreme Truth.

He knew that Yousef had wanted to build a chemical capability - cesium 137 or sodium cyanide - into the 1500lb fertilizer bomb that devastated the base of one of the World Trade Center Towers in 1993. The use of sarin in Japan further concerned JP that Al-Qaeda, years after the attack in Japan, were even more capable of acquiring chemical and biological weapons.

Tribute To John P. O'Neill - An FBI Agent Who Stood Tall

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