UQ Wire: Time Magazine - Who Blew the Leads?
Who Blew the Leads?
The Saudis get blamed for not revealing more after 9/11. Maybe they said more than the FBI took in
by Adam Zagorin
June 27, 2005
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In the wake of 9/11, Saudi authorities came under criticism in the U.S. for sluggishness in investigating the attacks, in which 15 of the 19 hijackers were Saudi citizens. Now it appears that the U.S. bears some responsibility for the slackness with which leads were pursued. According to several former employees of the U.S. embassy in Riyadh, the FBI legal attaché's office housed within the embassy was often in disarray during the months that followed 9/11. When an FBI supervisor arrived to clean up the mess, she found a mountain of paper and, for security reasons, ordered wholesale shredding that resulted in the destruction of unprocessed documents relating to the 9/11 investigations. A letter obtained by Time confirms that the Senate Judiciary Committee is investigating the matter.
In 2001 the FBI's Saudi office comprised a secretary and two agents--Wilfred Rattigan and his lieutenant, Egyptian-American Gamal Abdel-Hafiz. They also oversaw six nearby countries. The FBI sent reinforcements within two weeks of 9/11, but it appears that the bureau's team never got on top of the thousands of leads flowing in from the U.S. and Saudi governments. In a June 6 letter to FBI Director Robert Mueller, the Senate Judiciary Committee renewed a request for information about allegations that the FBI's Riyadh office was "delinquent in pursuing thousands of leads" related to 9/11.
When the senior FBI supervisor was sent to the Riyadh office nearly a year after 9/11, she found secret documents literally falling out of file drawers, stacked in binders on tables and wedged behind cabinets, according to an FBI briefing to Congress. The process of sending classified material to the U.S. had fallen so far behind that a backlog of boxes, each filled with three feet of paper containing secret, time-sensitive leads, had built up. Since embassies must be prepared for the possibility of a hostile takeover, the rule is that officials should need no more than 15 minutes to destroy all their sensitive documents. Accordingly, the supervisor ordered the shredding of hundreds, perhaps thousands of pages, many of them related directly to the ongoing 9/11 investigation, an FBI briefer told Congress.
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