Tuesday, March 21, 2006

Sleeping On The Job


By MICHAEL J. SNIFFEN, Associated Press Writer 51 minutes ago (on Yahoo!)

The headquarters supervisor of the FBI's international terrorism operations section testified Tuesday he had never read an Aug. 18, 2001, memo in which an agent proposed a full criminal investigation of Zacarias Moussaoui as a possible terrorist airplane hijacker.

The now retired supervisor, Michael Rolince, was questioned by defense attorney Edward MacMahon during Moussaoui's sentencing trial. He was asked whether he had ever heard that Harry Samit, the FBI agent who arrested Moussaoui while he was taking pilot lessons in Minnesota, concluded the 37-year-old Frenchman of Moroccan descent was a terrorist planning to hijack a commercial jetliner.

"No," Rolince snapped.

Had he heard other conclusions by Samit about Moussaoui?

"No. What document are you reading?" Rolince demanded.

Samit's Aug. 18 report "sent to your office," MacMahon replied.

Called as a government witness, Rolince, a 31-year FBI veteran who retired last October, proved to be more valuable for attorneys defending the only man charged in this country in connection with al-Qaida's Sept. 11, 2001, attacks on the World Trade Center and the Pentagon.

Defense objections and rulings by U.S. District Judge Leonie Brinkema barred Rolince from giving what prosecutors wanted most: a long listing of investigative steps the FBI could have taken if Moussaoui had admitted when he was arrested Aug. 16, 2001, all the facts he confessed to when pleading guilty last April.

Instead, defense attorney MacMahon was able to extract from Rolince more embarrassing revelations about FBI handling of terrorism intelligence before 9/11.

This was important because, to get a death penalty at this sentencing trial, the government must show that Moussaoui's lies upon arrest prevented the FBI from identifying 9/11 hijackers and the Federal Aviation Administration from altering airport security enough to have saved at least one of the nearly 3,000 people who died on Sept. 11


Had Americans been willing before 9/11 to wage war against our own Axis of Evil - arrogance, greed, complacency and ignorance - we wouldn't be fighting a war against terrorism. I'm not suggesting we invited it, or that we deserved it. But we did almost nothing to prevent it.

If the FBI, the CIA and other government agencies involved in national security were private corporations, they would be sued. Criminal charges would be filed. The men responsible would be tried, convicted and jailed.