"My most astonishing, findings involved Patrick Fitzgerald, the former head of Organized Crime and Terrorism in the SDNY, who had allowed Ali to remain free as early as 1994 even though he named him as an unindicted co-conspirator in the Day of Terror case. Another of my key findings was that Fitzgerald buried probative evidence of an al Qaeda New York cell in 1996.ummmm. he has more.
Beginning in January 1996 Fitzgerald effectively ran Squad I-49, but I learned that despite wiretaps on the key cell members and hard evidence in 1997 that Ali Mohamed (an FBI informant) was a major player in the Embassy bombing plot - he allowed him to remain free.
Most shocking were two face to face meetings Fitzgerald had with Mohamed in 1997. After the first meeting in April "Fitzie," as Cloonan called him, declared Ali "the most dangerous man" he'd "ever met" and announced that "we cannot let this man out on the street."
But Fitzgerald did, even though in October of 1997 Ali told him that he loved bin Laden and didn't need a fatwa to declare war against the U.S. where he'd become a naturalized citizen. Fitzgerald had convicted blind Sheikh Omar Abdel Rahman and 9 others for seditious conspiracy two years earlier, yet he permitted Mohamed to operate in the open and didn't arrest him until after the simultaneous truck bombings in Kenya and Tanzania on August 7th, 1998 which followed Ali Mohamed's 1993 surveillance with surgical precision.
Fitzgerald and Cloonan then took more than 18 months to get a plea bargain out of Mohamed, who never truly betrayed al Qaeda. They kept him in Manhattan Federal jail for 9 months on a John Doe warrant for fear the media would get wind of their negligence and actually prevented him from testifying in the Embassy bombing trial in 2001 because of the embarrassment that cross-examination of Mohamed would cause the Bureau and the Justice Department which had allowed bin Laden's top spy to work as an FBI informant.
Worse, while they had Ali in custody for three years, Fitzgerald and Cloonan failed to extract the 9/11 plot from him, even though they knew that the plot had commenced in 1994 in Manila, almost four years before Ali's capture. As the man who had lived with bin Laden and personally trained his security detail, Mohamed knew every twist and turn of it.
Within days of 9/11 Cloonan rushed backed from Yemen and interviewed Ali, whom the Feds had allowed to slip into witness protection, and demanded to know the details of the plot. At that point Ali wrote it all out - including details of how he'd counseled would-be hijackers on how to smuggle box cutters on board aircraft and where to sit, to effect the airline seizures.
In effect, my telling of the Ali Mohamed story holds Cloonan, Fitzgerald and a host of other key Feds responsible for not stopping the 1998 Embassy bombings or the 9/11 plot.
But the viewers of TRIPLE CROSS - the Nat Geo documentary on Monday night never saw any of this evidence critical of the Feds because Nat Geo Channel, allowed the story of FBI failures in the Ali Mohamed case to be told from the Bureau's point of view.
It was like doing Schindler's List from Hitler's perspective.
The casualty of all of this was the truth - and under the guise of a documentary which Nat Geo Channel claimed was "based in part" on my book, they perpetrated a factual distortion unknown in the recent history of broadcast journalism.
Why does any of it matter and why is this not simply a case of a disgruntled writer, unhappy at a television adaptation of his work? Because going in, the Nat Geo Channel bought a documentary from a five-time Emmy winning reporter that, once and for all, would expose the negligence of the Dept. of Justice on the road to 9/11.
Further, as I report in TRIPLE CROSS (the book) Dietrich Snell, a key SDNY prosecutor who served with Fitzgerald, covered up crucial evidence of FBI negligence before the 9/11 Commission and flushed key links between al Qaeda and the New York cell of blind Sheikh Omar Abdel Rahman that were turned-up in the year 2000 by the Army's Operation Able Danger."
update: larry johnson in the comments writes:
"Peter Lance, as he is prone to do, leaps to conclusions. When the FBI has an informant that they believe is legitimate, it is not uncommon to protect the source. Ali was a bad apple and his handlers dropped the ball, but it isn't a conspiracy. Having tried to work with Peter on one other project, his self-serving screed is more of his rich fantasy life. Milt Bearden and I wrote about Ali Mohamad in a NY Times Op-Ed that appeared on 7 November 2000. Long before Peter made his so-called "uncovering" of this story."