In 1997, O'Neill continued his ascent, moving to the FBI's National Security Division office in New York where he became the special agent in charge of counter-terrorism. His specialty was Islamic extremism.
In a speech about terrorism that year, O'Neill said: "A lot of these groups now have the capability and the support infrastructure in the U.S. to attack us here, if they choose to."
In 1998, O'Neill headed the FBI's investigation into the bombing of the American embassies in Kenya and Tanzania, which were blamed on Osama bin Laden's al Qaeda. O'Neill was already familiar with bin Laden from his investigations into the 1993 World Trade Center bombing and the 1996 bombing of the Khobar Towers barracks in Saudi Arabia, in which 19 American servicemen died.
Barry W. Mawn, assistant director of the F.B.I. in charge of the New York office, is quoted as saying that from the time O'Neill set up in the New York division, he was single-mindedly obsessed with pursuing bin Laden. He became the government's leading expert as well as its lead investigative weapon in the fight against al Qaeda. On the eve of the millennium, the government, acting on information gathered by the FBI, issued warnings that al Qaeda was planning large terrorist acts. At least two plots, one at Los Angeles International Airport and another in Jordan targeting Americans, were foiled.
In another millennium plot, Islamic terrorists tried to blow up a U.S. warship docked in Yemen's port. The attack narrowly failed when the rubber dinghy sank due to the weight of the explosives before it could reach the ships.
Ten months later -- despite all the warning a terrorist could give -- another al Qaeda suicide bomber succeeded in getting his rubber dinghy up to the side of another American warship, the USS Cole, in Yemen's harbor, killing 17 US sailors.
O'Neill led the investigation into the bombing of the Cole, which again was blamed on Osama bin Laden. And this is where the story starts to get very weird.
As O'Neill and his team probed deeper into the Cole bombing, his investigation was abruptly thwarted by, of all people, the United States ambassador to Yemen, Barbara Bodine. In the official version reported in the American press almost a year later, O'Neill's team was booted out of Yemen in November, 2000, because Bodine objected to O'Neill's "heavy-handed style." Another State Department source at the time confirmed that Bodine refused to allow O'Neill and his team to return to continue their investigation because his team was "too large" and many of the agents carried "heavy weapons" -- automatics -- that she found objectionable.
This account of how a local ambassador was able to thwart the single most important investigation to America's national security just because she didn't like the lead investigator's manners is impossible to swallow. What's more incredible is that the FBI allegedly wasn't allowed to return to Yemen to continue their investigation until Bodine left her ambassadorship in August 2001. Keep that date in mind, August 2001. A lot of people seemed to retire right around then. But I'll get to that later.
Bodine is an interesting character herself. She had served as the State Department's Political-Military officer for the Arabian Peninsula, as Deputy Principal Officer in the embassy in Baghdad and then moved to Deputy Chief of Mission in Kuwait during the Iraqi invasion and occupation in 1990. She was one of the last Americans to leave Kuwait. In 1997 Bodine, after serving as the State Department's associate director in counter-terrorism, was appointed ambassador to Yemen, birthplace of bin Laden.
Clearly Bodine wasn't your typical rich-donor ambassador. Yet just as clearly, she couldn't have stopped O'Neill's, and the FBI's, investigation, all on her own. The move must have been blessed by then-Secretary of State Madeleine Albright and/or others at her level. The coincidences in Bodine's timing should alone raise eyebrows: the FBI's lead al Qaeda expert barred from investigating the terrorists' attack from November 2000 until August 2001 -- that is, until the next attack. If it's not strange, it is at the very least infuriating as hell that the investigation was thwarted due to bad manners. It's possible that information from the Cole investigation could have led to information about the 9/11 plans. Why wasn't this ever mentioned in press accounts? Why don't they care enough to push it further? I WANNA KNOW!
The Seige: Another example of careless plotting and low-rent coincidence