What's even more interesting is that in early 2001, an Associated Press article about Yemen says this of Bodine: "Bodine [...]worked on the negotiating team that eventually found a way for the Americans to participate actively in the [USS Cole] probe despite Yemeni sovereignty concerns."
In August 2001, a clearly-coordinated smear campaign against O'Neill in the press changes this neutral version of events. In fact, up until August 2001, probably no one in the press even knew that the FBI had been banned by Bodine from investigating the USS Cole. In August, as you'll see, the campaign to blame it all on John O'Neill's character began in earnest.
O'Neill offered his explanation to a French journalist, Jean-Charles Brisard, as to why he had been barred from continuing his investigation: "All the answers, everything needed to dismantle Osama bin Laden's organization, can be found in Saudi Arabia." During interviews in June and July of 2001 with Brisard, published in his book Bin Laden: Hidden Truth last fall in France, O'Neill complained that his investigations into bin Laden were thwarted from above by senior American government officials and oil interests who didn't want to embarrass the Saudis or those American officials and companies tied to the royal family.
Now the O'Neill story gets even weirder. On August 19th of last year, the New York Times ran a story clearly leaked by the FBI accusing O'Neill of having lost a highly sensitive briefcase during an FBI conference. Two days later, a similar article appeared in the Washington Post. The events in the article are so totally absurd that the article needs to be quoted here in its original:
By Cheryl W. Thompson Washington Post Staff Writer Tuesday, August 21, 2001; Page A06
The head of the FBI's counterterrorism division in New York is under investigation for leaving his briefcase filled with classified information that was later stolen and found in another hotel, FBI sources said yesterday.
John P. O'Neill, a 31-year veteran of the agency with a reputation as a top-notch investigator, was attending an FBI conference last year in Tampa when he was paged. Surrounded by FBI employees, O'Neill left the soft-covered case near his chair and went to return the page, sources said. When he returned, the group had broken for lunch and the briefcase was gone.
"He didn't say to any employee, 'Keep an eye on this until I come back,"' an FBI source said.
Are you laughing? This is the classic story that every 8-year-old tells his teacher to explain why he didn't bring his homework to school: "My dog ate it." The source's excuse for why it wasn't his own fault or that of the hundreds of other senior sheriffs was equally childish: "My boss didn't tell me I had to watch his brief case." If an FBI agent, after all his training, has to be explicitly told to watch his boss's briefcase while he goes to the toilet, then frankly, America may as well surrender now.
And yet nothing could be less funny. The briefcase contained perhaps the single most important document that a terrorist planning to attack New York would want, according to the August 19th New York Times account:
Officials identified one document in the briefcase as a draft of what is known in the bureau as the Annual Field Office Report for national security operations in New York. The closely guarded report contained a description of every counterespionage and counterterrorism program in New York and detailed the budget and manpower for each operation. The document, submitted to bureau headquarters, is used as a central planning tool each year.
Let's go back and get this straight. O'Neill, the nation's top counter-terrorism (and bin Laden) expert, has his briefcase, packed with top secret documents detailing anti-terror security operations in New York City, stolen at an FBI conference, in a room full of super-cops? And the reason is that O'Neill, one of the government's brightest and most meticulous employees, just done plumb forgot cuz he got all excited about a page and left it there? And not one agent in the entire conference hall had the common sense to watch their boss's briefcase because they weren't specifically ordered to? And none of THEIR heads rolled for letting a crime take place right in front of their eyes?!