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Feature Story September 19, 2002
 
John O'Neill: An Unbelievable Life
By Mark Ames Browse author Email
 
Page 5 of 8
 
Whoever planted this story had complete contempt for the journalist, the newspaper, and the readers. And why not? Who has given a flying fuck since?

But the eeriest part is the segue to the end: and in other unrelated news, O'Neill is said to be quitting next week. Oh yeah, and he "investigated Osama bin Laden, who allegedly operates terrorist camps in Afghanistan." End of story. No question into why a story about the chief of counter-terrorism's stolen briefcase full of super-sensitive documents about how the U.S. protects New York City appears in the Washington Post one full year after the incident...and three weeks before 9/11!

August 2001 is full of coincidences too bizarre to be overlooked: Yemeni ambassador and State Department counter-terrorism expert Barbara Bodine left her post, finally allowing the FBI back to investigate bin Laden; Prince Turki, the head of the Saudi intelligence agency with close ties to the Taliban and bin Laden, was fired; John O'Neill was forced out through a coordinated smear campaign; and Bush was holed up in Crawford, after, as we now know, he'd been warned of an expected large terror attack on the U.S.

From here, the John O'Neill story ends as only a first-time, second-rate spy novelist would end it.

Just as the Post article "predicted," O'Neill tendered his resignation the very week that the article came out, and left the agency a week later, near the end of August 2001. In order to take a job as -- are you ready for this? -- the chief of security for the World Trade Center!

At the end of the month, O'Neill spent a weekend in the Hamptons, the upscale New York vacation spot made famous in The Great Gatsby, with ABC television investigative journalist Christopher Isham. Isham later claimed that O'Neill had left the FBI not because he'd grown frustrated that his investigation into bin Laden was hampered by senior officials above him who were barring his investigations and planting absurd smear stories in the press, but rather because "privacy laws preventing FBI access to e-mail accounts terrorists used to communicate" -- something that O'Neill wouldn't have to worry about today.

Interestingly, in 1998, Isham helped arrange one of the few interviews Osama bin Laden ever granted to an American news organization, in this case with John Miller of ABC News. The interview took place in May 1998, just two months before the embassy bombing. In Miller's narration to the interview, which presumably would have been scripted with Isham, he claimed that one of bin Laden's aides was cooperating with the FBI, a "leak" which, officially at least, left the FBI furious. It is likely that O'Neill helped Isham arrange the contacts for this story.

According to a New Yorker article published earlier this year, Isham quipped during this last Hamptons meeting that at least O'Neill wouldn't have to worry about another bombing of the WTC when he started work there, to which O'Neill reportedly replied, "They'll probably try to finish the job."

Get one thing straight: FBI counter-intelligence chiefs don't go around talking to journalists, not even after they retire. O'Neill, however, spent two months, in June and July, while still on the job, talking extensively and candidly not even to American journalists, but to a French journalist who preparing a book about bin Laden, a journalist who had worked for French intelligence, no less! This simply doesn't happen. At all. It's as if O'Neill was trying to build an alibi for himself.

On September 10th, 2001, O'Neill started his first day on the job as head of security for the World Trade Towers. He worked on the 34th floor of the North Tower. According to the New Yorker article published earlier this year, an article whose agenda seems designed to destroy O'Neill's character by painting him as a brutish, womanizing, arrogant villain spinning increasingly out of control, O'Neill spent the last night of his life partying like it was 1999. He gathered some of his best friends and went drinking first to Elaine's, a famous bar, and later to the China Club. That was where he gathered his friends and, according to one friend, "John made the statement that he thought something big was going to happen." He didn't get home until 2:30 A.M., even though he had to get to work the next morning at 8. Not bad for a 49-year-old.


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Ames
Browse author
Email Mark Ames at editor@exile.ru.
 
 
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