Monday, March 27, 2006

Al-Qaeda trial lands FBI in dock for criminal ineptitude,,11069-2102266,00.html

This week a wealth of new evidence of how the FBI bungled the Moussaoui investigation became so Pythonesque in its absurdity that even the victims' families were roaring with laughter. Into the witness box stepped Harry Samit, the FBI agent who arrested Moussaoui. He was called by the prosecution but became the star witness of the defence.

He said that he warned his supervisors more than 70 times that Moussaoui was an al-Qaeda operative who might be plotting to hijack an airplane and fly it into a building. He said that he was regularly thwarted by two superiors, David Frasca and Michael Maltbie, from obtaining a warrant to search Moussaoui's flat. He accused the men of being criminally negligent. Mr. Maltbie told him that getting a warrant, which could be troublesome, might harm his -- Maltbie's -- career prospects. Mr. Maltbie has since been promoted.

On Tuesday Ed MacMahon, Moussaoui's defence laywer, cross-examined Michael Rolince, of the FBI. He was there to defend the bureau, but his answers brought down the house. Mr. Rolince was forced to concede that he had never seen an April 2001 intelligence briefing paper warning that bin Laden was preparing to mount an attack, even though he had signed it. Mr. MacMahon then introduced an April 13, 2001, FBI communication, approved by Mr. Rolince, giving warning about bin Laden's threat inside the US. Mr Rolince said that he had not approved it.

"Is it possible for a document to say you approved it if you have not approved it?" the judge asked.

"Absolutely," he replied. With that, the jury, the press benches, the victims' families and the press gallery erupted in laughter.

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