The History Book Club discussion

Enemies: A History of the FBI
This topic is about Enemies
44 views
AMERICAN DEMOCRACY - GOVERNMENT > 11. ENEMIES: A HISTORY OF THE FBI - CHAPTERS FORTY - FORTY-THREE (367 - 412) ~ August 13th - August 19th; No Spoilers, Please

Comments Showing 1-27 of 27 (27 new)    post a comment »
dateDown arrow    newest »

Bryan Craig Hello Everyone,

Welcome to the eleventh week of discussion for Enemies: A History of the FBI.

The eleventh week's reading assignment is:

Week Eleven - August 13th - August 19th :


Chapters FORTY, FORTY-ONE, FORTY-THREE p. 367 - 412
FORTY - Mosaic, FORTY-ONE - The Blind Sheikh, FORTY-TWO - Flaws in the Armor, FORTY-THREE - An Easy Target


We will open up a thread for each week's reading. Please make sure to post in the particular thread dedicated to those specific chapters and page numbers to avoid spoilers. We will also open up supplemental threads as we did for other spotlighted books.

This book kicked off on June 4th. We look forward to your participation. Amazon, Barnes and Noble, Borders and other noted on line booksellers do have copies of the book and shipment can be expedited. The book can also be obtained easily at your local library, or on your Kindle/Nook. We offer a special thank you to Random House for their generosity.

There is no rush and we are thrilled to have you join us. It is never too late to get started and/or to post.

Bryan will be leading this discussion.

Welcome,

~Bentley & Bryan

TO ALWAYS SEE ALL WEEKS' THREADS SELECT VIEW ALL

Enemies A History of the FBI by Tim Weiner Tim Weiner Tim Weiner

Notes:

It is always a tremendous help when you quote specifically from the book itself and reference the chapter and page numbers when responding. The text itself helps folks know what you are referencing and makes things clear.

Citations

If an author or book is mentioned other than the book and author being discussed, citations must be included according to our guidelines. Also, when citing other sources, please provide credit where credit is due and/or the link. There is no need to re-cite the author and the book we are discussing however.

If you need help - here is a thread called the Mechanics of the Board which will show you how:

http://www.goodreads.com/topic/show/2...

Glossary

Remember there is a glossary thread where ancillary information is placed by the moderator. This is also a thread where additional information can be placed by the group members regarding the subject matter being discussed.

http://www.goodreads.com/topic/show/8...

Bibliography

There is a Bibliography where books cited in the text are posted with proper citations and reviews. We also post the books that the author used in her research or in her notes. Please also feel free to add to the Bibliography thread any related books, etc with proper citations. No self promotion, please.

http://www.goodreads.com/topic/show/8...

Q&A with Tim

Please as you are reading post questions to the author's Q&A thread because Tim Weiner will be looking in periodically and will be posting answers to your questions and will be available for a chat. We are very fortunate that he is making time to spend with us.

http://www.goodreads.com/topic/show/8...

Enemies A History of the FBI by Tim Weiner Tim Weiner Tim Weiner


Bryan Craig Chapter Overviews and Summaries

Chapter Forty: Mosaic


The FBI begins a long investigation into the bombing of Pan Am 103 over Lockerbie, Scotland. There was little inter-agency cooperation or cooperation with Scotland, either. After two years, the new head of the Criminal Division, Robert Mueller, broke down some barriers to get people talking. They figured out Libya was behind the bombing and indicted Abdel Baset Ahli al-Megrahi.

Chapter Forty One: The Blind Sheikh

El-Sayyid Nosair was on trial for murder and he was a follower of the "Blind Sheikh." Using an FBI informant named Emad Salem, they discovered Nosair's diary about blowing up the World Trade Center. The FBI was not prepared for counter-terrorism and ones based in the Middle East. Salem gave the FBI names of the bombers, but he did not know what the target was. The FBI dropped Salem from the FBI payroll because they thought he was a double agent for Egypt.

William Sessions was an unpopular FBI director and accused of petty corruption. He did not resign, and President Clinton brought in Janet Reno as his Attorney General. She was amazed by the backward technology found in the FBI.

On February 26, 1993, a bomb struck the World Trade Center. Ramzi Yousef and Ahmed Ajaj were arrested. Salem returned to the FBI and began to infiltrated the Blind Sheikh's organization. They were talking about blowing up the UN building and the Lincoln and Holland tunnels. The FBI made arrests, but turmoil continued as the Waco Siege turned into a disaster, and Sessions finally left to be replaced by Louis J. Freeh.

Chapter Forty Two: Flaws in the Armor

The relationship between Clinton and Freeh was awful. They rarely spoke to one another, and Freeh became primarily focused on investigating Clinton's past activities and Chinese political contributions.

The FBI talked to Abdul Hakim Murad and learned he had been to flight school and wanted to crash a plane into CIA HQ.

Domestic terrorism grew when on April 19, 1995, Tim McVeigh bombed the Oklahoma City Federal Building and the Unabomber mailed bombs. Clinton started throwing money to the FBI for counterintelligence, the FBI and CIA reluctantly exchanged counterintelligence officers, and Richard Clarke, the White House expert on terrorism, tried to link up with the FBI. The Bureau investigated the Khobar Tower bombing in 1996 and the Bureau opened up an investigation into Osama bin Laden.

Chapter Forty Three: An Easy Target

Ali Mohamed worked for the FBI and he worked for al-Qaeda cell in Nairobi. In August 1998, the U.S. embassy in Nairobi was bombed. The FBI sent in 900 agents to investigate and arrested Mohamed Odeh and Mohamed al-Owhali. They learn bin Ladin was the political force behind al-Qaeda, and military commanders executed the plans. In response, Clinton ordered cruise missile strike in Afghanistan and the Sudan. Plans of hijacking a plane was in a presidential daily brief dated December 4, 1998. FBI Agent Dale Watson was promoting Clarke's counter-terrorism ideas, but it was difficult as the technology was still inadequate and it was hard to talk to other agencies. The Bureau also didn't know intelligence law and built faulty cases.

In 1999, LAX was targeted and the CIA was tracking Khalid al-Mihdar an Nawaf al-Hazmi, but no action was taken. The two men took flying lessons in the U.S. The FBI learned that al-Qaeda planned to hijack a 747.


Bryan Craig Pan Am Flight 103

Fifteen years ago, on a cold and ultimately chilling evening just four days before Christmas, Pan Am Flight 103 took off from London's Heathrow Airport bound for New York City. Among the 259 passengers and crew were 189 Americans.

They never made it home. Less than 40 minutes into the flight, the plane exploded over the sky above Lockerbie, Scotland, killing everyone on board and 11 Scots on the ground.

Until 9/11, it was one of the world’s most lethal acts of air terrorism and one of the largest and most complex acts of international terrorism ever investigated by the FBI.

Solving the case required unprecedented international cooperation—and hours upon hours of painstaking work. With the mid-air explosion 30,000 feet up, debris rained down over 845 square miles across Scotland. FBI agents and international investigators combed the countryside on hands and knees looking for clues in virtually every blade of grass, eventually turning up thousands of pieces of evidence. They also traversed the globe, interviewing more than 10,000 individuals in dozens of countries.

Participating in the investigation were an array of international police organizations from such countries as Germany, Austria, Switzerland, and, of course, Great Britain (including Scotland).

Ultimately, forensic specialists from the FBI, the CIA, and elsewhere determined that one of the fragments found on the ground, no bigger than a thumbnail, came from the circuit board of a radio/cassette player. That tiny piece of evidence helped establish that the bomb had been placed inside that radio and tape deck in a piece of luggage. Another small fragment, found embedded in a piece of shirt, helped identify the type of timer.

This evidence led to two Libyan intelligence operatives. In November 1991, the U.S. and Scotland simultaneously indicted the pair for planting the bomb. On January 31, 2001, after years of working to extradite the men and bring the case to trial, Abdel Basset Ali Al-Megrahi was found guilty of the crime. The co-defendant was found not guilty and released.
(Source: http://www.fbi.gov/news/stories/2003/...)

More:
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Pan_Am_F...
http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-srv/...


Bryan Craig Pan Am Flight is a tragic case of inter-agency failure, maddening even.

I was glad to see Mueller step it up and try to break some walls down and move ahead on the investigation.


Bryan Craig I was pretty frustrated when the FBI dropped Emad Salem as an informant. They play key parts to investigations, and I wonder what kind of evidence they had on him...


message 6: by Clayton (last edited Aug 14, 2012 11:58AM) (new) - rated it 5 stars

Clayton Brannon | 128 comments With all the infighting between the Congress the H. W. Bush & Clinton administration's it is a no wonder that no one was paying attention to terrorism coming from abroad. One thing that does surprise me is that there was little done by Bush Sr to pull the intelligence communities together into a more cohesive sharing group. Maybe it was because he had been head of the CIA and that the FBI just did not trust him. I can see where Clinton lost sight of what was important to the country. He was more worried about his own skin than the nation's interest. If he had just come clean I think things would have been different. I keep thinking about Nixon's famous Checkers speech and wonder how little these individuals, who were caught in scandals, did not learn the fact that American's are very forgiving people when you are just honest with them. Maybe if Clinton had just told the truth from the beginning none of these problems would have ever gotten blown way out of proportion.
It seems to me that the two agencies were more interested in feathering their own nest than keeping the country safe. The lack of patriotism by those running both the CIA & FBI is astonishing. Their lack of trust of a fellow American made it possible for the the terrorist to plan and attack our country at will. It is a wonder that more attacks did not occur. I guess the statement made by one of the
terrorist about not having a enough money is all that saved us.


Bryan Craig Yes, nothing come out well if you lie and cover things up. It is interesting that Freeh apparently let his judgement of Clinton cloud his work. I didn't know about that part. Hoover was a victim of this, as well.

I would also agree that the FBI and CIA's priorities were themselves not sharing information. You do have to applaud the few agents that tried to work the inter-agency route. It just wasn't enough.


Rodney | 83 comments Bryan, that has surprised me as well. I was under the impression Freeh was well respected and even more so extremely competent . Even the NCAA took his report on Penn State as gospel a few weeks ago. In reality it appears that he failed miserably as director.

Reading the failures that piled up again goes back to the size of the agency. It is just too large and full of middle managers, who's job it is to say no and sideline proposals, that can not react fact enough. I fear we have made the entire thing worse by expanding more and creating yet another agency in Homeland Security which will grow even larger and slower as time goes on.


Craig (twinstuff) I wasn't aware of that connection with Freeh to the Penn State case but that's fascinating to me. Looking through his biography a little more and after reading Enemies, I have no idea why anyone would respect his talents either while he was with the FBI or certainly some of his business decisions and practices since leaving the FBI.


Brian (brianj48) | 58 comments I read these Chapters and wonder if we are any better off with our intelligence gathering today. Only 37 pages left (I won't read ahead) and I'm anxious to see if Tim feels that progress has been made.

I realize that looking back on "missed clues" is easier than finding them in the enormous amounts of data, rumors, and "noise". I know that great, patriotic people are committed to fixing this.

I know two fellow Marine Corps veterans - one in FBI anti-terrorism and another, an Arabic speaker, who would suddenly grow a beard and go to Iraq for 6 plus months, living outside the Green Zone for his company(?). Two of the sharpest people I've ever known. They never "talked out of school", but I know how focused they were.

No easy answers. I agree with Rodney that the size of the agencies is a challenge. The limitations and restrictions that have been put in place (for arguably good reasons) also pose difficulties.


message 11: by Lewis (new)

Lewis Codington | 291 comments It's astonishing to read (page 383, chapter 42) that:
"Freeh infuriated the White House almost every day for more than seven years." How can people on that level of government put their own power and position above working together for the greater good? Particularly, given the mandate they have been given, it seems unconscionable. In former days some of those folks might have been tried for treason (which seems to me to be pretty close to what they are doing).


message 12: by Lewis (new)

Lewis Codington | 291 comments A legacy of JEH's autocratic rule and control is reflected in the last sentence on page 405 (chapter 43). "But his testimony was little more than empty words and wishful thinking." Thanks to JEH's inflated view of himself and unwillingness to make any plans beyond himself, he left a seriously marginalized and weakened FBI.


Bryan Craig Lewis wrote: "It's astonishing to read (page 383, chapter 42) that:
"Freeh infuriated the White House almost every day for more than seven years." How can people on that level of government put their own power a..."


In a way, Freeh seems to follow Hoover's footsteps by projecting his moral standards into actual power with the FBI. In Hoover's case, anyone who did not fit into the American system, and Freeh, it was Clinton who he felt was a immoral person.


Bryan Craig Brian wrote: "I read these Chapters and wonder if we are any better off with our intelligence gathering today. Only 37 pages left (I won't read ahead) and I'm anxious to see if Tim feels that progress has been m..."

I'm glad to read in this book about those in the FBI who are doing great work. The problem is that they are never heard.

I think part of it is organizational behavior; it is hard to change. If the FBI always hated the CIA and you have some recent incidents to inflame it, then it gets worse. You have to say very courageous agents working with the CIA. I image they were ostracized a bit for that.


message 15: by Tim (new) - rated it 5 stars

Tim Weiner | 157 comments Good readers, as we draw near the end of the book, please feel free to post all questions, great and small, in the Q and A!


Bryan Craig Does this quote sound familiar in FBI history?

"Watson came to a graver conclusion. he told Clarke: 'We have to smash the FBI into bits and rebuild it.'" (p. 393)


message 17: by Misty (last edited Aug 17, 2012 12:20PM) (new) - rated it 3 stars

Misty (almaroc) | 29 comments Quick question as I read through this week's chapters.

Tim writes that Wm. Sessions let Janet Reno take the blame for Waco. But I recall Bill Clinton saying in his autobiography that Reno made the decision herself and then accepted responsibility. Am I misremembering? Is Tim interpreting events correctly?

My Life by Bill Clinton by Bill Clinton


Bryan Craig Clinton Ok'ed the raid, although he said he wanted the FBI to wait it out. Reno said the FBI was tired of waiting. Reno apparently defended the agents, but said if it ended the way it did, she would not have approved the plan. So, it seems Reno went to Clinton to get his okay.

Oh, don't forget the author link:
My Life by Bill Clinton Bill Clinton Bill Clinton


message 19: by Tim (new) - rated it 5 stars

Tim Weiner | 157 comments Misty asks: Sessions let Janet Reno take the blame for Waco. But I recall Bill Clinton saying in his autobiography that Reno made the decision herself and then accepted responsibility. Am I misremembering? Is Tim interpreting events correctly?

The FBI and the ATF were responsible for the screw-ups that led to the deaths at Waco; the Branch Davidians were equally responsible for the deaths of innocents. FBI Director Sessions was a non-person in the US Government at the time, his dismissal for misfeasance and malfeasance long overdue. Reno was gracious and courageous to take the blame with a boilerplate statement of "the buck stops here." But Sessions was utterly out to lunch and he had been for months before the tragedy.


David (nusandman) | 111 comments "After the Manila bomb plot was discovered, President Clinton sought a dramatic expansion of the FBI's wiretapping and surveillance powers. The most conservative Congress in twenty years stopped him. Congress stripped the bill of its major statutes-and revived them all six years later in the Patriot Act." How sad that political games can trump what could have potentially saved thousands of lives. And if anything, this practice is even worse today.


Bryan Craig David wrote: ""After the Manila bomb plot was discovered, President Clinton sought a dramatic expansion of the FBI's wiretapping and surveillance powers. The most conservative Congress in twenty years stopped h..."

You get the impression it takes a tragedy to get things moving.


Clayton Brannon | 128 comments The lack of continuity in the FBI's top echelons of leadership is the ultimate reason for its inability to run a tight ship. While JEH was at the helm he had years of experience in leadership and had the power to get things done. Through no fault of any one President this lack of continuity lead to leadership failures and the intelligence network of the US being like a fish out of water. It seems that Congress should change the way that the head of the FBI and his staff are picked for this job. Maybe make the appoint a civil service type of job or have him/her having an appointment for life. Take the politics out of the job and maybe they can be more responsive to needs of the country rather than the whims of a President, Congress or any other individual with power over them. The Supreme Court Justice's are for life why not the FBI. The big danger I see to this would be the abuse of power. This abuse of power could be curtailed with removal being by impeachment.
One other thing that has always bothered me is the comparison of the Pearl Harbor attach with the 9-11 attacks. The 9-11 attacks were a terrorist attack and not a concerted effort by a foreign power to destroy this country. Pearl Harbor was a military attack by a foreign country with the intent of destroying our country by military means. Bush's use of this attack to start a war with Iraq over WMD that did not exist is appalling. We are still in Afghanistan trying to defeat al-Qaeda and the Taliban when that should have been our main focus from the beginning and not Iraq. For what it cost to defeat Saddam Hussein we could have bought him off. Remember he was our ally for many years when he was fighting Iran. Remember what someone said to Teddy Roosevelt about a Central American dictator being a SOB. He replied yes but he is my SOB. We pay countries all the time to be our allies. Bush and the Iraq war was a debacle that we will be paying for for a very long time.


message 23: by Bryan (last edited Aug 22, 2012 09:40AM) (new) - rated it 4 stars

Bryan Craig Clayton wrote: "The lack of continuity in the FBI's top echelons of leadership is the ultimate reason for its inability to run a tight ship. While JEH was at the helm he had years of experience in leadership and h..."

Thanks, Clayton, your comments are interesting about the FBI director. I think Hoover's legacy is never getting a lifetime director...but memory fades, so this may change over time, look at Bob Mueller, he is going past the ten year limit already.

I think it is hard to find great leadership at that level: knows FBI well but can produce reform while keeping morale.


Natacha Pavlov (natachapavlov) | 41 comments I am absolutely baffled that the Blind Sheikh was able to profess his terrorist aspirations—in a Brooklyn mosque of all places—when decades prior anyone merely suspected of Communist sympathies would be susceptible to dire consequences. These look like extreme opposites of each other!


Bryan Craig Interesting point. I guess people did not see Islamic extremism in the same way.


Natacha Pavlov (natachapavlov) | 41 comments I guess not. Perhaps it was mostly perceived as something happening "far away" and which couldn't reach the US, or at least, not to the extent that Communism could? (Even though that reasoning, if that is it, makes little sense to me as well). It just makes it look like the US went from being extra-paranoid to extra laid-back, leaving me to wonder where the healthy balance went?


Bryan Craig Yeah, I think people felt safe in our part of the world


back to top