- WASHINGTON (UPI) - A book
recently published in France makes two remarkable claims: The Bush administration
was negotiating an oil pipeline with the Taliban until last summer; and
the late John O'Neill, the nemesis of Osama bin Laden, had resigned from
the FBI's war against terrorism protesting that the administration's oil
policy was obstructing his investigation.
- If true, the revelations would recast history.
- However, the White House has categorically denied the
alleged Taliban negotiations to United Press International, and the denial
leaves little room for shades of gray. And those who worked with O'Neill
and knew him best at the FBI cast doubt on the quotes attributed to him
and his alleged reasons for leaving the bureau.
- The book, "Bin Laden: The Forbidden Truth,"
by intelligence analysts Jean-Charles Brisard and Guillaume Dasquie has
not been published in English, but made something of an international splash
when it was published in Paris in November 2001. For those who read French,
the book is available from Amazon for 19 euros.
- News accounts in the United States about the allegations
in the book, including this one, were gleaned from reviews and media reports
in Europe and elsewhere.
- Both authors are in their 30s, and each has an impressive
reporting resume in Europe with obvious access to "des sources confidentielles."
- Almost immediately following the terror attacks, various
scenarios were floated by political activists to news organizations purporting
to "prove" that the Sept. 11 catastrophes were directly attributable
to policy or tactical failures by President Bill Clinton or even Vice President
- Unlike those scenarios, the French book could not easily
be dismissed as partisan flacking because of the stature of its authors
and the depth of its research.
- The book claims that Bush administration policy was driven
by White House connections to the oil industry, and when the purported
negotiations for the pipeline from the Central Asian oilfields through
Afghanistan broke down, the administration threatened military action against
Afghanistan before Sept. 11.
- When governments don't want to face up to unpleasant
facts, officials usually refuse to confirm or deny them, hiding behind
national security considerations. Or officials will construct their responses
into a framework that appears to deny an allegation, but actually leaves
room for a different interpretation.
- However, when it comes to the question of negotiating
with the Taliban for an oil pipeline or anything else prior to Sept. 11,
the White House is unequivocal.
- "There's just absolutely nothing to it; it's just
incorrect," a spokesman for the National Security Council said earlier
this month. "Not true," he added for emphasis.
- Few administration critics would accept such a denial,
even a blanket denial, without further proof. However, Taliban representatives
held several news conferences in Pakistan during November to denounce the
United States, and not once did they mention U.S. blackmail on the pipeline
- John O'Neill's motives for resigning from the FBI, and
the quotes in the book attributed to him, are somewhat harder to assess.
- Along with nearly 3,000 others, O'Neill was killed in
the collapse of the World Trade Center towers on Sept. 11.
- In his three decades with the FBI, O'Neill was a near
legend in the counter-terrorism field.
- He put together the team that captured Ramzi Yousef in
Pakistan on charges of participating in the 1993 bombing at the World Trade
Center. According to The New Yorker magazine, he constructed the theory,
eventually accepted by investigators, that TWA 800 was brought down off
Long Island in 1996 by the ignition of leaking fuel, not a terrorist attack.
- Also in 1996, he helped lead the FBI investigation into
the bombing of Khobar Towers in Saudi Arabia, where 19 U.S. service members
- In 1997, he headed the national security division in
the FBI's massive New York Field Office. From that post, he organized the
huge international investigation into the bombings of two U.S. embassies
in East Africa in 1998. The bombings killed 12 Americans, more than 200
Africans and injured thousands more.
- The investigation of the East Africa bombings led to
the indictment in New York of bin Laden and 16 of his associates.
- O'Neill was also heavily involved in trying to head off
suspected terrorist attacks in the United States during the millennium
celebrations of Jan. 1, 2000.
- Throughout it all, O'Neill kept bin Laden in his sights
as link after link connected al Qaida to the atrocities.
- But O'Neill was to encounter his most frustrating investigation
in October 2000, when the U.S.S. Cole was rammed by suicide bombers in
a small craft as the warship docked in Yemen. Seventeen U.S. sailors were
- There were a number of reports that O'Neill's FBI team
was in conflict with the Yemenis and the State Department. Generally, O'Neill
and the FBI were criticized for being too aggressive, and eventually the
effort in Yemen was scaled down. The FBI said the drawdown was ordered
by Director Louis Freeh following death threats against American personnel.
- Some media reports since then have said that O'Neill
was pulled from Yemen at the request of the State Department. "That
is definitely not true," Dale Watson, chief of the FBI's counter-terrorism
division said earlier this month.
- Last summer, O'Neill resigned from the FBI to take a
higher-paying job: security director for the World Trade Center.
- Watson and other top FBI officials say they do not know
for sure why O'Neill resigned. He was known to have been disappointed not
to have been made an assistant director of the bureau.
- One FBI official who talked extensively about O'Neill
was Mike Rolince, formerly chief of the FBI's international terrorism section
at bureau headquarters. Now special agent in charge of the criminal division
of the FBI's Washington Field Office, Rolince knew O'Neill well and worked
closely with him for years.
- The French authors claim O'Neill told them in conversations
last summer that the U.S. oil companies and Saudi Arabia were influencing
the administration and blocking efforts to come to grips with bin Laden
and al Qaida.
- "That doesn't sound like something that John would
say," Rolince told UPI. " ... I can't think of any interference,
real or imagined, that was a direct result of (administration) oil policy."
- Rolince said he, O'Neill and others had to reach out
on occasion to other parts of the government for help in dealing with foreign
officials as they conducted investigations. "We've asked for help,
and on many occasions the NSC (National Security Council), the DCI (George
Tenet, director of central intelligence) were willing to broker those conversations."
- Could oil policy or other national interests have blocked
a particular avenue of investigation "somewhere along the line? Perhaps,"
Rolince said, "but I am not aware of it."
- Did O'Neill resign in protest?
- "Absolutely not," Rolince said, adding that
he traveled to Saudi Arabia and Jordan with O'Neill during his last years
at the FBI. "He would have gone then if the proper job would have
been offered. He made no bones about the fact that he would have liked
to have been chosen as assistant director (for counter-terrorism before
leaving the bureau). But he was waiting for the right moment."
- Rolince said O'Neill talked about leaving the FBI for
12 to 18 months before resigning for the better-paying security director
job last summer.
- In addition to the doubts at the FBI, of course, O'Neill
is not around to confirm or deny the quotes attributed to him by the French
- O'Neill was in his office on the 34th floor of the World
Trade Center's north tower when the hijacked American Airlines flight crashed
into the floors above him. Like thousands of others, he made it out safely.
Like hundreds of others, he ran back into the complex to help with the
- His body was recovered from the rubble 11 days later.
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