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FBI agent: I was stymied in terror probe

By Nicholas M. Horrock
UPI Chief White House Correspondent
From the Washington Politics & Policy Desk
Published 5/30/2002 7:04 PM
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WASHINGTON, May 30 (UPI) -- A Chicago FBI agent charged Thursday that colleagues stymied his efforts to investigate the funding of Middle East terrorists in 1994 and 1995 to keep cushy surveillance assignments going and protect their jobs.

Special Agent Robert Wright said these activities "allowed foreign-born terrorist operatives, such as the perpetrators of the Sept. 11 attacks, to engage in illegal activities in the United States." He also disclosed that a Muslim FBI agent had accused him of religious discrimination during the investigation and he made public a sworn statement he had given on the charges.

Wright, who is attached to the Chicago Field Office of the FBI, held a Washington news conference sponsored by Judicial Watch -- a private, conservative watch dog group -- at which he read from and released a copy of a lawsuit he has launched against the FBI, and an exchange of letters about a book he is seeking to publish. He declined to answer questions.

In the lawsuit -- against the FBI and "unknown officials" of the FBI -- filed in the U.S. District Court in Washington, Wright said that agents attached to the FBI's International Terrorism Unit in 1994 and 1995 did not want terror suspects prosecuted and stymied his efforts prepare cases of their involvement in "well organized criminal activities."

"Indeed, there existed a concerted effort on the part of agents conducting counter-terrorism intelligence investigations to insulate the subjects of their investigations from criminal investigation and prosecution.

"The motive for this conduct his simple and quite disturbing," Wright charged. He said that by preventing the criminal prosecution of the subjects of their intelligence gathering "these intelligence agents avoided the new and additional work that would be required..." He said once these agents had a case going, "they would 'milk it' for years, not taking on any additional work." They regarded Wright and others who wanted to prosecute suspects "as a threat to their job security."

The net result, according to the lawsuit, was that "the FBI was merely gathering intelligence so they would know who to arrest when a terrorist attack occurred."

The suit said that one agent withheld the location and status of a terrorism suspect to stymie Wright's effort to find him. He said the bureau did not attempt to organize the various reports of terrorist activity that were coming in from around the country. Wright said it was his own analysis that discovered that "not for profit organizations were being used by the U.S.-based Hamas terrorist group as front organizations" to recruit, organize and train Hamas terrorists.

Hamas is a extremist Islamic group that says it carries out social welfare work in the Palestinian Territories, but which has also conducted and claimed credit for terrorist actions -- including suicide bombings -- against Israel.

The suit claims Wright initiated a corollary "Act of Terrorism" criminal investigation "against FBI management wishes," which led to a successful investigation code named "Vulgar Betrayal" and, on June 9, 1998, to the seizure of $1.4 million funds destined for terrorist activities.

Wright said in his suit that the "seized funds" were linked directly to Saudi businessman Yassim Kadi and that on Oct. 12, 2001 Yassin Kadi, a.k.a. Yassin Al-Qadi, was designated by the U.S. government as a financial supporter of Osama bin Laden.

An FBI spokesman said it had no direct comment on Wright's charges because of his pending lawsuit. The spokesman confirmed that the case, Vulgar Betrayal, was conducted by a task force including Wright. He said that the investigation found no connection to the 19 hijackers who carried out the Sept. 11 attacks or to those events.

Wright also released an 11-page sworn statement he said he provided Special Agent Mark Van Steenberg who was investigating charges by an unnamed Muslim agent who said he was discriminated against on the basis of being a Muslim and of Arab-Middle Eastern national origin.

Among the charges was that Wright "insinuated in a telephone call" on May 26, 1999, that Hamas had infiltrated the FBI through the Muslim agent and that the agent had refused to wear a recording device, allegations which damaged the Muslim agent's "professional reputation (and) questioned his integrity, credibility and loyalty to the United States of America."

Wright denied accusing the agent of being a plant for Hamas, but said that because of the agent's unwillingness to wear a wire in the investigation, he was concerned that the agent's religion was interfering with his duties.

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