Al-Sahwa [Archives:2008/1158/Press Review]

May 26 2008

Thursday, May 22
Top Stories

– Opinion prisoner to President Saleh: What happens to me is indecent retaliation

– Yemeni Journalists Syndicate condemns staff member's seizure at Doha Airport, demands that Qatar must apologize

– Coddling terrorists in Yemen

One of the website's writers said in a critical article that seven years after Qaeda terrorists Jamal al-Badawi and Fahd Al-Quso confessed their crucial involvement in the bombing of the USS Cole, and three years after they were convicted in a Yemeni court ) where a judge imposed a death sentence on Badawi ) they, along with many other Qaeda terrorists, are free. On Oct. 12, 2000, when I flew to Yemen to lead the FBI's Cole investigation, I had no idea how uncooperative the Yemeni government would initially be. Nor could I have imagined how disconnected from reality the U.S. ambassador to Yemen then, Barbara K. Bodine, would prove.

I have hesitated in the past to share my view of the conflict between Bodine and the FBI's counterterrorism leader, John O'Neill. I feel compelled, however, to respond to Bodine's recent comments, which slander the efforts of many dedicated counterterrorism agents and divert attention from the significant terrorist problem within Yemen, our “ally” in the “war on terror.”

A recent Post report on Yemen allowing Qaeda operatives to go free offered insight into the challenges the FBI faced. Bodine was quoted in the article not urging the Yemeni government to rearrest the terrorists but, instead, denigrating the agents who investigated the attack. She faulted the FBI as being slow to trust Yemeni authorities and said agents were “dealing with a bureaucracy and a culture they didn't understand. . . . We had one group working on a New York minute, and another on a 4,000-year-old history.”

In fact, our team included several Arab American agents who understood the culture and the region. Even so, such comments were irrelevant. The FBI left Yemen with the terrorists in jail. It is true that while tracking the terrorists we worked “on a New York minute.” We owed that much to the sailors murdered on the Cole and to all innocent people who remained targets as long as the terrorists were free.

The writer was an FBI supervisory special agent from 1997 to May 2005.