An FBI lawyer accused of dropping the ball prior to Sept. 11 has been awarded a presidential citation that comes with a large cash bonus.
The award, first reported by the Associated Press, riles FBI critics.
FBI spokeswoman Susan Dryden confirms Deputy General Counsel Marion “Spike” Bowman was among current and former FBI officials who received Presidential Rank Awards last month that amount to a cash bonus of 20 percent of their annual salaries.
Bowman, the head of the FBI’s National Security Law Unit, was praised for helping to eliminate backlogs in the requests for search warrants under the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act, or FISA, and for his efforts to build “a skilled staff of attorneys to examine diverse and highly complex issues for which little or no formal legal education has been available.”
It was Bowman’s law unit that denied an August 2001 search warrant application filed by agents in Minneapolis, Minn., against Zacarias Moussaoui, known as the “20th hijacker.”
FBI whistleblower Coleen Rowley, a special agent and Minneapolis chief division counsel – voted one of Time magazine’s 2002 persons of the year – along with Minneapolis field agents were tipped off by a flight-school instructor that Moussaoui was interested only in steering planes, and not taking off or landing.
Rowley pressed headquarters in Washington for FISA warrants to search his computer and apartment only to hit one roadblock after another. She later detailed headquarters’ resistance in a blistering letter to FBI Director Robert Mueller.
Bowman maintains there was insufficient evidence for such a warrant under FISA guidelines. The 1978 act was subsequently amended in the 2001 USA PATRIOT Act.
Yesterday, FBI watchdog Sen. Chuck Grassley, R-Iowa, wrote to Mueller seeking an explanation for honoring Bowman in light of the FBI’s problems with FISA warrants. He pointed out that Bowman and others gave testimony during a closed Judiciary Committee hearing in July that raises questions about the competence of Bowman’s unit.
“If the application for the FISA warrant had gone forward,” Grassley wrote, “agents would have found information in Moussaoui’s belongings that linked him both to a major financier of the hijacking plot working out of Germany, and to a Malaysian al-Qaida boss who had met with at least two other hijackers while under surveillance by intelligence officials.”
“In light of the consequences of the decision not to even attempt to seek the FISA warrant … it is shocking then that you gave Mr. Bowman the award. … You are sending the wrong signal to those agents who fought – sometimes against senior FBI bureaucrats at headquarters – to prevent the attacks,” he complained.
Last month, the joint congressional committee investigating the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks issued a final report sharply criticizing intelligence agencies for their failure to prevent them. The report said agencies “missed opportunities to disrupt the Sept. 11 plot by denying entry to or detaining would-be hijackers” and “to at least try to unravel the plot through surveillance and other investigative work within the United States.”
In response to the criticism over Bowman’s award, Dryden responded, “Mr. Bowman was recognized for his noteworthy record of sustained accomplishments, and he continues to display the highest levels of innovation and initiative in the national security program.”
Bowman’s award follows the promotion of another 9-11 ball-dropper.
As WorldNetDaily exclusively reported, FBI
Supervisory Special Agent Michael Maltbie was moved out of the counterterrorism division at bureau headquarters to the Cleveland office, where he was to work as a field supervisor.
According to Grassley, Maltbie removed certain information from the 26-page FISA application in the Moussaoui case before making a presentation of “questionable accuracy and length” to Bowman’s unit concluding there was insufficient evidence to go forward with the application.
Bowman concurred with Maltbie’s decision.
“That’s really a promotion,” a bureau veteran told WorldNetDaily regarding Maltbie’s transfer, “because a field supervisor is a big notch over a headquarters supervisor. He’ll actually be directing investigations, rather than twiddling his thumbs half the time,” he explained.
Another FBI whistleblower, Phoenix agent Kenneth Williams, sent a July 10, 2001, memo to Maltbie’s boss, David Frasca, warning that Osama bin Laden’s followers might be training for terrorist operations at U.S. flight schools.
Frasca claims he never saw the letter, which was not shared with the Minneapolis office.
Mueller refuses to name the dozen or so officials who handled the Phoenix memo at headquarters, but admits they erred in failing to report it up the chain of command. Thomas Pickard was acting FBI
director at the time.
The FBI did not conduct an internal review of Maltbie or Fracas. Dryden could not comment on whether any disciplinary actions have been taken against FBI agents or supervisors as fallout of Sept. 11.
No matter how culpable Maltbie and Fracas may be in dropping the ball, “there’s no way those two guys should take the hit alone,” a retired special agent in charge of one of FBI’s 56 field offices told WorldNetDaily last summer.
By transferring Maltbie, he predicted, “headquarters is already starting to push down responsibility for
this screw-up as low as possible – just as they do whenever things go wrong.”
History of rewarding ‘malfeasance’?
Last month’s awards are in keeping with the bureau’s history over the past five years of headquarters showering top FBI officials with monetary awards while passing over agents running the field offices.
The merit awards also come despite the parade of embarrassing scandals, bungles and debacles – from Richard Jewell to Filegate to Wen Ho Lee to Timothy McVeigh to Robert Hanssen.
As WorldNetDaily also reported, whistleblower-agent John Roberts, a unit chief in the FBI’s Office of Professional Responsibility, said he knew of senior executives at the FBI who were promoted and got “thousands of dollars in cash
awards” while they were under internal investigation for misconduct in the Ruby Ridge case and so-called “Pottsgate” retirement party at Quantico.
Roberts, along with three other current and former agents, testified before Congress in July 2001 about the FBI’s double standard in discipline.
“I’m hard-pressed to think of any case which has been solved by FBI HQ personnel, and I can name several that have been screwed up!” Rowley wrote to Mueller.
Longtime FBI internal investigator John Werner, now retired, told WorldNetDaily malfeasance and
incompetence are routinely rewarded in the senior executive “club” at FBI headquarters.
“I have a real problem with that, particularly in light of how top officials dropped the ball before Sept. 11,” he said.
Last fall, the Justice Department’s inspector general recommended the agency “close the gap between planning and operations by establishing an effective system of performance measures and standards and holding managers at all levels accountable for achieving the goals and objectives stated in FBI strategic plans.”
The recommendation was among 14 submitted to the FBI following an audit of the bureau’s management of its counterterrorism resources.
In response to the inspector general’s report, the FBI responded that it had instituted reforms within
the OPR and was continuing to review them.
“Even after the first attack on the World Trade Center in 1993, bureaucrats at FBI headquarters in Washington acted like they knew better than agents in the field. Headquarters handled the issues of
foreign terrorism by the seat of their pants, always looking backwards instead of seriously thinking about
attacks on our soil,” Grassley said in response to the audit’s findings.
Grassley joined Sen. Patrick Leahy, D-Vt., chairman of the Senate Judiciary Committee, in pushing an FBI reform bill that seeks to put an end to “the double standard in discipline, where senior officials get away with misconduct and cover-ups, while rank-and-file agents get punished for the same thing.”
Grassley and Leahy have been particularly critical of the FBI’s treatment of whistleblowers. In November, the senators wrote Mueller, asking that he investigate and take corrective action against those who allegedly retaliated against agent Roberts.