WASHINGTON – The FBI supervisor who allegedly hamstrung the pre-Sept. 11 Minneapolis investigation into the alleged 20th hijacker has been transferred to a position where bureau sources say he’ll actually have more authority.

Michael Maltbie, the FBI supervisory special agent accused of blocking field agents from obtaining a warrant to search Zacarias Moussaoui’s computer, has been moved out of the counterterrorism division at bureau headquarters to the Cleveland office, where he’ll work as a field supervisor, sources say.

“That’s really a promotion,” a bureau veteran told WorldNetDaily, “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.

FBI spokesman Bill Carter told WorldNetDaily that the bureau will not be opening an internal investigation into complaints about the Minneapolis investigation. That means Maltbie’s conduct and that of his boss, David Frasca, the FBI’s Radical Fundamentalists unit chief, as well as their section chief, will not be reviewed by the FBI’s Office of Professional Responsibility, the bureau’s version of internal affairs.

Instead, Carter said FBI Director Robert Mueller will wait for the results of the investigation by the Justice Department’s inspector general into FBI whistleblower-agent Coleen Rowley’s charges before taking any possible “administrative action.”

Frasca led headquarters’ allegedly inept supervision of the Minneapolis field office’s probe of Moussaoui in August. Rowley and other field agents were tipped off by a flight-school instructor that Moussaoui was interested only in steering planes, and not taking off or landing. Other evidence confirmed agents’ suspicions he was part of a possible terrorist plot.

Another FBI whistleblower, Phoenix agent Kenneth J. Williams, sent a July 10 memo to 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.

A former senior FBI official told WorldNetDaily that Frasca came to the counterterrorism division from criminal investigations and lacked the intelligence background to effectively handle the al-Qaida probe.

“He had no great appreciation for analysis and intelligence,” he said.

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.

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 said in a WorldNetDaily interview.

By transferring Maltbie, he added, “headquarters is already starting to push down responsibility for this screw-up as low as possible – just as they do whenever things go wrong.”

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