Could the U.S. Have Prevented 9/11 Fifteen Years Ago? A New Book Says Yes

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Before September 11, Peter Lance was an ABC journalist turned fiction writer. Since then, he's been obsessively ferreting out evidence that New York's FBI office and the much-vaunted Joint Terrorism Task Force suppressed evidence that could have prevented 9/11 fifteen years ago — culminating in his new book, Triple Cross. Just don't call it a conspiracy. He talked to New York.

You call 9/11 a "cold case." Why? Bin Laden did it! Bin Laden himself has never been indicted for 9/11. Moussaoui was a peripheral player. Khalid Sheik Mohammed is untriable. In bringing someone to justice for mass murder, the trial would expose the failures of the U.S. intelligence agencies in a way that the 9/11 Commission failed to do.

But haven't lots of books already covered this ground, like Lawrence Wright's The Looming Tower? I'm not trying to knock the competition here, but he literally uses the same FBI agents I did, but as gospel. He doesn't challenge anything they say. I don't want to come off as some disgruntled writer, but the media routinely makes the FBI look better than they are. They have to rely on their quotes, and the FBI is very punitive.

I'm sure you don't want to come off like a conspiracy theorist either. But you do suggest Al Qaeda had a hand in the Oklahoma City bombing. I quote Richard Clarke as saying he believes there's a connection! Don't put me in the Oliver Stone category. I don't believe in shadow government or the Trilateral Commission. It's just the oldest motivation inside the Beltway: Cover your ass.

So is it conspiracy or incompetence? It's a conspiracy to cover up incompetence.

What would you do if you were head of the FBI now? Well, I'd fire [FBI director Robert] Mueller immediately. If I had subpoena power, I'd subpoena Patrick Fitzgerald, Dietrich Snell, Jamie Gorelick …

Wait, you'd subpoena the prosecutor who subpoenaed Judith Miller? Yeah, the special prosecutor in the leak case, who's putting journalists away. He was face to face with this master spy [Ali Mohamed, an Al Qaeda agent who stole secret government documents], and he comes away saying "he's the most dangerous man we've ever met, we cannot let this man out of the street." And he leaves him on the street for ten months, while he's planning the embassy bombings. Then he allows Mohamed to cop a plea! [He may be in a New York area prison without trial.] In the poker game, [Mohamed] has all the face cards. And why has he won? He knows they'll never put him on trial, because he's the poster boy for the incompetence of the task force.

Would you say you're a little obsessive about all this? But obsessed in the best sense of the word. I can't wait to write fiction after this. It'll be like running after wearing 40-pound boots.

Boris Kachka