The FBI has a long history of errors, miscalculations, and outright failures that make the current allegations almost pale by comparison.
As a young journalist, I trekked back and forth through the FBI “cordon” around Wounded Knee in 1973, where Native American activists had taken over the site in South Dakota of a famous massacre of Indians by federal troops
A few years later, I wrote about the virtual execution of Fred Hampton and Mark Clark, two Black Panther leaders in Chicago. The duo had been a target of the FBI failed counter-intelligence program of radicals in the 1960s and 1970s.
The Counter Intelligence Program, known as COINTELPRO, was a series of covert and at times illegal, projects conducted by FBI and aimed at domestic political organizations. The program, initiated by Director J. Edgar Hoover, attacked anti-Vietnam organizers, activists of the Civil Rights movement or the Black Power movement, feminist organizations, and others. The program was responsible for the famous recordings of Martin Luther King’s private life.
The murders of Hampton, the deputy chairman of the party, and Clark occurred in a shootout with Chicago police and the FBI. The house where the Black Panthers were staying had nearly 100 rounds of incoming bullets and only one outgoing. Although the City of Chicago coroners ruled the action as justifiable, a court ordered the government to pay nearly $2 million to the families.
But there’s far more than my personal experience with the bureau.
Ruby Ridge, near my birthplace of Boise, Idaho, ended with the death of the son and wife of Randy Weaver and an eventual big cash settlement. The siege started over Weaver’s failure to appear for a firearms charge in 1992.
More important, the rise of the militia movement happened as a direct result of the confrontation. The incident was so poorly handled that the FBI agent-in-charge was sentenced to 18 months in prison for obstructing an investigation into the FBI’s incompetence.
The 51-day confrontation with the Branch Davidians ended with 76 people dead in 1993 in Texas in an ill-conceived assault that led to a massive fire. Again, the incident added fuel to the militia fire.
The FBI and other law enforcement officials failed to understand the significance of Ruby Ridge and Waco to a growing militia movement, which ultimately led to the Oklahoma City bombing in 1995. So much so that the FBI initially thought Oklahoma City was carried out by Middle Eastern terrorists.
I’m not saying that domestic surveillance was inappropriate, but the illegality of some of the FBI’s actions was extensive. Also, I am not saying Hampton, Clark, Weaver, and others were choir boys. But the use of force was more than excessive.
The FBI had some success in the 1980s and 1990s in bringing down the Italian Mafia, although it took four trials to send John Gotti, the leader of the Mob in New York, to jail. Moreover, a variety of other ethnic groups filled the vacuum.
In the buildup to 9/11, the FBI, like many other agencies, failed on numerous opportunities to foil the attack.
Although the CIA may have been primarily responsible for the failure to realize the deadliness of the blind sheikh, Omar Abdel-Rahman, the FBI didn’t adequate investigate his New Jersey mosque, which provided the foot soldiers for the 1993 attack against the World Trade Center.
I crossed paths with him during the uprising in Egypt that eventually led to the assassination of Egyptian President Anwar Sadat in 1981. Everyone in Egypt knew he was a dangerous man and terrorist agitator.
Nevertheless, Abdel-Rahman was issued a tourist visa to visit the United States by the the U. S. embassy in Sudan despite his name being on a terrorist watch list. He even obtained a green card. He ultimately was convicted of conspiracy for his involvement in several terrorist attacks and died in prison.
Furthermore, the FBI failed to recognize the analysis put forward by John O’Neill, who consistently pressed for more cooperation between agencies in fighting al-Qaeda. He was passed over for promotion and eventually took a job as head of security for the World Trade Center, where he died during the 2001 attack.
His story is told in The Looming Tower, a brilliant book about the failures of 9/11, and the subject of a recent television series.
Although there are many dedicated FBI personnel, the agency has not been a shining example of excellence. That’s why it’s not that surprising the FBI is facing yet another round of investigation into errors of judgment.
Here are a few other mistakes: https://www.ranker.com/list/top-10-greatest-fbi-fails-of-all-time/autumn-spragg