Thursday, May 14, 2009 8:23 PM
By: David A. Patten
A former FBI agent who recently won a lawsuit defeating FBI attempts to muzzle him tells Newsmax that the agency's morale may be at its lowest ebb ever, and warns the "chilling" effect of Obama administration policies is making another terrorist attack on the U.S. homeland "inevitable."
Speaking in an exclusive Newsmax interview, retired FBI Agent John Vincent says his gravest concern is that the Obama administration is repeating mistakes of the past, thereby leaving America vulnerable to a terrorist attack.
"I'm not exactly sure where the president is coming from, but all the signals he gives out is that the United States is prepared to talk peace, we're not going to do anything to upset any of the people that are conducting all these terrorist acts, we're going to back out of everything we've done before, we're going to apologize for everything we've done in the past – what kind of signals does that send?" Vincent asks. "It sends a signal of weakness and: 'We are not willing to try and stop what you have planned.'"
From 1997 to 1999, Vincent and Special Agent Robert G. Wright worked together out of the Bureau's Chicago office on an investigation known as Vulgar Betrayal. Their job was to uncover financial links between U.S.-based charities and extremist groups abroad.
Initially, the investigation focused on Hamas. But Vincent says it eventually exposed "an octopus" of financial connections to other terror groups, including al-Qaida.
In 1999, Vincent says, the FBI shut down the criminal investigation for fear it would interfere with ongoing attempts gathering intelligence. The FBI did not immediately respond to a Newsmax request to comment on either the case or Vincent's allegations.
"Had the investigation been allowed to go forward, we might have touched upon some of the 9/11 perpetrators," Vincent tells Newsmax. "We don't know that because we were stopped two years before the event. But because we had such an octopus working out there, we might have found those people. But we don't know, because we were stopped."
Post-9/11 investigations revealed that U.S.-based Islamic charities funneled money to al-Qaida and other terrorist organizations, funding their operations.
According to a lawsuit filed by Judicial Watch, the FBI tried to prevent Vincent and Wright from speaking to the media after the 9/11 attacks.
The judge who presided over the case, U.S. District Court Judge Gladys Kessler, blasted the Bureau, calling its efforts to silence the men a "sad and discouraging tale."
"In its efforts to suppress this information," Judge Kessler wrote, "the FBI repeatedly changed its position, presented formalistic objections to release of various portions of the documents in question, admitted finally that much of the material it sought to suppress was in fact in the public domain and had been all along, and now concedes that several of the reasons it originally offered for censorship no longer have any validity."
The judge added ominously: "Unfortunately, the issues of terrorism and alleged FBI incompetence remain as timely as ever."
After the agency shut down Vulgar Betrayal, Wright wrote a 500-page book manuscript and submitted it to the agency as required by law. The agency sought to censor its publication, and to stop Vincent and Wright from speaking to the media.
Vincent retired in December 2002, but Wright continues to be employed by the agency. Vincent tells Newsmax that Wright has chosen not to risk his job, or his retirement, by speaking to the media.
According to Judicial Watch, Wright was the only FBI agent prior to 9/11 to seize funds from U.S.-based terrorists using federal statues on civil forfeiture. That kept over $1.4 million out of terrorists' hands.
"Wright and Vincent sought to blow the whistle to help prevent other terrorist attacks like 9/11," Judicial Watch President Tom Fitton stated following the judge's May 8 verdict. "We hope it is not too late for the FBI to listen to our clients, clean up its act, and better protect our nation from the Islamic terrorist threat."
Vincent, a former Judicial Watch employee, says his primary concern today is that the leaders of the FBI and other counter-terrorism agencies are taking their signals from the Obama administration, softening their approach to the war on terror, and leaving the country more vulnerable.
"That's what we're doing all over again now," Vincent says. "So we're not utilizing all of the techniques available. We can play nicey-nice with the terrorists, and not use some of the techniques that we used, and we're tying our hands. By stopping these things, or chilling activities by law enforcement, we're doing the same thing, we're tying our hands."
He adds, "We're tying the hands of law enforcement by these mixed signals going out. We're not using all the things we should be using in an all out war. This should be an all out war, not tying one hand behind our back because it's not politically correct."
Drawing on his more than three decades of experience as an FBI agent, Vincent said the administration's new approach to terrorism can only serve to discourage aggressive counter-terror operations by various federal agencies.
Vincent should know: He tells Newsmax that when he first moved into the agency's Chicago office to begin his investigation in the mid-1990s, policies actually prohibited agents from conducting investigative interviews in the field.
"They wouldn't even leave the office," he says. "Well, how can you possibly conduct counter-terrorism operations by sitting there gathering intelligence and never doing anything with it, never trying to develop sources, never talking to people? That's the way you counter terrorist activities," he says. "You don't sit in an office," Vincent tells Newsmax.
With the Obama administration's threat of prosecutions and its "kinder, gentler" approach to the war on terror, Vincent predicts "That's exactly what [agents' supervisors] are going to do. They're going to say, 'Why should I put my neck on the line here? If I go out and do something I'm going to be second guessed for it later on?' And I think that's the message that's being put out by this new Congress and this new president, which is: 'Well, we're going to play nice guys with them, don't do anything to upset them.' Meanwhile, they're cutting your throat."
Vincent sees Obama's approach to counter-terrorism as less effective than the Clinton administration's, because his willingness to negotiate will be seen as weakness in the Middle East. Obama's policies, he says, will contribute to the next terror attack that Vincent contends will inevitably occur.
"I hate to say it, but yes, it's inevitable," Vincent says.
Vincent, who speaks regularly with a network of former agents who are in touch with current agency employees, says Obama's policies -- from closing the Guantanamo prison, releasing memos on "enhanced interrogations," negotiating with America's enemies, apologizing internationally for Bush administration policies, and threatening of prosecutions -- are inadvertently "emboldening the enemies" of America.
"All the signals he's putting out [are] causing law enforcement – FBI, CIA – to back up because in the future, 'If I try to do my job I may get prosecuted for it.' And then the idea that he apologizes, etc., that's going to embolden the enemies and they're going to think we're easy pickings now.
"And that's where I think we're headed, back to prior to the Clinton administration, prior to 9/11, to an area that we don't want to go. Because… when you back off, and don't keep doing what you think is the right thing to do, eventually you'll have a bigger war on your hands -- or a bigger catastrophe worse than 9/11," he says.
Vincent adds that his sources tell him "morale within the organization is probably the lowest it's ever been. And when you have people who are demoralized, they're not going to do a good job."
He also tells Newsmax that he suspects the Obama administration has yet to comprehend the effects of its own policies.
"This administration is weakening every aspect of counterterrorism, and they don't even know it," Vincent warns. "They think they're playing a game with people who follow the rules. Well, these people do not follow any rules. So yes, we can be high-minded, and at the same time we're going to get our legs cut out from underneath us. Because they don't play by the rules, they're not nice people. And that's what this administration is doing."
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