John O’Neill: The Man Who Knew

John O’Neill’s career in service of his country is one spent in frustration and futility.  Despite valiant efforts by this sincere and hardworking law enforcement agent, the terror attacks on September 11 2001 could not be prevented.  More tragically, John O’Neill himself would perish in the attack as he was then working in the World Trade Centre as a security officer.

John O’Neill has had an impressive career path covering various roles within and without the FBI. Always drawn to the allure of a special agent for the FBI, John’s first job was as a fingerprint clerk and tour guide at FBI Headquarters in Washington.  He was barely twenty years old when he started out with FBI in this modest fashion. He climbed up the career ladder steadily thereafter. His appointment as the Assistant Special Agent in Charge (ASAC) in Chicago is a notable milestone. But it is the World Trade Center (WTC) bombing at Oklahoma in 1993 that would prove to be a turning point in his career. A year later he was made supervisor of VAPCON in 1994. From this point onwards John was deeply involvement in counter-terror operations for the rest of his life.

In hindsight a lot of warnings given by O’Neill have proven to be right.  His fractious relationship with the FBI bosses and his own abrasive personality had created distrust or disregard for the information that he was passing on.  Though a lone voice among his colleagues, he kept repeating the threat of terrorist attacks till the very end of his tenure with the FBI.  In the last few years of his service, he served as the Chief of Counterterrorism Section within the FBI. Despite this critical position he held within the national intelligence apparatus his words were not given due respect.  Every time an important lead would emerge,

“John would fight with Washington to make sure that we constantly took the lead on these investigations. So we would build this intelligence base, and so we would have investigators that had the institutional knowledge and that was the way it was.” (Clint Guenther, Former FBI Agent NYC – Counterterrorism)

1 2 3