Louis Freeh on Wolf Blitzer
On December 29th, Freeh was on the Situation Room. Here is a partial transcript:
LOUIS FREEH, FORMER FBI DIRECTOR: Well, you've asked me two long questions, Wolf -- rhetorical questions, but let me try to answer those.
First of all, John Podesta talking about the nadir and the FBI is quite comical when you look at the presidency that he was chief of staff for.
But leave that aside, John Podesta -- it's interesting he's making all of these criticisms right now, because when he was chief of staff, first of all, he never brought any to my attention. And you know what, if I was that bad, the president should have fired me. So it's interesting to sort of hear the record.
With respect to the 9/11 Commission, I agree with a lot of their findings, particularly the finding that neither President Bush nor President Clinton, nor their national security advisers put the country on a war footing before September 11. And a lot of their criticisms are valid.
But let's remember that prior to September 11, when our enemy was not only declaring but waging war against the United States, blowing up embassies -- they almost sank an Aegis class warship, the USS Cole, in October of 2000. Our response -- and I'm talking about two administrations -- was to get arrest warrants for bin Laden, put him on the top 10 list.
And I went over to President Musharraf in the spring of 2000, asked that he help me arrest and take custody of bin Laden. By the way, he was of no help. He told me that he had spoken to Omar Mullah, who told him that bin Laden was no longer working in terrorism.
So the perspective before 9/11 was quite different. The country did not declare war -- war as you and I would understand it -- until September 11.
And while we're on the subject, the 9/11 Commission, it was interesting to read, at least press accounts, of Able Danger. It appears, from very credible sources, including very decorated military officers, that prior to September 11, actually in 2000, the Able Danger unit had identified...
BLITZER: That was a unit of the Pentagon that supposedly identified Mohammed Atta and some of the others, according to some of those people who say they were involved. Did any of that information ever reach the FBI?
FREEH: Well, absolutely not. In fact, if you read the media accounts, the military officers were forbidden from giving that to the FBI. In fact, they had (inaudible) with the FBI. Now, my point is, that was the kind of tactical intelligence -- had the FBI had it, you know what, that would have been very, very helpful.
FBI agents might have reacted to that. The 9/11 commission apparently was told this before they wrote their report, and we still haven't gotten a straight answer as to what they did with it.
BLITZER: But forget about Able Danger for a moment. As significant potentially as that might be, and there are presumably investigations, reviews under way right now to determine what, if any, role they may have had. But there were FBI agents who were connecting the dots, who were screaming about some of these 9/11 hijackers leading up to it. But apparently it didn't reach your desk or you were unaware of what some of your own field agents were getting.