- When I think of FBI agents, I think of boring bureaucrats living in the suburbs, driving minivans to work. John O'Neill had his own table at Elaine's in New York City, smoked cigars with people like Robert De Niro, and lived the life of the CEO of a large company or someone high up in the entertainment business. On top of all that, he had both a family with his wife and a family with his long-term girlfriend. On top of that, he had other girlfriends, who he managed to keep unknown to his wife or his long-term girlfriend. How did he manage all this on an FBI salary? Is it possible he was doing some freelance work on the side? He reminds me of FBI Agent Kemper Boyd in James Ellroy's great novel American Tabloid (which captures the feeling of the type of things that were going on at the time of the JFK assassination better than anything else I've read), who for want of money ends up working for everybody, a situation which doesn't end well for him either.
- O'Neill was apparently the creator of the politically convenient but highly questionable theory that TWA 800 was brought down by the ignition of leaking fuel and not by a terrorist or U. S. Navy missile. This is the kind of theory a political operative comes up with, not a regular FBI agent.
- O'Neill was up for promotion, but his chances were derailed when it became known that he was responsible for a security breach. Apparently he was attending a retirement seminar in Tampa, and lost a briefcase containing documents of a security level that he shouldn't have been carrying there. The briefcase and documents were recovered (with some of his personal effects missing), but the breach of security went on his employment record and he may have felt it was used as an excuse to deny him the promotion when it was really denied because his aggressive approach to his job, particularly his investigation of the attack on the USS Cole in Yemen, wasn't univerally appreciated in the Bush Administration or the FBI. Maybe I'm stretching here, but this security breach took place in the summer of 2000, at a time and a place just north of where Atta and other hijackers were taking flying lessons. With his prospects at the FBI or elsewhere in a Bush-led government limited, and his frustration at not being allowed to do his job in investigating the bin Laden family because of oil, O'Neill was all too happy to resign from the FBI and take a much higher paying job as head of security for the WTC.
- The infamous 'Phoenix memorandum', the one prepared by the FBI that apparently states fears that suspected al-Qaeda operatives were taking flight training in the United States to prepare for terror attacks, was sent to only two people, or perhaps to only a dozen people, one of whom was John O'Neill. He reads it, and almost immediately takes a job with Silverstein Properties as head of security for the WTC (and dies on his second day of work!). So let me get this straight: the director of counterterrorism for the FBI's New York office and the FBI's main expert on bin Laden, knowing that al-Qaeda had already tried to blow up the WTC and had operatives who had expressed a desire to complete the job (O'Neill had recently said to a friend: "They'll never stop trying to take down those two buildings"), reads a memo suggesting that al-Qaeda operatives may be taking flight training in the United States (and whatever the Bush administration may claim about its knowledge of al-Qaeda plans to use hijacked planes as missiles, you can be sure that John O'Neill was fully aware of it), and immediately quits to be head of security at the WTC! (I'm sorry, but this is where the dial on my coincidence meter just exploded.) I'd really like to know how it was arranged for him to get this job, and whether he was actually working for more than one employer at the time of his death.
I don't know what all this means, but I know it means something. For example, what if he didn't really quit the FBI (the last thing he did before heading back to the other tower was to telephone FBI headquarters), but was posted at his new job to stop what was described to him as inside security breaches at the WTC (planting of bombs, etc., or an attack like the 1993 attack using bombs in a vehicle)? Presumably he wouldn't have agreed to work at the WTC after reading the Phoenix memorandum unless he was assured that the plane missile issue was being taken care of. I am very suspicious that there is more to the story of John O'Neill than we are being told.