FBI can't even Google to 'connect the dots' on terror, author says
When the Twin Towers were hit, writer Peter Lance watched in horror from his Santa Barbara home.
His immediate concern was for his son, Christopher, whose high school was just a few blocks from Ground Zero. After learning his son was safe, the award winning investigative journalist turned his focus to answering two questions: How did this happen? And could it happen again?
After a decade in Hollywood working as a screenwriter and novelist, Lance -- a graduate of Columbia Journalism School and Fordham Law School -- returned to the journalism that earned him five News Emmy awards and began investigating the FBI's actions and inactions in the years before 9/11.
His findings have not been promising.
"The FBI hasn't reformed itself. ... They can't do now what I can do with Filemaker Pro and Google: connect the dots," Lance, a former producer and correspondent on Nightline, 20/20 and World News Tonight, tells RAW STORY. "...The Bureau is a failure at counter-terrorism."
At the time of the attacks, Lance was working on a Showtime movie about the 1993 World Trade Center bombing and its mastermind, Ramzi Yousef. After the towers crumbled, Lance turned his focus to the origins of the 9/11 attacks.
Lance's first post-9/11 investigative book, 1,000 Years for Revenge, traced al Qaeda's planning for the attacks back to the 1993 bombing, and it proved, Lance says, that both operations were directly linked and planned by Yousef. Lance's law background -- he was an assistant in the New York County District Attorney's office while finishing law school -- helped him comb through thousands of court records while researching the book.
The book attracted attention from the 9/11 Commission, which invited Lance to testify, and it became the basis for ABC's miniseries "The Path to 9/11," which Lance says twisted his findings to turn the FBI's failures into successes.
"When I finally saw the manifestation of my work in this miniseries, I was sickened," Lance said in an interview. "...Instead of using the book properly, they basically distorted it."
Lance also accused the 9/11 Commission of producing its report with undue influence of the very agencies that dropped the ball in anticipating the attack. His testimony, which was delivered behind closed doors at FBI headquarters, was reduced to a "footnote" in the report, he said.
After a lengthy legal battle over the rights to his work, Lance settled with ABC, and the network imposed a gag order to prevent him from speaking out when the miniseries aired last year. Lance breaks his silence for the first time and outlines the twisting of his work in an essay published Monday on RAW STORY.
Lance reprints an e-mail he received from the miniseries producer, Cyrus Nowrasteh, who claimed 1000 Years for Revenge was the "only book" ABC wanted, then recounts how the producer appropriated his work without compensation after he agreed to sell the rights to a competing network.
Over the course of reporting and writing three books on the FBI, Lance has managed to trace the origins of the 9/11 plot to before the 1993 bombing. He profiles FBI agent Nancy Floyd and Ronnie Bucca, a former Green Beret who became a New York Firefighter and died on the 78th floor of WTC South Tower. Both were investigating al Qaeda's plans but were unable to convince superiors of their importance.
"They're both making these connections while being thwarted by people above them," he said.
After reviewing tens of thousands of pages of court transcripts and internal FBI documents and interviewing hundreds of sources, Lance is still pursuing the story behind the FBI's failure to prevent 9/11.
His latest investigations are unraveling how the FBI failed to act on terrorism warnings so as not to compromise organized crime prosecutions the Bureau was pursuing. Lance's book Cover Up inspired the Brooklyn D.A. to investigate former agent Lindley DeVecchio, who has been indicted on four counts of second-degree murder.
On his Web site, Lance outlines the connections between DeVecchio, a mob informant and convicted al Qaeda operatives.
Tuesday marks the six year anniversary of 9/11, and Lance's tenacity in unraveling the lead up to the attack has not let up. Who knows whether the full story behind the intelligence failures ever will be known, but Lance says he's not going to stop connecting the dots.