Biting His Handlers

An FBI informant's secret tapes raise a troubling issue in the tower-bombing case: Did the bureau screw up?

The FBI, which looked supremely capable in speedily rounding up suspects in the World Trade Center bombing, may actually have bungled a chance to thwart the explosion, according to secretly taped conversations between informant Emad Salem and his FBI handlers. In the most startling passage, leaked to the press last week, an agent seemingly accepts Salem's claim that the bombing could have been averted through his undercover work, including a proposed ploy to substitute inert powder for explosives.

The FBI, mortified by the possibility that Salem warned someone in the agency and was overlooked because of doubt that he was trustworthy,...

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