Agent Harry Samit, questioned by defence attorney Edward MacMahon in Moussaoui’s death penalty trial, said he referred to Moussaoui in the context of terrorism some 70 times in communications with superiors after arresting him on August 16, 2001, but failed to get the FBI to conduct an all-out investigation.
Moussaoui is the only person charged in the US in connection with the attacks of September 11, 2001.
MacMahon walked Samit through a lengthy report that he filed to his bosses and other FBI investigative units on August 18, 2001. The memo listed all the reasons Samit was suspicious of Moussaoui as a terrorist who might be trying to hijack airplanes.
Every time MacMahon read an example of Samit’s suspicions, the agent acknowledged that FBI headquarters never called him to discuss his concerns.
“You needed people in Washington to help you out,” MacMahon suggested at one point.
“Yes,” Samit said.
“They didn’t do that, did they?”
Samit said no.
He confirmed under questioning that he had attributed FBI inaction to “obstructionism, criminal negligence and careerism” in an earlier report.
Moussaoui pleaded guilty in April to conspiring with al-Qaida to hijack aircraft and commit other crimes. The sentencing trial will determine his punishment: death or life in prison.
To obtain the death penalty, prosecutors must prove that Moussaoui caused at least one death on September 11. They argue he did just that by lying to agents after his arrest and refusing to reveal his al-Qaida membership and terrorist ties.
Moussaoui denies he had anything to do with 9/11 and says he was training for a future attack.
MacMahon questioned Samit on whether the government could have legally searched Moussaoui’s Minnesota hotel room without first obtaining a warrant.
Samit said that in certain circumstances agents can conduct a search on foreign nationals immediately and obtain a warrant after the fact. But he said in
Moussaoui’s case, he and his supervisors determined that it would be best to arrest Moussaoui first.
Samit testified before the trial’s recess last week that Moussaoui lied to him after his arrest and thwarted his ability to obtain a search warrant.