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John P. O'Neill
Age: 49
Occupation: Head of Security
Worked for: World Trade Center
Originally from: Atlantic City, NJ
Resided in: New York

I didn't know John, but I thought he should be on this list.
Submitted by: Jay Dooling ()

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John P. O'Neill was one of America's best minds in its fight against terrorism. For the last several years, the 31-year FBI veteran had trained his expertise on Osama bin Laden, a prime suspect in Tuesday's attacks.

But O'Neill, 50, retired two weeks ago from the FBI after becoming the subject of a bureau investigation because he misplaced a briefcase--later recovered-- containing highly classified information. Authorities said last month that the briefcase included a report outlining virtually every national security operation in New York.

While serving as assistant special-agent-in-charge of foreign counter-intelligence and terrorism in the FBI's Chicago field office in the early 1990s, he worked on the probe of the 1993 bombing of the World Trade Center.

He then became counterterrorism chief in the bureau's New York office, where he led investigations of several terror strikes attributed to the Saudi extremist, including the attacks on the USS Cole in Yemen last year and the U.S. embassies in Nairobi and Tanzania in 1998.

"He was so dedicated to wiping him out. He was obsessed with getting him," said Valerie James, his longtime companion.

After leaving the bureau, O'Neill became director of security for the World Trade Center, where he was working Tuesday morning.

He called James from outside the trade center shortly after the hijacked planes struck the twin towers. "He said, `I'm OK, I love you. There's body parts everywhere. I've got to go because I have to evacuate the building,' " said Stacy James of Oak Park, Valerie James' daughter.

"I keep telling my mom that he's in a hospital somewhere," Jerome James said. "But he was very serious about his job, and that's the part that scares me the most; he probably did go and help people."
-- Jay Dooling ()
07 Nov 2001

John O'Neill Is Dead at 49; Trade Center Security Chief


John P. O'Neill, who left the F.B.I. last month to become chief of security for the World Trade Center, died in the collapse of the center on Sept. 11. He was 49.

Mr. O'Neill spent the last several years heading major investigations of the Saudi exile Osama bin Laden, a prime suspect in the attacks at the trade center and the Pentagon. He also investigated the bombings of the United States Embassies in Kenya and Tanzania in 1998.

In 1997, when he was head of the F.B.I.'s counterterrorism division in New York, he warned at a conference on terrorism that militant terrorist groups were operating quietly within the United States. "A lot of these groups now have the capability and the support infrastructure in the United States to attack us here if they choose to," he said at the time, adding that there was a particular danger from Islamic militants.

On Sept. 11, Mr. O'Neill saw his warnings materialize.

In his career with the F.B.I., Mr. O'Neill proved to be one of the shrewdest counterterrorism officials and one of the most controversial. Associates have said that he sometimes chafed at the bureau's restrictive rules and that his single-mindedness occasionally irritated colleagues in the bureau, at the C.I.A. and at the State Department.

Last month, F.B.I. sources confirmed that Mr. O'Neill was under investigation after he left a briefcase containing classified information unattended in a hotel in Tampa, Fla., last year. The briefcase B which was recovered and returned to Mr. O'Neill B contained several documents that included a report outlining virtually every national security operation in New York.

As chief of the counterterrorism section at the bureau's Washington headquarters, Mr. O'Neill helped capture the mastermind of the 1993 World Trade Center bombing, coordinated information in the Oklahoma City bombing that led to the arrest of Timothy McVeigh and Terry Nichols, and played a key role in the investigation of the crash of Trans World Airlines Flight 800.

Born in Atlantic City, Mr. O'Neill received a Bachelor of Science degree from American University in Washington and a master's degree in forensic science from George Washington University in Washington. After joining the bureau in 1976, Mr. O'Neill worked in the foreign counterintelligence, organized crime and white collar crime units.

After assignments in Baltimore, Washington and Chicago, Mr. O'Neill headed the group charged with investigating violence against abortion clinics and the counterterrorism section at headquarters.

It was in the wake of the lost-briefcase incident that Mr. O'Neill announced last month that he would retire at the end of the month.
Editorial Obituary published in THE NEW YORK TIMES on September 23, 2001.
-- Jay Dooling (Friend {})
13 Jan 2002

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