June 5, 2003

Mousa Abu Marzook, a top Hamas political leader who was deported from the United States in 1997, is accused of funding terrorism. (ABCNEWS.com)
FBI Let Suspect Go
Five Terror Suspects Arrested; Two Still at Large

By Brian Ross

Dec. 18 — Seven people have been criminally charged with financing terrorism, Attorney General John Ashcroft announced today. Five of the suspects are under arrest but two others, a married couple, are still at large — which an active FBI agent says represents a significant failure by the agency.

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Authorities indicted Mousa Abu Marzook, a top Hamas political leader who was deported from the United States in 1997, and his wife. The two are accused of conspiring to violate U.S. laws that prohibit financial dealings with terrorists. The vice president of a Texas-based computer company called InfoCom Corp. and four of his brothers are under arrest on the same charges.

"Today's charges against a senior leader of Hamas are the latest in an aggressive campaign to identify, disrupt and destroy the sources of funding that make terrorism possible," Ashcroft said.

What the attorney general did not mention was that Marzook was in U.S. custody in 1997 and under criminal investigation then for much the same crimes cited today.

But according to Robert Wright, one of the FBI agents on the case at the time, FBI headquarters ordered a halt to the criminal investigation of Marzook in 1998, preferring instead to gather intelligence reports on his movements.

"They wanted to shut down the criminal investigation," Wright told ABCNEWS. "They wanted to kill it."

Wright, still an active agent, made his comments in an interview scheduled for broadcast this week on PrimeTime Thursday.

Called off Criminal Case

"The supervisor who was there from headquarters was right straight across from me and started yelling at me: 'You will not open criminal investigations. I forbid any of you. You will not open criminal investigations against any of these intelligence subjects,'" Wright told ABCNEWS.

The federal prosecutor at the time, Mark Flessner, says he was building a case against Marzook and others when the FBI pulled the plug — essentially letting Marzook go free.

"I think there were very serious mistakes made," said Flessner. "And I think, it perhaps cost, it cost people their lives ultimately."

The FBI says the decision to kill the case four years ago was appropriate at the time.

Marzook was detanied in July 1995 by the INS at the request of Israel, claiming that he was wanted for orchestrating a series of attacks and bombings there. He was deported to Jordon in 1997 when Israel declined to pursue his extradition. He is now believed to be in Damascus, Syria.  

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