Bringing Terrorists to Justice
The Long Arm of the Law
FBI International Presence Key to Bringing Terrorists to Justice
On February 7, 1995—eight years ago this Friday—Ramzi Yousef, mastermind of the 1993 bombing of the World Trade Center and other plots, was located and arrested in Islamabad, Pakistan. He was immediately flown back to New York City, escorted by an FBI arrest team, and arraigned on charges relating to the World Trade Center bombing. Several months later, he was charged in the "Manila Air" bombing case. And in January 1998, he was sentenced to serve 240 years, plus another life sentence, in an American jail for his crimes.
How was this slippery international terrorist tracked down? How on earth could he have ended up in an American jail?
It's actually an amazing story, and one that's all about police and agents across the world working together for justice and the common good.
Right off the bat, you may be wondering how FBI agents get to know and work with police in different countries. In fact, one of the most important ways is by working as a legal attaché in U.S. embassy offices in different countries. Right now we have some 200 FBI employees in 45 legal attaché offices who directly work with their colleagues in that geographical area on both their cases and our cases. That builds a lot of trust over time.
So in the case of Ramzi Yousef and his co-conspirators, we weren't just making long distance telephone calls to our colleagues in Pakistan and Jordan and Manila and Tokyo and all the other places his trail took us: we had our legal attachés there, on the ground, working shoulder to shoulder with them. Information flowed around the world, from legal attachés to Washington to our U.S. colleagues and back; among and between a score of international agencies and all their local police departments.
Ultimately, a sighting on a street in Pakistan was linked to bits of evidence in dozens of other cities and countries. Pakistani police identified and arrested Yousef, then arranged for FBI agents to take custody and leave the country with the prisoner. Teamwork.
Success? When you think about it, success in putting Yousef behind bars was not, in fact, an "FBI success." It was an international law enforcement success—the best kind of success to have in our globalized world of crime and terrorism.
Sequel? Today partnerships among international agencies are stronger and better. And the FBI has people on the ground to work with our colleagues in twice as many locations as we had when Youself was arrested...with Congressional approval to open more in the coming months. Stay tuned for future stories...