Robert Fuller (FBI)

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Robert Fuller is an agent with the Federal Bureau of Investigation who has worked in counter-terrorism. He has questioned suspected terrorists, been a handler of informants in the U.S., and testified in both federal court and Guantanamo military commission trials.[1]

September 11 attacks[edit]

The 9/11 Commission Report stated that in late August 2001, Fuller was given a lead on Khalid al-Mihdhar, who was one of the hijackers in the September 11 attacks. Fuller was instructed to open an intelligence case and attempt to find al-Mihdhar in the U.S. within the next 30 days. It was Fuller's first counterterrorism lead. He checked New York databases and the New York hotel listed on al-Mihdhar's U.S. entry visa. When nothing showed up, Fuller sent a lead to the FBI office in Los Angeles on September 11, because al-Mihdhar had originally entered the U.S. at Los Angeles International Airport in January 2000.[2][3]

A Department of Justice Office of Inspector General (OIG) report from November 2004, which was publicly released in 2006, provides a more detailed examination of Fuller's actions during his investigation. The FBI New York Field Office opened a full field intelligence investigation to locate al-Mihdhar on August 29, 2001. Fuller was given the assignment on August 30, without any particular priority, and another investigation kept him from starting until September 4. Fuller first filled out lookout request forms for the INS and U.S. Customs Service on al-Mihdhar. By September 5, Fuller had requested New York City criminal history, NCIC criminal history, credit and motor vehicle checks on al-Mihdhar and Nawaf al-Hazmi, who was mentioned as an associate in the initial lead on al-Mihdhar. Fuller stated to the OIG that he conducted a ChoicePoint search on both men. However, the FBI located records on al-Hazmi in that database soon after September 11, 2001.[4]

The OIG report did not fault Fuller for his efforts on the investigation. Rather, it stated the New York Field Office should have assigned the search more priority and resources.[5]

Informant's self-immolation[edit]

On November 15, 2004, an informant Fuller had been working with since November 2001, Mohamed Alanssi, set himself on fire in front of the White House.[1][6] Alanssi had earlier sent a note to Fuller explaining his action:

I must travel to Yemen to see my sick wife (stomac cancer) and my family before I testify at the court or any other places. Why you don't care about my life and my family's life? Once I testify my family will be killed in Yemen, me too I will be dead man.[7] [sic]

Guantanamo military commissions testimony[edit]

In 2008, Fuller testified in the Guantanamo military commission trial of Salim Hamdan. Fuller stated that it was not FBI policy at the time to give a Miranda warning about self-incrimination to terrorism suspects.[8] "A source can be a suspect as well," Fuller testified.[9] In March 2002, Hamdan, who had been detained in Kandahar for four months at that time, led FBI agents including Fuller on a tour of three compounds in Afghanistan owned by Osama bin Laden.[10]

In 2009, Fuller testified in the military commission trial of Omar Khadr. Fuller recounted that he interrogated Khadr at Bagram Airbase on October 7, 2002, three months after Khadr was captured.[11] Fuller's report of the interview, written right after it, was introduced as evidence in the trial. The report stated that Khadr took several minutes to identify Maher Arar from a photograph. It also stated that Khadr thought he saw Arar at a Kabul, Afghanistan safe house in September and October 2001.[12] The day after the interrogation, October 8, 2002, Arar, who had been in detention at J.F.K. airport for the past 12 days, was extraordinarily rendered to Syria.[11][12]

2009 Bronx terrorism plot[edit]

Fuller was the FBI handler of the informant Shahed Hussain,[13] who conspired with James Cromitie[14] to attempt an attack on two synagogues in the Bronx in 2009.[15] Officially, the FBI authorized Hussain to offer US$5,000 to each man participating in the plot but how much money they believed they were doing it for remains unclear.[citation needed] Cromitie, along with three other defendants, was convicted and sentenced to 25 years in prison.[15] Fuller testified at the trial that the informant, Shahed Hussain, made twelve trips to a mosque in Newburgh, New York, "to attempt to interact with other individuals in other F.B.I. counterterrorism operations," and to keep his ear open for "radical Islamic thoughts."[14] Hussain was paid $44,000 for expenses and $53,000 for his services over a three-year period.[16]

Fuller repeatedly told Hussain to encourage Cromitie to buy an illegal gun. An email Fuller wrote suggested the reason he kept suggesting this was to have a criminal charge versus Cromitie "in our back pocket if things went south."[17] A different email from Fuller to officials at Stewart Airport, another potential target of the plot, stated that Cromitie would be casing the airport but that he posed no danger without help from Hussain.[18]

On June 29, 2011, US District Judge Colleen McMahon sentenced Cromitie to 25 years in prison but pointed out that the FBI played a key role in the situation. She says: "It created acts of terrorism out of his fantasies of bravado and bigotry, and then made those fantasies come true." And added: "Only the government could have made a terrorist out of Mr. Cromitie, whose buffoonery is positively Shakespearean in scope."[15] Shahed Hussain became an much used FBI informant after his work with Fuller in this case.[19]


  1. ^ a b Kinkead, Gwen (November 29, 2004). "Amid C.I.A. Shake-Up, Questions About F.B.I." New York Observer. Retrieved September 23, 2011.
  2. ^ ""The System Was Blinking Red" 9/11 Commission Report, Chapter 8" (PDF). July 22, 2004. pp. 271–272. HTML
  3. ^ "Notes to 9/11 Commission Report" (PDF). July 22, 2004. p. 539, note 84. HTML
  4. ^ Office of the Inspector General, Department of Justice (November 2004). "A Review of the FBI's Handling of Intelligence Information Related to the September 11 Attacks" (PDF). pp. 309–312. Released Publicly June 2006. Fuller is referred to as "Richard" in this report.
  5. ^ Office of the Inspector General, Department of Justice (November 2004). "A Review of the FBI's Handling of Intelligence Information Related to the September 11 Attacks. Individual Performance - Richard". p. 360. Released Publicly June 2006
  6. ^ Murphy, Caryle; Wilber, Del Quentin (November 16, 2004). "Terror Informant Ignites Himself Near White House: Yemeni Was Upset at Treatment by FBI". Washington Post. p. A01. Retrieved September 23, 2011.
  7. ^ Alanssi, Mohamed (November 15, 2004). "Top Urgent to Mr. Robert Fuller" (PDF). Washington Post.
  8. ^ Mikkelsen, Randall (July 24, 2008). "Bin Laden driver was not read rights, court told". Reuters. Retrieved September 23, 2001.
  9. ^ Williams, Carol J. (July 25, 2008). "Hamdan case is built on his own words". Los Angeles Times. Retrieved September 27, 2011.
  10. ^ Rosenberg, Carol (July 17, 2008). "Bin Laden's driver cooperated with U.S. agents, witnesses say". Miami Herald. Retrieved September 27, 2017.
  11. ^ a b Rosenberg, Carol (January 20, 2009). "At Guantanamo, a war crimes trial is postponed indefinitely". Miami Herald. Retrieved September 23, 2011.
  12. ^ a b "Khadr couldn't pick out Arar immediately, FBI agent admits". CBC News. January 20, 2009. Retrieved September 23, 2011.
  13. ^ Timeline: The Making of an FBI Superinformant - By Trevor Aaronson | Mother Jones September/October 2011
  14. ^ a b Fahim, Kareem (August 25, 2010). "Agent Tied to Informant Testifies in Bomb Plot Case". New York Times. Retrieved September 23, 2011.
  15. ^ a b c Gearty, Robert (June 29, 2011). "Judge gives men convicted in Bronx synagogue bomb plot 25 years in prison but lambasts government". New York Daily News. Retrieved September 23, 2011.
  16. ^ Gearty, Robert (August 25, 2010). "FBI paid informant in Bronx synagogue bomb plot $97K, who provided terror suspects with fake bombs". New York Daily News. Retrieved September 27, 2011.
  17. ^ Fahim, Kareem (August 26, 2010). "Agent Wanted Backup Charge in Synagogue Bomb Case, Defense Says". New York Times. Retrieved September 23, 2011.
  18. ^ Glaberson, William (June 14, 2010). "Trial of Newburgh Men Accused of Terror Plot Delayed". New York Times. Retrieved September 27, 2011.
  19. ^ Aaronson, Trevor (2013). Terror Factory: Inside the FBI's Manufactured War on Terrorism. Ig Publishing. pp. 150–151. ISBN 9781935439615.

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