John P. O'Neill

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John Patrick O'Neill (February 6, 1952 – September 11, 2001) was a top American anti-terrorism expert, who worked as a special agent and eventually Assistant Director in the Federal Bureau of Investigation until late 2001. In 1995, O'Neill began to intensely study the roots of the 1993 World Trade Center bombing after he assisted in the capture of Ramzi Yousef, who was the leader of that plot.

He subsequently learned of al-Qaeda and Osama bin Laden, and investigated the 1996 Khobar Towers bombing in Saudi Arabia and the 2000 USS Cole bombing in Yemen. Partly due to personal friction he had within the FBI and federal government, O'Neill left to become the head of security at the World Trade Center, where he died at age 49 in the September 11, 2001 attacks. In 2002, O'Neill was the subject of a Frontline documentary named "The Man Who Knew."


Early life and education

O'Neill was born in Atlantic City, New Jersey and had a desire to become an FBI special agent from an early age. As a youngster, his favorite television show was The F.B.I., a crime drama based around true cases that the bureau had handled. After graduating from Holy Spirit High School (New Jersey), he went on to college, first attending American University in Washington, DC in 1971. While there, O'Neill also started working at the FBI's Washington headquarters, first as a fingerprint clerk and later as a tour guide. He gained a degree in administration of justice from American University in 1974 and later obtained a Master's degree in forensics from George Washington University.

FBI career

O'Neill was hired on as an agent at the FBI in 1976. Over the next 15 years, O'Neill worked on issues such as white-collar crime, organized crime, and foreign counterintelligence while based at the Washington bureau. In 1991, O'Neill received an important promotion and was moved to the FBI's Chicago field office where he was assistant special agent in charge. While there, he established the Fugitive Task Force in an effort to promote interagency cooperation and enhance ties between the FBI and local law enforcement. O'Neill also supervised a task force investigating abortion clinic bombings.

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