'Soldiers' in Suits Entrenched in Attacks Inquiry

October 31, 2001
Reprinted with permission from the Greenwich Time, October 14, 2001 by J.A. Johnson Jr.

While the nation awaits each new report concerning the military campaign against terrorism, a second prong of America’s offensive presses quietly on.

In addition to troops wearing camouflaged fatigues, the new war is relying heavily on "soldiers" in business suits: government attorneys and agents with the FBI, IRS and other federal agencies.

According to an area lawyer with ties to these noncombatants, the most competent law enforcement team is already on the case.

"My old office is obviously playing a key role in this," said David Fein, former assistant U.S. attorney for the Southern District of New York. "Not to mention it is physically near ground zero, but the people there are the very ones who are critical for a successful investigation and prosecution. They have had major successes in this area over the years, and they are absolutely the best people to be leading the charge."

Now with the Stamford law firm of Wiggin & Dana, Fein in early 2000 represented Greenwich Time and four other media organizations in a successful bid to open normally closed juvenile court proceedings after then-39-year old Michael Skakel was charged as a juvenile for allegedly murdering Greenwich teenager Martha Moxley in 1975. In 1997, Fein was hired by the town to investigate allegations of possible corruption within the Greenwich Police Department.

Heading the law enforcement team tracking down Osama bin Laden is U.S. Attorney Mary Jo White, who successfully prosecuted the terrorists responsible for the 1993 bombing of the World Trade Center.

"It is very fortunate that President Bush has kept on Mary Jo White, because there is not another U.S. attorney with more experience and success in terrorism investigations and prosecutions," Fein said.

In addition to the World Trade Center prosecution, White presided over the successful prosecution of terror conspiracy case against Egyptian cleric Sheik Omar Abdel Rahman and others who plotted to blow up various New York City landmarks.

White’s office has devoted considerable resources to the embassy bombings case, indicting bin Laden and 20 others in an alleged worldwide plot to kill Americans and destroy U.S. government property. After the embassy bombings in East Africa in August 1998, White’s office – which has 200 assistant U.S. attorneys – worked alongside the FBI’s anti-terrorism task force to gather evidence in the crime that killed 224 people.

"There is no safe haven for terrorists," White said prior to the Sept. 11 attacks on the World Trade Center and Pentagon, resolving "to bring to the bar of justice each and every person who participated in these heinous crimes that resulted in the death of hundreds of innocent people."

Fein said because the same "core team" of investigators had already been investigating bin Laden and his associates, "this makes me feel really good" that those responsible for killing thousands of innocent civilians will be brought to justice.

"All of the law enforcement agents and prosecutors have been on this since the day of the ’93 (twin towers) explosion, and they haven’t stopped since," he said.

In his prime-time news conference Thursday, Bush said thousands of federal agents are tracking down terrorists worldwide, and that the U.S. government had already frozen more than $24 million in assets belonging to bin Laden’s al Qaida organization.

"The law enforcement component of the situation is hugely important both for bringing people to justice and ferreting out other crimes and criminals," Fein said.