Most of the time, we can count on the FBI to solve crimes and bring criminals to justice. They follow every procedure and locate abducted kids, find serial killers’ hideouts, and catch drug dealers without a hitch.
There are times, though, that nothing goes as planned, or a mistake is made that lets the bad guy get away, or causes a bad outcome for a case that has been going on for months or even years.
The agents are only human, after all. They are not always going to be perfect. They do so much good, but it is inevitable that sometimes they mess up.
Here are eight times that the FBI failed.
1. Osama Bin Laden
Despite the fact that the FBI has access to world class equipment and technology, they somehow bungled a photo of Osama Bin Laden in 2010.
The picture was meant to be a simulation of what he would look like after nobody seeing him for several years. They assumed he would have more wrinkles, more gray hair, that he would have aged a bit.
The photo they came up with didn’t look like him at all. They used an old picture from 1998 to create the new one with their supposed cutting edge capabilities.
Turned out, an agent literally just cut and pasted features from Spanish politician, Gaspar Llamazarez onto the old photo of Bin Laden.
This upset Llamazarez, as he said he now felt unsafe because he might be mistaken for the most wanted man in the world.
The picture also was not accurate due to the missing turban and the fact that the beard was shorter rather than longer, as he preferred.
H/T – Source
2. Office Burglary
Eight people affiliated with the Citizens Commission to Investigate the FBI, led by John Raines, broke into the Philadelphia office on March 8, 1971. This was a group that was against the Vietnam war, and they took around 1,000 classified files having to do with COINTELPRO.
That was a counterintelligence operative that was created to create turmoil amongst different civil rights groups and ruin the credibility of influential activists like Martin Luther King Jr.
You would think the security at a government office would be airtight, but this group broke in with a crowbar, and a lock picking kit.
They did their homework before the break in. They kept an eye on the office, noting the comings and goings of the agents. The wife of the brains behind the operation, Bonnie Raines, even pretended to be a college student writing about career paths for women within the government agency and interviewed several agents.
They chose a night they knew agents would be distracted by the Mohammed Ali and Joe Frazier fight.
Only after the office was burgled did the agent realize they had been had. They came up with a likeness of the “college girl” but didn’t have a name. J Edgar Hoover was understandably mad about the break in, and sent more than 200 agents after the suspects. They were unable to catch them.
H/T – Source
3. Lost Briefcase
Agent John O’Neill made a huge mistake in July of 2000 when he misplaced a briefcase in which he had many classified papers. This included the Annual Field Office Report. This report was concerning counter terrorism and counter espionage plans for New York. There was also information about an informant for the FBI. Not information that should be public knowledge.
He left the case in the conference room of a hotel while at a meeting for the FBI. When it was recovered later, the papers inside were tested for fingerprints, and none were found. It was believed that common thieves took it, not any foreign entities.
O’Neill retired the next year and started a new job as head of the security detail in the World Trade Center, and sadly, he was killed during the attack there on 9/11.
H/T – Source
4. Agents Left Instructions in the Home of a Suspect
When the FBI raided homes of seven people in Minneapolis and Chicago on September 24, 2010, something very important was accidentally left behind.
The instructions for the raid were left amongst the personal papers of the suspects. They included the planning of the raid, surveillance information, and the questions for interrogation. In addition to all of that, it also contained details about two of the activists under investigation, Meredith Aby and Jessica Sundin.
They were believed to have connections to FARC, the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Columbia, because of a summit they had attended in areas of Columbia run by the organization.
The document was discovered seven months later when the activists finally went through the filing cabinet where they had put all of their own scattered papers after the raid.
H/T – Source
5. Agent Weds ISIS Fighter
When assigned to spy on ISIS recruiter and fighter, Denis Cuspert, agent Daniela Greene fell in love with him.
Denis was a German who once rapped and went by the name Deso Dogg. After joining ISIS he took the name Abu Talha al-Almani.
He is known as one of the most dangerous and fearsome fighters within the terrorist organization. He appeared in a video directed toward the U.S. holding a human head and making threats to Barack Obama, who was president at the time.
After Greene realized she was in love with him, he got her to come to Syria to be with him. She was married to another man at the time and told him that she was going to Germany to see her parents. She then went through Turkey, and on to Syria.
Two weeks after marrying Cuspert, she knew she had made a terrible mistake and returned to the states.
She was charged with making false statements and received a two year prison sentence.
H/T – Source
6. Agent Crashes Ferrari
In 2008, a 1995 Ferrari F50 was seized in Kentucky during a drug bust. The car belonged to Motors Insurance, and had been reported stolen 5 years before.
The company had paid the claim filed by the original owner, but the FBI wound not release it to them, even though they did inform the company of the find.
The next year, it was crashed by an agent who took an assistant attorney on a joyride.
Motors Insurance sued the government for three quarters of a million dollars, which was the value of the vehicle. It had dents and scratches from the wreck, as well as a broken frame.
The Department of Justice dropped the case due to the fact the car was being detained at the time of the wreck.
H/T – Source
7. Dylan Roof
On June 17, 2015, white supremacist Dylan Roof entered Emanuel AME Church located in Charleston, South Carolina under the guise of wanting to join their bible study.
He waited an hour after being welcomed into their group, then pulled a gun out and killed nine people. The victims were all black.
The gun he used was bought legally, according to the investigation after the shooting. This was allowed to happen even though it shouldn’t have been.
To obtain a gun in the United States, most places will do background checks. The FBI required this of sellers. They approve or deny the request within 72 hours. No response after day 3 allows the sale to take place.
Previously, Roof had been arrested and charged with narcotics possession and pleaded guilty. That should have been enough to prevent him from purchasing any firearm.
Apparently, there were mistakes surrounding his records. The wrong police department was listed, first of all. When they called Lexington Police Department, they were directed to try the Columbia Department instead.
The city of his arrest, Columbia, is located in two separate counties, Lexington and Richland. Both have PDs with similar names. Columbia and West Columbia. The FBI contacted West Columbia, which had no record of arresting Roof, obviously, so he was cleared to buy a gun.
H/T – Source
8. The Wrong Video
James Bulger, nicknamed “Whitey,” is a drug dealer, extortionist, murderer and a boss of organized crime, among other things.
He was wanted by the FBI for 16 years after almost being caught in 1995.
In fact, he was the most wanted American, on the FBI top ten list just under Bin Laden.
He was once an informant, and told on many of his rivals.
During the 16 year long hunt for him, agents were on a wild goose chase all over the globe, including France, Ireland, Spain, Italy, Thailand, The UK, and Brazil.
He was caught, finally, in a very strange way. The FBI bought ad time and used it to ask for information on Catherine Greig, his girlfriend. They aimed the ads at women aged in their 60s, the same age as Catherine. They said they needed info to be able to catch and arrest her.
It worked. Bulger and Greig were apprehended and caught in Sacramento just two days later.
Prior to the arrest of the actual couple, the FBI failed big-time in this case. They released a video of the couple asking for the public’s help in locating them. The video was taken in Sicily and the people in it were tracked to Germany.
A German program showed the video, prompting the couple to come forward and prove they weren’t the criminals in question.
H/T – Source