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Profile: Frank Pellegrino

Frank Pellegrino was a participant or observer in the following events:

Thomas Donlon.Thomas Donlon. [Source: Thomas Donlon]Abdul Hakim Murad, a conspirator in the aborted Bojinka plot, gives FBI agents details of Bojinka and other terrorist plots against the United States while he is being flown to America from the Philippines, and one possible future attack he mentions is a second bombing of the World Trade Center. (Wren 8/6/1996; Lance 2003, pp. 280; Graff 2011, pp. 182) Philippine authorities hand Murad over to the FBI at Ninoy Aquino International Airport in Manila on April 12. During the long flight to the US, he is interviewed by Special Agents Frank Pellegrino and Thomas Donlon for about five hours. He is read his Miranda rights twice. He then agrees to talk to Pellegrino and Thomas on the plane in English, without an interpreter. He says he wants to cooperate with the US government and agrees to give a statement. (United States v. Yousef 5/29/1996; United States v. Yousef et al. 5/3/2002 pdf file; Graff 2011, pp. 182) He then provides the two FBI agents with minute details of the Bojinka plot and describes other plots against the US. (Lance 2003, pp. 280; Graff 2011, pp. 182)
Murad Describes His Role in Bojinka - Murad says his planned role in Bojinka was to board a flight in Singapore and plant a bomb on it before it made its first stop, in Hong Kong. After the plane landed in Hong Kong, he was to take a different flight back to Singapore and plant a bomb on this plane too. He says he’d expected the explosion when the bomb went off would tear a hole in the aircraft and cause it to crash in the Pacific Ocean. He says he believes other conspirators were going to bomb other flights. He says Ramzi Yousef, mastermind of the 1993 WTC bombing, told him the bombing of a Philippine Airlines flight in December 1994 was a test run to ensure that the chemicals and timing devices in the bombs the Bojinka perpetrators would use worked properly (see December 12, 1994). (Wren 8/6/1996; United States v. Yousef et al. 5/3/2002 pdf file)
Murad Describes Possible Future Attacks - Murad also describes some plans for future terrorist attacks. He says he discussed with Yousef the possibility of blowing up a nuclear plant in the US and the two men talked about conducting additional attacks on American airline carriers, such as United Airlines and Northwest Airlines. He says the aim of these attacks would be “to make the American people and the American government suffer for their support of Israel.” (Wren 8/6/1996; Lance 2003, pp. 510) One chilling piece of information he provides is that Yousef intends to return to the US to bomb the WTC a second time. This is because Yousef “felt that he should have been able to bring it down the first time, but lack of money had left him unable to build a bomb of sufficient size,” journalist and author Garrett Graff will later write. (Lance 2003, pp. 280; Graff 2011, pp. 182) During the interview, Murad is “cooperative” and “a gentleman,” Pellegrino will state. He “answered all the questions without hesitation,” Pellegrino will say. (Wren 8/6/1996) The flight with Murad on board arrives in New York on April 13. (United States v. Yousef 5/29/1996)

FBI agent Jack Cloonan, a member of the FBI’s I-49 bin Laden squad, will tell author Peter Lance after 9/11 that another FBI agent belonging to I-49 named Frank Pellegrino saw some of the surveillance photos taken of the al-Qaeda summit in Malaysia several months earlier (see January 5-8, 2000 and January 5-8, 2000 and Shortly After). Cloonan will say, “Pellegrino was in Kuala Lumpur,” the capital of Malaysia. “And the CIA chief of station said, ‘I’m not supposed to show these photographs, but here. Take a look at these photographs. Know any of these guys?’” But Pellegrino does not recognize them, as he is working to catch Khalid Shaikh Mohammed (KSM) and apparently is not involved in other cases. However, there have been numerous reports that KSM was at the summit (see January 5-8, 2000). Further, Lance will note that if Pellegrino could not identify KSM, he could have recognized Hambali, another attendee of the summit. Pellegrino was in the Philippines in 1995 and worked with local officials there as they interrogated Abdul Hakim Murad, one of the Bojinka bombers (see February-Early May 1995). During this time, Murad’s interrogators learned about Hambali’s involvement in a front company called Konsonjaya and passed the information on to US officials (see Spring 1995). Further, an FBI report from 1999 shows the FBI was aware of Hambali’s ties to Konsonjaya by that time (see May 23, 1999). (Lance 2006, pp. 340-341)

In an interview with the 9/11 Commission, FBI agent Frank Pellegrino repudiates the theory that 9/11 happened because the US intelligence community failed to connect the dots. After a Commission staffer states the theory, Pellegrino responds angrily: “What dots? There are no dots to connect! It was all there, written in front of them [CIA officials].” (Soufan 2011, pp. 302) Presumably this occurs on August 26, 2003, when Pellegrino is interviewed by the Commission, according to an endnote to its final report. (9/11 Commission 7/24/2004) Pellegrino is the FBI agent who was previously assigned to track alleged 9/11 mastermind Khalid Shaikh Mohammed (see Spring 2000). This incident is referenced in a 2011 book by former FBI agent Ali Soufan. Soufan thinks that the CIA’s failure to pass on information to the bureau was deliberate, and presumably Pellegrino agrees with him. (Soufan 2011, pp. 301-302)


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