FBI agent at U.S. Embassy in Pakistan recalls post-9/11 anti-terror efforts

Reporter: Rich Kolko
Published: Updated:
FILE – In this Sept. 11, 2011 file photo, a U.S. Army soldier walks past an American Flag hanging in preparation for a ceremony commemorating the tenth anniversary of the 9/11 attacks, at Forward Operating Base Bostick in Kunar province, Afghanistan. The final phase of ending America’s “forever war” in Afghanistan after 20 years formally began Saturday, May 1, 2021, with the withdrawal of the last U.S. and NATO troops by the end of summer.(AP Photo/David Goldman, File)

As the tragic events of September 11 unfolded in New York City, just outside our nation’s Capitol, and in Shanksville, Pennsylvania, Jennifer Keenan was half a world away working as a legal attaché.

At the time, she was FBI’s No. 2 at the U.S. Embassy in Pakistan.

Keenan first learned of the terror attacks while trying to get through to co-workers in her former office in New York City.

“I finally got ahold of the secretary and I said, ‘you know is, is anybody around? I have a real basic question’,” Keenan said. “And she’s like, ‘no, everybody went down to the Trade Centers’ that a plane hit the Trade Center.”

That’s when her world changed, just like everyone else.

“It was a counterterrorism mission, where we’re primary on counterterrorism investigations,” Keenan explained. Primary, right alongside the Pakistanis.

“Basically [President] Bush asked the Pakistanis, are you with us? Or are you not with us? And they resoundingly said we’re with America … this is a horrible attack on humanity.”

Keenan’s team worked to disrupt Al Qaeda and its affiliates.

She explained, “As intelligence came in, as people were detained in the battlefield, as information was collected in the battlefield, we would just exploit that and look for our next target, our next location to search in, and in many, many times, we came up empty … Other times, we came up with the holy grail with significant terrorist associates.”

One of the biggest was Abu Zubaydah, an Al Qaeda facilitator who remains detained at Guantanamo Bay.

“Pakistan was an active post, it was a terrorism-related post. Pakistan has a lot of domestic terrorist groups that targeted U.S citizens,” she added. “The Marriott hotel got hit and we lost people. So the danger and the threat against the U.S. is very real, and very present.”

Still today, and then, there are the close calls we’ll never hear about.

“What our government tried to do is keep Americans safe. And at the end of the day, 20 years later, we have kept Americans safe. Much safer than, they probably know with all the different actions we’ve taken.”

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