NOT FORGOTTEN: CIA, FBI veteran recalls horror of 9/11

Now retired in Mississippi, Ed Worthington fears what terrorists could do in the future
Published: Sep. 9, 2021 at 11:36 PM CDT
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MADISON CO., Miss. (WLBT) - Ed Worthington spent years with the CIA and FBI in Washington and was deputy director of the National Counter Terrorism Center in September of 2001. Now retired and living in Madison County, he vividly remembers getting word of the first attack on the World Trade Center in New York.

He was at a doctor’s appointment not far from the Pentagon.

“I knew immediately it was not an accident,” he said, based on the information and intelligence that he and others had collected prior to the attacks.

“We were actively involved in hunting Osama Bin Laden and his associates, trying to disrupt terrorist events throughout the world, and so we knew that there was a big one coming. Something was going to happen.”

They just didn’t know where, and they did not suspect it would be on U.S. soil.

“We still didn’t know when, where or how they would conduct this thing,” he recalls. “We had snippets of information, and trying to get specific information was impossible. You never got specific information.”

Worthington later came to Mississippi, serving as Special Agent in Charge of the FBI’s Jackson field office, and then as the first director of the Mississippi Office of Homeland Security.

In 2003, he accepted an FBI request to assemble a team of about 40 personnel to go to Iraq to interrogate members of Saddam Hussein’s inner circle. They were there when the murderous former Iraqi president himself was captured.

“They fingerprinted him, photographed him, took his DNA,” Worthington says. He has a framed copy of Saddam’s prints and mug shots on the wall of his home office.

Ed Worthington at home in Madison County
Ed Worthington at home in Madison County(WLBT)

Worthington has seen a lot. Twenty years after the September 11 terrorist attacks, he’s concerned about the future of terrorism and what could happen next in Afghanistan in the aftermath of the U.S. withdrawal of American troops at the end of August.

“We have now re-enabled the Taliban, who protected al-Qaeda, protected Bin Laden, gave him refuge -- and now we’ve put them back in charge of Afghanistan. I would bet you thousands of radical Islamists are heading to Afghanistan to join al-Qaeda, and they will continue to launch efforts against the United States.”

He hopes that never happens, and he also hopes Americans never forget the nearly 3,000 people who died 20 years ago in New York, in Pennsylvania, and at the Pentagon.

“They need to be thinking about those people,” he says. “They gave their life.”

“And terrorism is a real thing.”

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