Episode 192: Kenneth Williams – Phoenix Memo, Phoenix Mountain Arsonist 

Retired agent Kenneth Williams served in the FBI for nearly 30 years. He spent most of his career investigating foreign and domestic terrorism matters and took part in many high-profile terrorism investigations, including the bombing investigation of the A.P. Murrah federal building in Oklahoma City, Oklahoma.

In this episode of FBI Retired Case File Review, Ken Williams reviews the events that led him to write what is now known as the “Phoenix Memo,” his untimely reassignment to work on the Phoenix Mountain Arsonist case, and the aftermath of 9/11.

Ken authored the Phoenix Memo prior to the September 11, 2001 terror attacks. The communication issued a warning to the intelligence community that Al-Qaeda members were training in the civil aviation community in the United States. Following the September 11, 2001 attacks, his memo became public and received intensive attention from national news media. Ken testified before the United States House of Representatives and the United States Senate regarding terrorism matters and cooperated with the 9/11 Commission.

Ken has extensive experience investigating sensitive international terrorism matters and has traveled for the Bureau to the Middle East, Europe, and Africa. Ken served on the FBI Special Weapons and Tactics (SWAT) team as an Assistant Team Leader, sniper and assaulter. During his FBI career, Ken has received prestigious commendations such as the Central Intelligence Agency’s Exceptional Human Intelligence Collector award. Ken and has appeared on local television news and has made many public appearances regarding terrorism matters. Currently, Ken works for Tolhurst International, LLC, a licensed Private Investigations firm that also provides security consultants, customizable training courses, and guest speaker services.

Special Agent (Retired)

Kenneth Williams

1990 – 2017









“They knew people in common with the two hijackers. Had we been surveilling them, it would have been very likely, probable that we would have been able to identify those guys.” — Retired Agent Ken Williams

The following are news articles and clips regarding Ken Williams’s investigation of the Phoenix Mountain arson case and the aftermath of him being publically identified as the author of the Phoenix Memo:

AZ Central – 9/26/2019:  Ex-FBI agent says Phoenix serial arsonist ‘took our eye off the ball before 9/11’

CBS News (VIDEO): CBS – The Phoenix Memo

Office of the Inspector General – Special Report – November 2004 (Released Publicly June 2005):  A Review of the FBI’s Handling of Intelligence Information Prior to the September 11 Attacks

Chicago Tribune – 9/22/2002:  Agent’s 911-advisory contradicts FBI statements

New York Times – 6/19/2002:  TRACES OF TERROR: THE F.B.I.; For Agent in Phoenix, the Cause of Many Frustrations Extended to His Own Office


One of the luxury houses under construction along the Phoenix Mountains Preserve that was torched by convicted arsonist, Mark Sands.











The Phoenix Memo

The first page of Ken Williams’s heavily redacted 5-page memo.















Ken Williams and other FBI agents testified from behind a screen during a House-Senate Intelligence Committee session on 9/11 in September 2002.













Jerri Williams

View posts by Jerri Williams
Jerri Williams, a retired FBI agent, author and podcaster, attempts to relive her glory days by writing crime fiction and hosting FBI Retired Case File Review, a true crime podcast available for free subscription on Apple Podcast, Google Podcast, Spotify, and other popular podcast apps. Her nonfiction book FBI Myths and Misconceptions: A Manual for Armchair Detectives and her FBI corruption squad police procedural series featuring Special Agent Kari Wheeler are available wherever books are sold.


  1. Frank PlunkettJanuary 28, 2020

    Fascinating episode. I thought that I know a lot about Islamic Terrorism, 9/11, and Alquaeda from my own reading and study pre and post 9/11. I learned several things that I had no idea about. Great show. Keep up the good work.

    1. Jerri WilliamsJanuary 31, 2020

      Thanks, Frank!

  2. Paul SchoenbaumJanuary 24, 2020

    Awesome episode!!

    1. Jerri WilliamsJanuary 24, 2020

      Thank you!

  3. Todd ZartmanJanuary 23, 2020

    Wow super interesting. Thank you for this episode and your work.


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