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Tora Bora: Major Error, George W. Error, George Father Error, John M. Error and the art of permutation
by Tausch, Arno
17 April 2002 14:21 UTC
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U.S. Concludes Bin Laden Escaped at Tora Bora Fight 
Failure to Send Troops in Pursuit Termed Major Error 
By Barton Gellman and Thomas E. Ricks
Washington Post Staff Writers
Wednesday, April 17, 2002; Page A01 

The Bush administration has concluded that Osama bin Laden was present
during the battle for Tora Bora late last year and that failure to commit
U.S. ground troops to hunt him was its gravest error in the war against al
Qaeda, according to civilian and military officials with first-hand

Intelligence officials have assembled what they believe to be decisive
evidence, from contemporary and subsequent interrogations and intercepted
communications, that bin Laden began the battle of Tora Bora inside the cave
complex along Afghanistan's mountainous eastern border. Though there remains
a remote chance that he died there, the intelligence community is persuaded
that bin Laden slipped away in the first 10 days of December.

After-action reviews, conducted privately inside and outside the military
chain of command, describe the episode as a significant defeat for the
United States. A common view among those interviewed outside the U.S.
Central Command is that Army Gen. Tommy R. Franks, the war's operational
commander, misjudged the interests of putative Afghan allies and let pass
the best chance to capture or kill al Qaeda's leader. Without professing
second thoughts about Tora Bora, Franks has changed his approach
fundamentally in subsequent battles, using Americans on the ground as
first-line combat units.

In the fight for Tora Bora, corrupt local militias did not live up to
promises to seal off the mountain redoubt, and some colluded in the escape
of fleeing al Qaeda fighters. Franks did not perceive the setbacks soon
enough, some officials said, because he ran the war from Tampa with no
commander on the scene above the rank of lieutenant colonel. The first
Americans did not arrive until three days into the fighting. "No one had the
big picture," one defense official said.

The Bush administration has never acknowledged that bin Laden slipped
through the cordon ostensibly placed around Tora Bora as U.S. aircraft began
bombing on Nov. 30. Until now it was not known publicly whether the al Qaeda
leader was present on the battlefield.

But inside the government there is little controversy on the subject.
Captured al Qaeda fighters, interviewed separately, gave consistent accounts
describing an address by bin Laden around Dec. 3 to mujaheddin, or holy
warriors, dug into the warren of caves and tunnels built as a redoubt
against Soviet invaders in the 1980s. One official said "we had a good piece
of sigint," or signals intelligence, confirming those reports.

"I don't think you can ever say with certainty, but we did conclude he was
there, and that conclusion has strengthened with time," said another
official, giving an authoritative account of the intelligence consensus. "We
have high confidence that he was there, and also high confidence, but not as
high, that he got out. We have several accounts of that from people who are
in detention, al Qaeda people who were free at the time and are not free

Franks continues to dissent from that analysis. Rear Adm. Craig Quigley, his
chief spokesman, acknowledged the dominant view outside Tampa but said the
general is unpersuaded.

"We have never seen anything that was convincing to us at all that Osama bin
Laden was present at any stage of Tora Bora -- before, during or after,"
Quigley said. "I know you've got voices in the intelligence community that
are taking a different view, but I just wanted you to know our view as

"Truth is hard to come by in Afghanistan," Quigley said, and for confidence
on bin Laden's whereabouts "you need to see some sort of physical concrete

Franks has told subordinates that it was vital at the Tora Bora battle,
among the first to include allies from Afghanistan's Pashtun majority, to
take a supporting role and "not just push them aside and take over because
we were America," according to Quigley.

"Our relationship with the Afghans in the south and east was entirely
different at that point in the war," he said. "It's no secret that we had a
much more mature relationship with the Northern Alliance fighters." Franks,
he added, "still thinks that the process he followed of helping the
anti-Taliban forces around Tora Bora, to make sure it was crystal clear to
them that we were not there to conquer their country . . . was absolutely
the right thing to do."

With the collapse of the Afghan cordon around Tora Bora, and the decision to
hold back U.S. troops from the Army's 10th Mountain Division, Pakistan
stepped in. The government of President Pervez Musharraf moved thousands of
troops to his border with Afghanistan and intercepted about 300 of the
estimated 1,000 al Qaeda fighters who escaped Tora Bora. U.S. officials said
close to half of the detainees now held at the U.S. base at Guantanamo Bay,
Cuba, were turned over by the Pakistani government.

Those successes included none of the top al Qaeda leaders at Tora Bora,
officials acknowledged. Of the dozen senior leaders identified by the U.S.
government, two are now accounted for -- Muhammad Atef, believed dead in a
Hellfire missile attack, and Abu Zubaida, taken into custody late last
month. But "most of the people we have been authorized to kill are still
breathing," said an official directly involved in the pursuit, and several
of them were at Tora Bora.

The predominant view among the analysts is that bin Laden is alive, but
knowledgeable officials said they cannot rule out the possibility that he
died at Tora Bora or afterward. Some analysts believe bin Laden is seriously
ill and under the medical care of his second-in-command, Ayman Zawahiri, an
Egyptian-trained physician. One of the theories, none supported by firm
evidence, is that he has Marfan syndrome, a congenital disorder of some
people with bin Laden's tall, slender body type that puts them at increased
risk of heart attack or stroke.

The minority of U.S. officials who argue that bin Laden is probably dead
note that four months have passed since any credible trace of him has
surfaced in intelligence collection. Those who argue that he is probably
alive note that monitoring of a proven network of bin Laden contacts has
turned up no evidence of reaction to his death. If he had died, surely there
would have been some detectable echo within this network, these officials

In public, the Bush administration acknowledges no regret about its
prosecution of Tora Bora. One official spokesman, declining to be named,
described questions about the battle as "navel-gazing" and said the national
security team is "too busy for that." He added, "We leave that to you guys
in the press."

But some policymakers and operational officers spoke in frustrated and even
profane terms of what they called an opportunity missed.

"We [messed] up by not getting into Tora Bora sooner and letting the Afghans
do all the work," said a senior official with direct responsibilities in
counterterrorism. "Clearly a decision point came when we started bombing
Tora Bora and we decided just to bomb, because that's when he escaped. . . .
We didn't put U.S. forces on the ground, despite all the brave talk, and
that is what we have had to change since then."

When al Qaeda forces began concentrating again in February, south of the
town of Gardez, Franks moved in thousands of U.S. troops from the 101st
Airborne Division and the 10th Mountain Division. In the battle of Shahikot
in early March -- also known as Operation Anaconda -- the United States let
Afghan allies attack first. But when that offensive stalled, American
infantry units took it up.

Another change since Tora Bora, with no immediate prospect of finding bin
Laden, is that President Bush has stopped proclaiming the goal of taking him
"dead or alive" and now avoids previous references to the al Qaeda founder
as public enemy number one.

In an interview with The Washington Post in late December, Bush displayed a
scorecard of al Qaeda leaders on which he had drawn the letter X through the
faces of those thought dead. By last month, Bush began saying that continued
public focus on individual terrorists, including bin Laden, meant that
"people don't understand the scope of the mission."

"Terror is bigger than one person," Bush said March 14. "He's a person
that's now been marginalized." The president said bin Laden had "met his
match" and "may even be dead," and added: "I truly am not that concerned
about him."

Top advisers now assert that the al Qaeda leader's fate should be no measure
of U.S. success in the war.

"The goal there was never after specific individuals," Gen. Richard B.
Myers, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, said last week. "It was to
disrupt the terrorists."

Said Quigley at the Central Command: "There's no question that Osama bin
Laden is the head of al Qaeda, and it's always a good thing to get rid of
the head of an organization if your goal is to do it harm. So would we like
to get bin Laden? You bet, but al Qaeda would still exist as an organization
if we got him tomorrow."

At least since the 1980s, the U.S. military has made a point of avoiding
open declaration of intent to capture or kill individual enemies. Such
assignments cannot be carried out with confidence, and if acknowledged they
increase the stature of an enemy leader who survives. After-action
disclosures have made clear, nonetheless, that finding Manuel Noriega during
the Panama invasion of 1989 and Saddam Hussein in the 1991 Persian Gulf War
were among the top priorities of the armed forces.

The same holds true now, high-ranking officials said in interviews on
condition that they not be named. "Of course bin Laden is crucial," one

In Britain, Armed Forces Minister Adam Ingram told BBC radio yesterday that
bin Laden's capture "remains one of the prime objectives" of the war.

Staff researcher Robert Thomason contributed to this report. 

© 2002 The Washington Post Company


© Nafeez Mosaddeq Ahmed, January 2002
Executive Director
Institute for Policy Research & Development
Suite 414, 91 Western Road,
Brighton, East Sussex,

U.S. national security expert John Trento noted that although the FBI had
"wanted to investigate these guys... they weren't permitted to." Yet he also
observes that WAMY have "had connections to Osama Bin Laden's people" as
well as other "groups that have terrorist connections." Furthermore, they
"fit the pattern of groups that the Saudi royal family and Saudi community
of princes - the 20,000 princes - have funded who've engaged in terrorist
activity. Now, do I know that WAMY has done anything that's illegal? No, I
don't know that. Do I know that as far back as 1996 the FBI was very
concerned about this organisation? I do."  The London Guardian observed that
the FBI had investigated "two of Osama bin Laden's relatives" as well as
WAMY, but closed its files on them due to high-level constraints in 1996
"before any conclusions could be reached." 

BBC Newsnight's Gregory Palast further reported other high-level blocks on
FBI investigations into Bin Laden-related terror connections, based on what
appear to be attempts to protect U.S. corporate interests: "The younger Bush
made his first million 20 years ago with an oil company partly funded by
Salem Bin Laden's chief U.S. representative... 

"Young George also received fees as director of a subsidiary of Carlyle
Corporation, a little known private company which has, in just a few years
of its founding, become one of Americas biggest defence contractors. His
father, Bush Senior, is also a paid advisor. And what became embarrassing
was the revelation that the Bin Ladens held a stake in Carlyle, sold just
after September 11... I received a phone call from a high-placed member of a
U.S. intelligence agency. He tells me that while there's always been
constraints on investigating Saudis, under George Bush it's gotten much
worse. After the elections, the agencies were told to 'back off'
investigating the Bin Ladens and Saudi royals, and that angered agents...
FBI headquarters told us they could not comment on our findings." 
The London Guardian elaborated that: "FBI and military intelligence
officials in Washington say they were prevented for political reasons from
carrying out full investigations into members of the Bin Laden family in the
U.S. before the terrorist attacks of September 11... 

"U.S. intelligence agencies have come under criticism for their wholesale
failure to predict the catastrophe at the World Trade Centre. But some are
complaining that their hands were tied... High-placed intelligence sources
in Washington told the Guardian this week: 'There were always constraints on
investigating the Saudis'. They said the restrictions became worse after the
Bush administration took over this year. The intelligence agencies had been
told to 'back off' from investigations involving other members of the Bin
Laden family, the Saudi royals, and possible Saudi links to the acquisition
of nuclear weapons by Pakistan. 'There were particular investigations that
were effectively killed'." 

Reports have emerged that Carlyle Group, the giant U.S. defence contractor
that employs former President George W. Bush Snr., has had long-standing
financial ties to the Bin Laden family. The Wall Street Journal records
that: "If the U.S. boosts defense spending in its quest to stop Osama bin
Laden's alleged terrorist activities, there may be one unexpected
beneficiary: Mr. bin Laden's family... 

"Among its far-flung business interests, the well-heeled Saudi Arabian clan
- which says it is estranged from Osama - is an investor in a fund
established by Carlyle Group, a well-connected Washington merchant bank
specializing in buyouts of defense and aerospace companies. Through this
investment and its ties to Saudi royalty, the bin Laden family has become
acquainted with some of the biggest names in the Republican Party. In recent
years, former President Bush, ex-Secretary of State James Baker and
ex-Secretary of Defense Frank Carlucci have made the pilgrimage to the bin
Laden family's headquarters in Jeddah, Saudi Arabia. Mr. Bush makes speeches
on behalf of Carlyle Group and is senior adviser to its Asian Partners fund,
while Mr. Baker is its senior counselor. Mr. Carlucci is the group's
chairman. Osama is one of more than 50 children of Mohammed bin Laden, who
built the family's $5 billion business, Saudi Binladin Group, largely with
construction contracts from the Saudi government... 

"A Carlyle executive said the bin Laden family committed $2 million through
a London investment arm in 1995 in Carlyle Partners II Fund, which raised
$1.3 billion overall. The fund has purchased several aerospace companies
among 29 deals. So far, the family has received $1.3 million back in
completed investments and should ultimately realize a 40% annualized rate of
return, the Carlyle executive said. But a foreign financier with ties to the
bin Laden family says the family's overall investment with Carlyle is
considerably larger. He called the $2 million merely an initial
contribution. 'It's like plowing a field', this person said. 'You seed it
once. You plow it, and then you reseed it again'." 

The San Francisco Chronicle reported that through the Carlyle Group, both
George Bush Snr. and the Bin Laden family will benefit from the war on
Afghanistan. "As America's military involvement abroad deepens, profits are
increasing for the Carlyle Group - and, it turns out, for thousands of
California civil servants," writes U.S. correspondent David Lazarus. "The
Carlyle Group, as in a secretive Washington, D.C., investment firm managing
some $14 billion in assets, including stakes in a number of defense-related

"Carlyle counts among its chieftains former Defense Secretary (and deputy
CIA Director) Frank Carlucci, former Secretary of State James Baker and,
most notably, former President George Bush.

"Until October, the Carlyle Group also maintained financial ties with none
other than the family of Osama bin Laden... The Carlyle Group has cultivated
and enjoyed a decidedly low profile for the past 14 years. Yet it has
succeeded in attracting to its ranks not just a who's who of Republican
bigwigs but also a dazzling array of international politicos.

"John Major, the former British prime minister, is a Carlyle adviser, as are
former Philippine President Fidel Ramos and former Thai Premier Anand
Panyarachun. So is a former president of Germany's Bundesbank and a former
head of the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission... Critics of the
Carlyle Group have grown increasingly vocal in recent weeks, particularly
over the perception that a private organization with unmistakable links to
the White House is benefiting from America's military action in

The Village Voice observes that the current President, George Bush Jnr.,
also has firm links to Carlyle: 

"In a case of 'like father, like son', President Bush also had connections
to the Carlyle Group, the Voice has learned. In the years before his 1994
bid for Texas governor, Bush owned stock in and sat on the board of
directors of Caterair, a service company that provided airplane food and was
also a component of Carlyle. For his consulting position, Bush was paid
$15,000 a year, according to a Texas insider, and a bonus $1000 for every
meeting he attended - roughly $75,000 in total. Reports show Carlyle was
also a major contributor to his electoral fund." 

The Washington DC-based public interest law firm, Judicial Watch, which
investigates and prosecutes government corruption and abuse, harshly
criticised the Bush-Bin Laden connection towards the end of September:

"George H.W. Bush, the father of President Bush, works for the bin Laden
family business in Saudi Arabia through the Carlyle Group, an international
consulting firm. The senior Bush had met with the bin Laden family at least
twice. (Other top Republicans are also associated with the Carlyle group,
such as former Secretary of State James A. Baker.) The terrorist leader
Osama bin Laden had supposedly been 'disowned' by his family, which runs a
multi-billion dollar business in Saudi Arabia and is a major investor in the
senior Bush's firm. Other reports have questioned, though, whether members
of his Saudi family have truly cut off Osama bin Laden. Indeed, the Journal
also reported yesterday that the FBI has subpoenaed the bin Laden family
business's bank records."

Judicial Watch Chairman and General Counsel Larry Klayman commented that:
"The idea of the President's father, an ex-president himself, doing business
with a company under investigation by the FBI in the terror attacks of
September 11 is horrible. President Bush should not ask, but demand, that
his father pull out of the Carlyle Group."  These concerns were reiterated
by Charles Lewis, Executive Director of the Center for Public Integrity: 

"Carlyle is as deeply wired into the current administration as they can
possibly be. George Bush is getting money from private interests that have
business before the government, while his son is president. And, in a really
peculiar way, George W. Bush could, some day, benefit financially from his
own administration's decisions, through his father's investments. The
average American doesn't know that. To me, that's a jaw-dropper." 

There is, indeed, abundant evidence that contrary to the public professions
of U.S. officials, Osama Bin Laden, and members of his family, Osama
continues to maintain relations with his family, rooted in long-standing
business activities. "Bin Laden family members have said they are estranged
from their brother, who turned against the Saudi government after joining
Muslim fighters following the Soviet Union's 1979 invasion of Afghanistan,"
reported U.S. correspondent Sig Christenson.  Yet the documentary record
contradicts this version of events.

Osama Bin Laden's father, Sheikh Muhammad Bin Laden, was founder of the
formidable Bin Laden construction dynasty, which soon became "legendary in
Arab construction, in the Saudi kingdom, the Gulf emirate of Ras al-Khaimah
and in Jordan, for major road, airport and other infrastructure projects",
according to ABC News correspondent and Middle East specialist John K.
Cooley. "The firm attracted engineering talent from all over the world and
rapidly amassed a huge fortune... 

"By the time Sheikh Muhammad killed himself by crashing his own aircraft in
1966, the bin Laden conglomerate of companies was the biggest private
contractor of its kind in the world... [B]y the late 1970s, one of Sheikh
Muhammad's young sons, Usama, was running much of the business. Under his
guidance, the group maintained its reputation for professional excellence
and 'can do' spirit in large projects. Usama bin Laden's inherited share of
the family fortune was soon augmented by huge earnings." 

Ahmed Rashid noted in the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette that Osama Bin Laden's
involvement in the U.S.-backed Afghan resistance against Soviet occupation
was fully supported by his family: "[His family] backed the Afghan struggle
and helped fund it; when Osama bin Laden decided to join the non-Afghan
fighters with the Mujaheddin, his family responded enthusiastically."  So
did the United States. Cooley reports that Osama Bin Laden's activities in
Afghanistan occurred "with the full approval of the Saudi regime and the
CIA."  Under contract with the CIA, he and the family company built the
multi-billion dollar caves in which he has apparently been hiding:
"He brought in engineers from his father's company and heavy construction
equipment to build roads and warehouses for the Mujaheddin. In 1986, he
helped build a CIA-financed tunnel complex, to serve as a major arms storage
depot, training facility and medical center for the Mujaheddin, deep under
the mountains close to the Pakistan border." 

Cooley points out further that: 

"Through his own personal reputation as a pious Muslim who favored the cause
of Wahabi Islamism, and through involvement of the bin Laden companies in
construction and renovation at the holy shrines of Mecca and Medina, he
seemed to both Saudi intelligence and the CIA an ideal choice for the
leading role he began to play. Bin Laden began to pay, with his own company
and funds, for recruitment, transportation and training of the Arab
volunteers who flocked, first to Peshawar, and to Afghanistan... By 1985 bin
Laden had collected enough millions from his family and company wealth... to
organize al-Qaida." 
Former head of the U.S. Visa Bureau in Jeddah, Michael Springman, further
testified as to how the U.S. supported these efforts: "In Saudi Arabia I was
repeatedly ordered by high level State Dept officials to issue visas to
unqualified applicants... 

"These were, essentially, people who had no ties either to Saudi Arabia or
to their own country. I complained bitterly at the time there. I returned to
the U.S., I complained to the State Department here, to the General
Accounting Office, to the Bureau of Diplomatic Security and to the Inspector
General's office. I was met with silence. What I was protesting was, in
reality, an effort to bring recruits, rounded up by Osama Bin Laden, to the
U.S. for terrorist training by the CIA. They would then be returned to
Afghanistan to fight against the then-Soviets. The attack on the World Trade
Center in 1993 did not shake the State Department's faith in the Saudis, nor
did the attack on American barracks at Khobar Towers in Saudi Arabia three
years later, in which 19 Americans died. FBI agents began to feel their
investigation was being obstructed. Would you be surprised to find out that
FBI agents are a bit frustrated that they can't be looking into some Saudi

Bin Laden's affiliations to the family business did not end there. "After
the Soviet withdrawal in 1989 bin Laden returned for a short period to Saudi
Arabia to tend to the family construction business at its Jeddah head
office."  Even after the 1989-91 period when Saudi security held on to Bin
Laden's passport apparently "hoping to prevent or at least discourage his
contact with extremists he had worked with... during the Afghan jihad", he
had considerable influence in Saudi royal circles: "After Iraq's invasion of
Kuwait he lobbied the Saudi royal family to organize civil defense in the
kingdom and to raise a force from among the Afghan war veterans to fight

Since then, there is good reason to doubt official claims that Osama Bin
Laden is now an outcast from his family due to his apparently extremist
views and activities. As already noted above, his family was quite
"enthusiastic" about Osama's involvement in the "Afghan jihad" against the
Soviets during the 1980s. Additionally, the entire family is well-known for
its adherence to the extremist Wahabi interpretation of Islam: "His father
is known in these areas as a man with deeply conservative religious and
political views and for his profound distaste for non-Islamic influences
that have penetrated some of the most remote corners of old Arabia."
Moreover, the origins of the Bin Laden family make it highly unlikely that
this sort of break would occur between its members. "Though he grew up in
the Saudi Arabian city of Jiddah, about 700 miles away across the Arabian
peninsula, those who know him say he retains the characteristics of the
people of this remote Yemeni region: extremely clannish and intensely
conservative in their adherence to strict forms of Islam."  

Credible reports further indicate that in fact such a clean break between
Osama Bin Laden and his family has never actually occurred, and that the
Al-Qaeda leader still maintains close relations with his family. As
indicated above, "FBI agents in the United States probing relatives of
Saudi-born terror suspect Osama Bin Laden before September 11 were told to
back off soon after George W Bush became president... 

"Bush at one point had a number of connections with Saudi Arabia's prominent
Bin Laden family... [T]here was a suspicion that the U.S. strategic interest
in Saudi Arabia, which has the world's biggest oil reserve, blunted its
inquiries into individuals with suspected terrorist connections - so long as
the U.S. was safe... secret documents from an FBI probe into the September
11 terror attacks that showed that at least two other U.S.-based members of
the Bin Laden family are suspected to have links with a possible terrorist

The Bin Laden family is currently under investigation by the FBI. The Wall
Street Journal notes that: "[T]he Federal Bureau of Investigation has issued
subpoenas to banks used by the bin Laden family seeking records of family
dealings."  ABC News further reports that:

"No matter how they try to distance themselves, or denounce Osama, the FBI
is very interested in learning more about the family business and has
subpoenaed all their records. A recent French Intelligence report reveals a
web of bin Laden companies both good and bad. Investigators are trying to
make sure no family member is funneling money to the blackest sheep of all.
'They say they don't support anything he is doing, that he is a pariah now
in the family', says Winer. But they have been quite secretive over the
years like a number of families in the Middle East about how the financial
network actually operates. He adds, 'It is a very tangled web of
relationships that needs to be sorted out'." 

For instance, U.S. national security expert James Bamford cites declassified
documents newly released under the Freedom of Information Act illustrating
that: "In recent years, NSA has regularly listened to bin Laden's
unencrypted telephone calls. [National Security] Agency officials have
sometimes played tapes of bin Laden talking to his mother to impress members
of Congress and select visitors to the agency."  In 1998, another report
noted that although members of Osama's family publicly disown him: "[FBI
agent] Yossef Bodansky, director of the House Task Force on Terrorism and
Unconventional Warfare, said 'sama maintains connections' with some of his
nearly two dozen brothers. He would not elaborate."  The French daily Le
Figaro reported that: "While he was hospitalised [in the American Hospital
in Dubai in July 2001], bin Laden received visits from many members of his
family as well as prominent Saudis and Emirates."  

Increasing scrutiny of these matters leading to embarrassing revelations for
both the Bush and Bin Laden families, appears to have been behind the
latter's sudden decision to withdraw their stake in Carlyle in the aftermath
of 11th September.  The timing of this action only raises further questions
about the nature of this Bush-Bin Laden financial affair, and whether it
really was as innocent as is claimed - if so, why the need for the Bin Laden
family to pull out, thus preempting further investigations and inquiries?

An examination of U.S. attempts to capture Osama Bin Laden only adds weight
to the dubious implications of these facts. According to the reputable
Jane's Intelligence Review: "In February 1995, U.S. authorities named bin
Laden and his Saudi brother-in-law, Mohammed Jamal Khalifa, among 172
unindicted co-conspirators with the 11 Muslims charged for the World Trade
Center bombing and the associated plot to blow up other New York landmarks."
Despite this, the United States has consistently blocked attempts to
investigate and capture Bin Laden. In March 1996, for example, when Bin
Laden was present in Sudan after leaving Saudi Arabia, Major General Elfatih
Erwa - then Sudanese Minister of State for Defense - offered to extradite
Bin Laden either to Saudi Arabia or the United States.

"The Sudanese security services, he said, would happily keep close watch on
bin Laden for the United States. But if that would not suffice, the
government was prepared to place him in custody and hand him over, though to
whom was ambiguous. In one formulation, Erwa said Sudan would consider any
legitimate proffer of criminal charges against the accused terrorist." 

Instead of accepting the offer of extradition and indicting Bin Laden, the
U.S. did the opposite: 

"[U.S. officials] said, 'Just ask him to leave the country. Just don't let
him go to Somalia', Erwa, the Sudanese general, said in an interview. 'We
said he will go to Afghanistan, and they [U.S. officials] said, 'Let him.'
On May 15, 1996, Foreign Minister Taha sent a fax to Carney in Nairobi,
giving up on the transfer of custody. His government had asked bin Laden to
vacate the country, Taha wrote, and he would be free to go." 

But this was only one incident out of many in relation to Sudanese
intelligence on the Al-Qaeda network.  The London Observer, for instance,
reported that: "Security chiefs on both sides of the Atlantic repeatedly
turned down the chance to acquire a vast intelligence database on Osama bin
Laden and more than 200 leading members of his al-Qaeda terrorist network in
the years leading up to the 11 September attacks... 

"They were offered thick files, with photographs and detailed biographies of
many of his principal cadres, and vital information about al-Qaeda's
financial interests in many parts of the globe.  On two separate occasions,
they were given an opportunity to extradite or interview key bin Laden
operatives who had been arrested in Africa because they appeared to be
planning terrorist atrocities. 

"None of the offers, made regularly from the start of 1995, was taken up...
The Observer has evidence that a separate offer made by Sudanese agents in
Britain to share intelligence with MI6 has been rejected. This follows four
years of similar rebuffs. One U.S. source who has seen the files on bin
Laden's men in Khartoum said some were 'an inch and a half thick'. They
included photographs, and information on their families, backgrounds and
contacts. Most were 'Afghan Arabs', Saudis, Yemenis and Egyptians who had
fought with bin Laden against the Soviets in Afghanistan. 

"'We know them in detail,' said one Sudanese source. 'We know their leaders,
how they implement their policies, how they plan for the future. We have
tried to feed this information to American and British intelligence so they
can learn how this thing can be tackled.' In 1996, following intense
pressure from Saudi Arabia and the U.S., Sudan agreed to expel bin Laden and
up to 300 of his associates. Sudanese intelligence believed this to be a
great mistake. 'There we could keep track of him, read his mail,' the source
went on."
Indeed, instead of agreeing to Bin Laden's extradition and indictment, two
years later the U.S. launched an attack on Sudan targeting the al-Shifa
pharmaceutical plant, claiming that Sudan was harbouring Bin Laden-connected
terrorists, in particular by allowing al-Shifa - alleged by the U.S. to be
developing chemical and biological weapons of mass destruction on Bin
Laden's behalf - to continue operation. Yet just before the U.S. missile
attack on Sudan, Sudan had made further offers in relation to hunting down
members of Bin Laden's network that the U.S. had ignored. According to "a
copy of a personal memo sent from Sudan to Louis Freeh, former director of
the FBI, after the murderous 1998 attacks on American embassies in Kenya and
Tanzania", Sudan had arrested "two named bin Laden operatives held the day
after the bombings after they crossed the Sudanese border from Kenya...

"They had cited the manager of a Khartoum leather factory owned by bin Laden
as a reference for their visas, and were held after they tried to rent a
flat overlooking in the US embassy in Khartoum, where they were thought to
be planning an attack. U.S. sources have confirmed that the FBI wished to
arrange their immediate extradition. However, Clinton's Secretary of State,
Madeleine Albright, forbade it. She had classed Sudan as a 'terrorist
state', and three days later U.S. missiles blasted the al-Shifa medicine
factory in Khartoum. The U.S. wrongly claimed it was owned by bin Laden and
making chemical weapons. In fact, it supplied 60 per cent of Sudan's
medicines, and had contracts to make vaccines with the UN." 

Despite this illegal war crime perpetrated by the Clinton administration,
Sudan continued to hold the suspects for a further three weeks, "hoping the
U.S. would both perform their extradition and take up the offer to examine
their bin Laden database. Finally, the two men were deported to Pakistan.
Their present whereabouts are unknown." Furthermore, U.S. indifference to
intelligence information on Bin Laden continued into last year: 

"Last year the CIA and FBI, following four years of Sudanese entreaties,
sent a joint investigative team to establish whether Sudan was in fact a
sponsor of terrorism. Last May, it gave Sudan a clean bill of health.
However, even then, it made no effort to examine the voluminous files on bin

The testimony of the late John O'Neill, the Irish-American FBI agent who for
several years led U.S. investigations into Osama Bin Laden's al-Qaeda
network, is crucial in understanding the real context of such U.S. blocking
of attempts to investigate, indict and capture Bin Laden. O'Neill, who was
Deputy Director of the FBI, investigated the bombings of the World Trade
Center in 1993, a U.S. base in Saudi Arabia in 1996, the U.S. embassies in
Nairobi and Dar-Es-Salaam in 1998, and the U.S.S. Cole last year. The Irish
Times reported that in interviews with French intelligence analyst
Jean-Charles Brisard:

"He complained bitterly that the U.S. State Department - and behind it the
oil lobby who make up President Bush's entourage - blocked attempts to prove
bin Laden's guilt. The U.S. ambassador to Yemen, Ms Barbara Bodine, forbade
O'Neill and his team of so-called Rambos (as the Yemeni authorities called
them) from entering Yemen. In August 2001, O'Neill resigned in frustration
and took up a new job as head of security at the World Trade Centre. He died
in the September 11th attack... The FBI agent had told Brisard: 'All the
answers, everything needed to dismantle Osama bin Laden's organisation, can
be found in Saudi Arabia'. 

"But U.S. diplomats shrank from offending the Saudi royal family. O'Neill
went to Saudi Arabia after 19 U.S. servicemen died in the bombing of a
military installation in Dhahran in June 1996. Saudi officials interrogated
the suspects, declared them guilty and executed them - without letting the
FBI talk to them. 'They were reduced to the role of forensic scientists,
collecting material evidence on the bomb site', Brisard says. O'Neill said
there was clear evidence in Yemen of bin Laden's guilt in the bombing of the
U.S.S. Cole 'in which 17 U.S. servicemen died', but that the State
Department prevented him from getting it."

We should emphasise here that by deliberately blocking O'Neill's access to
the "clear evidence" of Bin Laden's guilt - which would have sufficed to
justify his indictment and arrest - the State Department deliberately
allowed Bin Laden to escape the possibility of being apprehended.
Elaborating on O'Neill's observations on Saudi's role, Brisard, who authored
a report on al-Qaeda for the French intelligence agency DST, and his
colleague Guillaume Dasquié, Editor of Intelligence Online, record that "a
significant part of the Saudi royal family supports bin Laden." Pointing out
that attacks inside the kingdom have targeted U.S. interests, not the
Saudis, Brisard notes that: "Saudi Arabia has always protected bin Laden -
or protected itself from him." 

Further informations also from:


kind regards - as always my own private opinion.

Arno Tausch

PS: you can have a free download from very well informed people in Paris
these times by visiting:


about the most important website I came across in these months

142 rue Montmartre F-75002 Paris
Tel: + 33 1 44 88 26 10 
Fax: + 33 1 44 88 26 15
E-mail: info@indigo-net.com <mailto:info@indigo-net.com>

Very recommendable as well:

Bin Laden, the hidden truth 
By Guillaume Dasquié and Jean-Charles Brisard 

  The Saudi Arabian monarchy has long played a double game on the
international scene. In its political and financial networks can be found an
astonishing mix of Islamic fanatics, respectable bankers, big American oil
companies, pro-Taliban lobbyists, members of the Bush clan and sponsors of
terrorism. An exclusive inquiry by Jean-Charles Brisard and Guillaume
Dasquie (editor in chief of Intelligence Online) focuses on the political
and financial underpinnings of the Al Qaeda organization and secret
negotiations between the Bush administration and the Taliban until this

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