State Department: We Warned Administration About Bin Laden In 1996
The New York Times reports that newly declassified documents indicate the State Department warned the Clinton administration about Osama bin Laden’s growing danger but nothing was done to stop him:
State Department analysts warned the Clinton administration in July 1996 that Osama bin Laden’s move to Afghanistan would give him an even more dangerous haven as he sought to expand radical Islam “well beyond the Middle East,” but the government chose not to deter the move, newly declassified documents show.
In what would prove a prescient warning, the State Department intelligence analysts said in a top-secret assessment on Mr. bin Laden that summer that “his prolonged stay in Afghanistan – where hundreds of ‘Arab mujahedeen’ receive terrorist training and key extremist leaders often congregate – could prove more dangerous to U.S. interests in the long run than his three-year liaison with Khartoum,” in Sudan.
“Prescient warning” is an understatement: it was basically warning the administration that bin Laden could set up a base. MORE:
The declassified documents, obtained by the conservative legal advocacy group Judicial Watch as part of a Freedom of Information Act request and provided to The New York Times, shed light on a murky and controversial chapter in Mr. bin Laden’s history: his relocation from Sudan to Afghanistan as the Clinton administration was striving to understand the threat he posed and explore ways of confronting him.
Before 1996, Mr. bin Laden was regarded more as a financier of terrorism than a mastermind. But the State Department assessment, which came a year before he publicly urged Muslims to attack the United States, indicated that officials suspected he was taking a more active role, including in the bombings in June 1996 that killed 19 members American soldiers at the Khobar Towers in Dhahran, Saudi Arabia……
Critics of the Clinton administration have accused it of ignoring the threat posed by Mr. bin Laden in the mid-1990’s while he was still in Sudan, and they point to claims by some Sudanese officials that they offered to turn him over to the Americans before ultimately expelling him in 1996 under international pressure. But Clinton administration diplomats have adamantly denied that they received such an offer, and the Sept. 11 commission concluded in one of its staff reports that it had “not found any reliable evidence to support the Sudanese claim.”
The newly declassified documents do not directly address the question of whether Sudan ever offered to turn over Mr. bin Laden. But the documents go well beyond previous news and historical accounts in detailing the Clinton administration’s active monitoring of Mr. bin Laden’s movements and the realization that his move to Afghanistan could make him an even greater national security threat.
The bottom line is this: even without this report or the 911 Commission report, many books written immediately after 911 made it clear that no administration of either party had a proper handle on the issue of terrorism in general and Osama bin Laden in particular. Many Democrats only want to go after the Bush administration on this issue and make excuses for Clinton. Many GOPers — particular talk show radio hosts — only want to talk about “Clinton, Clinton, Clinton” and downplay, excuse or avoid criticism of the Bush administration’s pre-911 policies.
The reality is: both parties dropped the ball until the towers were hit.