We have all heard about the missed opportunities the US had under Clinton to take out Osama Bin-Laden. Now Al-Jazeera has a special out which includes photo’s taken by a drone of Bin-Laden in 1999.
PREVIOUSLY unseen footage of Osama Bin Laden taken by a CIA spy drone reveals how close the Americans came to killing the Al-Qaeda leader two years before the September 11 attacks.
The pictures were filmed by a Predator unmanned aircraft and show Bin Laden, in white robes, with a small group of followers at a training camp near Khost in eastern Afghanistan at the end of 1999. The drone was one of the first to be used in Afghanistan by the CIA, but because of bureaucratic wrangles it was unarmed.
The pictures, thought to be the first spy plane footage of Bin Laden to be published, have been obtained from American sources by Al-Jazeera, the Arabic language television station. ?We had no doubt over his identity. Bin Laden can clearly be seen standing out from the rest of the group next to the buildings,? said Michael Scheuer, a former CIA officer who headed Alec Station, the agency?s unit which tracked Bin Laden during the 1990s.
He added: ?Nobody at the top of the CIA wanted to take the decision to arm the Predator. It meant that even if we could find him (Bin Laden) we were not allowed to kill him.?
The pictures are part of a mass of evidence now emerging of the missed opportunities to kill or capture Bin Laden and his associates before they launched the terror attacks on America in 2001.
They include at least three further occasions in Afghanistan between 1998 and 2000 when the CIA had Bin Laden in its sights but was prevented from acting. There were divisions between the agency and the White House over who would have the authority to fire and the legality of killing the Al-Qaeda leader.
On one occasion a satellite photographed the Al-Qaeda leader on a hunting trip, but the White House ordered the CIA not to launch a missile attack after finding out that princes from a friendly Arab country were in his party.
On another occasion a raid by local tribesmen on Bin Laden?s base in Kandahar, southern Afghanistan, was called off after American officials could not agree on whether it should go ahead.
The third episode, also in Kandahar, involved a human spotter tracking him for five days, but the decision was taken not to attack because of fears over civilian casualties.
The missed opportunities are documented in Blinking Red, an Al-Jazeera series beginning this week to mark the fourth anniversary of September 11.
It describes how Bill Clinton?s administration turned down an offer from the Sudanese government to help to capture Bin Laden when he was living in Khartoum in the early to mid-1990s. It also shows how the Americans ?lost? two of the September 11 hijackers despite having them under surveillance. The two men later entered America.
…The Al-Jazeera series also reveals how the January 2000 meeting in Kuala Lumpur, at which the September 11 attacks were planned, came to light after the CIA tracked the telephones of Khalid al-Midhar, later to become one of the hijackers.
Most of the senior planners of the attacks, including Khalid Sheikh Mohammed and Ramzi Binalshibh, were at the meeting, which was also photographed by intelligence agents. Shortly afterwards Al-Midhar and Nawaf al-Hazmi, another of the future hijackers who was also at the Malaysian meeting, flew to San Diego using their real names and passports. They were so casual that Al-Hazmi?s name appears in the San Diego residential phone directory for the period when they were in the area.
The ease with which the two men were able to operate in America came partly because the CIA did not show its evidence to the FBI ? responsible for internal security ? until June 2001, 18 months after the planning meeting and well after the two had entered the country.
An interesting side note to this is the fact that Clinton did not attack Bin Laden on one occassion because of Princes. From which country did these Princes hail? If it turns out to be Saudi Arabia then things will get interesting.