Clinton State Department Documents Outlined bin Laden Threat to the United States in Summer 1996
Declassified “Top Secret” Analysis Warned Clinton Administration of bin Laden’s Wherewithal to Attack U.S. Interests Worldwide
(Washington, DC) Judicial Watch, the public interest group that investigates and prosecutes government corruption, today released two declassified “Top Secret” State Department documents that warned Clinton administration officials of the activities and influence of Osama bin Laden following his alleged “expulsion” from Sudan in May 1996. The documents, authored by the State Department’s Bureau of Intelligence and Research, discuss bin Laden’s travels, his prolonged stay in Afghanistan, financial networks, anti-Western threats in press interviews, ties to the Khobar Towers bombing and bin Laden’s “emboldened” threats against U.S. interests.
The State Department documents were produced to Judicial Watch last week in response to a Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) request filed with the State Department on December 11, 2001 concerning the government of Sudan’s reported offer to share intelligence files on Osama bin Laden. The Clinton administration also reportedly rebuffed an offer by Sudanese officials to turn bin Laden himself over to the U.S.
According to the declassified documents, bin Laden’s many passports and his private plane allow him considerable freedom to travel “with little fear of being intercepted or tracked.” Bin Laden reportedly even traveled to London where he gave a press interview subsequent to his departure from Sudan. The report also warns that bin Laden’s prolonged stay in Afghanistan “could prove more dangerous to U.S. interests in the long run than his three-year liaison with Khartoum.” One analysis document, dated July 18, 1996, asks the provocative question: “Terrorism/Usama bin Ladin: Who’s Chasing Whom.”
The documents predict that even if bin Laden were forced to keep on the move, it would prove no more than an inconvenience since, “. . . his informal and transnational network of businesses and associates remains resilient.” The report goes on to explain that bin Ladin on the move, “. . .can retain the capability to support individuals and groups who have the motive and wherewithal to attack U.S. interests almost worldwide.”
“This is not a case of hindsight being 20/20,” said Judicial Watch President Tom Fitton. “These documents prove the Clinton administration knew the danger Osama bin Laden posed to the United States back in 1996 and yet failed to take any meaningful action to stop him.”