“THE OSAMA BIN LADEN FILE
National Security Archive Electronic Briefing Book No. 343
For more information contact:
Tom Blanton, Malcolm Byrne, Nate Jones – 202/994-7000
Washington, D.C., May 2, 2011 – The Al Qaeda leader Osama Bin Laden, killed in Pakistan by U.S. special operations forces yesterday, ranked as “one of the most significant financial sponsors of Islamic terrorist activities in the world” as early as 1996, according to declassified U.S. documents posted on the web today by the National Security Archive at George Washington University (www.nsarchive.org).
The Osama Bin Laden File includes the CIA’s 1996 biographic sketch, the infamous President’s Daily Brief from 6 August 2001 warning “Bin Ladin Determined to Strike in US,” a State Department issue paper from 2005 reporting that “some Taliban leaders operate with relative impunity in some Pakistan cities,” the 400-page Sandia National Laboratories profile of Bin Laden focusing on the 1998 U.S. embassy bombings in Kenya and Tanzania, the 2006 State Department cable on the Taliban’s regrouping in Pakistan’s tribal areas making them “a sanctuary beyond the reach of either Government,” the demands made on Pakistan right after 9/11 by Deputy Secretary of State Richard Armitage, and the only known conversation between the U.S. government and the Taliban leader Mullah Omar.
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One of the earlier publicly available documentary mentions of Bin Laden comes from a 1996 CIA bio sketch entitled “Usama Bin Laden: Islamic Extremist Financer.” It describes Bin Laden, “who joined the Afghan resistance movement in 1979,” as “one of the most significant financial sponsors of Islamic extremist activities in the world.” According to The New York Times, during the Soviet occupation of Afghanistan, the CIA actually helped Bin Laden – who supplied construction equipment from his family’s company in Saudi Arabia – to construct the Tora Bora complex as a base to fight the Soviets. According to Bin Laden, “The [Mujahidin’s] weapons were supplied by the Americans, the money by the Saudis.”
Almost a decade later, Bin Laden would make good use of his earlier investment. A 1997 State Department cable reported that he had likely retreated into hiding at Tora Bora, stating "bin Ladin had lived in caves south of Jalalabad in Tora Bora and the Taliban had become suspicious." In December 2001, US troops engaged in a fierce firefight at Tora Bora, hoping to smoke out the Al Qaeda leader. The Taliban and Al Qaeda fighters were overrun but Bin Laden was not among the killed or captured.
The earlier CIA bio indicates that after the 1989 victory over the Soviets, Bin Laden, while living in Saudi Arabia and Sudan, created “a network of al-Qaida recruitment centers and guesthouses in Egypt, Saudi Arabia, and Pakistan and has enlisted and sheltered thousands of Arab recruits.” The document also accused Bin Laden of “providing financial support” for the 1992 bombings against US servicemen in Somalia, “at least three terrorist training camps in Sudan” and one in Afghanistan, and the 1993 World Trade Center bombing.
In mid-1996, Bin Laden moved from Sudan to Afghanistan where he lived and operated under the umbrella of the Taliban. From there, he plotted the August 1998 bombings of two American embassies, in Kenya and Tanzania, which killed hundreds and wounded thousands more. In response, President Bill Clinton authorized the first U.S. official attempt to kill him. The problem was how to find him. While CIA and U.S. military personnel tried to come up with actionable intelligence on his whereabouts, American diplomats in Afghanistan attempted to persuade Bin Laden’s Taliban hosts to give him up. A State Department cable provided an unusual window into the bizarre negotiations, including recording the suggestion by a Taliban intermediary that the U.S. “arrange for bin Laden to be assassinated” because the Taliban could do nothing to prevent it.
In 1999, Sandia National Laboratories compiled a 400-page profile of Bin Laden – far more comprehensive than the CIA’s brief 1996 sketch, and no doubt reflecting his stratospheric rise in importance to the United States. The report found that the African embassy attacks did not take the U.S. by surprise, given its existing counterterrorism intelligence capabilities. It added that the retaliatory cruise missile strikes orderd by Clinton – which unfortunately destroyed a Sudanese pharmaceutical plant and killed several suspected terrorists training in Afghanistan instead of their intended targets – “did little to help solve the problem posed by bin Laden and may ultimately prove to have done more harm than good.” The Sandia analysts concluded – chillingly – that the bombings showed “The ‘war’ on terrorism will never be ‘won.’”
On 25 January 2001 the National Security Council’s senior counterterroism adviser, Richard A. Clarke, sent a now-famous memo to incoming National Security Advisor Condoleezza Rice which warned, “al Qida is not some narrow, little terrorist issue that needs to be included in broader regional policy.” The memo referenced the Al Qaeda suicide attack on USS Cole in the Yemeni port of Aden, which killed 17 sailors and injured 39 others. Clarke recommended that the United States “respond at a time, place, and manner of our own choosing,” pleading, “we urgently need … a Principals level review on the al Qida network [emphasis in original].”
Less than nine months later, nineteen Al Qaeda operative hijacked four planes and struck the World Trade Center and Pentagon (…).”
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(Quelle: National Security Archive.)