Suddenly Condi remembers there was a meeting but not to what import. Will Rummy remember the meeting he also attended in which bin Laden/al Qaeda’s imminent attack on the US was discussed? What might have predicated this "gun-to-the-head" meeting was probably the following:
CIA agent alleged to have met Bin Laden in July
French report claims terrorist leader stayed in Dubai hospital
Thursday November 1, 2001
Two months before September 11 Osama bin Laden flew to Dubai for 10 days for treatment at the American hospital, where he was visited by the local CIA agent, according to the French newspaper Le Figaro.
The disclosures are known to come from French intelligence which is keen to reveal the ambiguous role of the CIA, and to restrain Washington from extending the war to Iraq and elsewhere.
Bin Laden is reported to have arrived in Dubai on July 4 from Quetta in Pakistan with his own personal doctor, nurse and four bodyguards, to be treated in the urology department. While there he was visited by several members of his family and Saudi personalities, and the CIA.
The CIA chief was seen in the lift, on his way to see Bin Laden, and later, it is alleged, boasted to friends about his contact. He was recalled to Washington soon afterwards.
Intelligence sources say that another CIA agent was also present; and that Bin Laden was also visited by Prince Turki al Faisal, then head of Saudi intelligence, who had long had links with the Taliban, and Bin Laden. Soon afterwards Turki resigned, and more recently he has publicly attacked him in an open letter: "You are a rotten seed, like the son of Noah".
The American hospital in Dubai emphatically denied that Bin Laden was a patient there.
Washington last night also denied the story.
Private planes owned by rich princes in the Gulf fly frequently between Quetta and the Emirates, often on luxurious "hunting trips" in territories sympathetic to Bin Laden. Other sources confirm that these hunting trips have provided opportunities for Saudi contacts with the Taliban and terrorists, since they first began in 1994.
Bin Laden has often been reported to be in poor health. Some accounts claim that he is suffering from Hepatitis C, and can expect to live for only two more years.
According to Le Figaro, last year he ordered a mobile dialysis machine to be delivered to his base at Kandahar in Afghanistan.
Whether the allegations about the Dubai meeting are confirmed or not, the wider leaks from the French secret service throw a worrying light on the rivalries and lack of coordination between intelligence agencies, both within the US and between western allies.
A familiar complaint of French intelligence is that collaboration with the Americans has been essentially one-way, with them happy to receive information while giving little in return.
Asleep At The Switch
Yesterday, Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice insisted that she did not attend a meeting on July 10, 2001 with then-CIA director George Tenet and his deputy Cofer Black in which she was warned of an impending attack on U.S. interests. Rice said, "I don’t know that this meeting took place, but what I really don’t know, what I’m quite certain of, is that it was not a meeting in which I was told there was an impending attack and I refused to respond." Actually, there was a meeting and Rice was warned. The New York Times reports, "A review of White House records has determined that George J. Tenet, then the director of central intelligence, did brief Condoleezza Rice and other top officials on July 10, 2001, about the looming threat from Al Qaeda." Tenet and Black requested the emergency meeting with Rice because they "were so alarmed about an impending Al Qaeda attack." The revelation deals a severe blow to Rice’s credibility at a time when she is trying to convince the public that "what we did in the eight months (before the Sept. 11, 2001 attacks) was at least as aggressive as what the Clinton administration did in the preceding years."
WHAT DID RICE DO?: In his new book, State of Denial, Bob Woodward reports that Tenet and Black "felt the brush-off" from Rice during their meeting. Richard Ben-Veniste, a 9/11 Commissioner who learned about the meeting during an interview with Tenet, stated, "Tenet never told us that he was brushed off. We certainly would have followed that up.” In any event, it’s clear not much was done. Woodward reports that, "though Rice had given them a fair hearing, no immediate action meant great risk."
IGNORING URGENT THREAT REPORTING: Yesterday, State Department spokesman Sean McCormack said the meeting "’was not new’ and didn’t amount to an urgent warning. Rather, it was a good summary from the threat-reporting from the previous several weeks." McClatchy reports, "One official who helped to prepare the briefing…described it as a ‘10 on a scale of 1 to 10‘ that ‘connected the dots’ in earlier intelligence reports to present a stark warning that al-Qaida, which had already killed Americans in Yemen, Saudi Arabia and East Africa, was poised to strike again." The State Department’s downplaying of the briefing mirrors Rice’s approach to the President’s Daily Brief entitled "Bin Laden Determined to Strike in US." Rice and President Bush described that document as "historical."
WHAT DID ASHCROFT AND RUMSFELD DO?: Yesterday, McCormack said Rice "requested that Mr. Tenet make the same presentation to Defense Secretary Donald H. Rumsfeld and Attorney General John Ashcroft." Ashcroft told the New York Times that he was "disappointed that I didn’t get that kind of briefing. I’m surprised he didn’t think it was important enough to come by and tell me.” Actually, Ashcroft and Rumsfeld were briefed. According to the State Department, Rumsfeld and Ashcroft "received the same CIA briefing about an imminent al-Qaida strike on an American target" within a week of Rice’s briefing. A Pentagon spokesman said he had "no information ‘about what may or may not have been briefed’ to Rumsfeld at Rice’s request." According to officials, at the time, Rumsfeld "was focused mostly on his plans to remake the Army into a smaller, high-tech force and deploy a national ballistic missile defense system."
WHY WASN’T THE MEETING INCLUDED IN THE 9/11 COMMISSION REPORT?: The July 10 meeting, which was potentially damaging for Rice and the Bush administration, was not mentioned in 9/11 Commission report. The report’s main author, Philip Zelikow co-authored a book with Rice earlier in thier careers and is now a top aide in the State Department. Yesterday, Zelikow "didn’t respond to e-mail and telephone queries" asking why the meeting was kept secret.