Results 1 to 2 of 2

Thread Information

Users Browsing this Thread

There are currently 1 users browsing this thread. (0 members and 1 guests)

  1. #1
    Guest
    Join Date
    Aug 2009
    Posts
    9,367

    Rice fails to convince Republican senators on Benghazi attack

    Rice fails to convince Republican senators on Benghazi attack


    By Julian Pecquet - 11/27/12 01:15 PM ET

    U.S. Ambassador to the United Nations Susan Rice failed Tuesday to convince Republican senators that she's not to blame for providing misleading information about the attack in Benghazi, Libya — raising new doubts about her potential nomination to be secretary of State.
    During a meeting on Capitol Hill that lasted for more than an hour, Rice acknowledged "there was no protest" at the consulate in Benghazi on Sept. 11 and said that talking points she relied on for making that claim were wrong.

    But Republican Sens. Lindsey Graham (S.C.), John McCain (Ariz.) and Kelly Ayotte (N.H.) said they were not satisfied with the ambassador's answers to their questions. “Bottom line, I'm more disturbed now than I was before [by] the 16 September explanation about how four Americans died in Benghazi, Libya, by Ambassador Rice,” said Graham.

    Acting CIA Director Michael Morell joined Rice at the closed-door briefing with the GOP lawmakers.

    “We are significantly troubled by many of the answers that we got and some that we didn't get concerning some of the evidence that was overwhelming leading up to the attack on our consulate," McCain said.


    RELATED ARTICLES





    Republicans’ ire against Rice has focused on her statements on national television five days after the Sept. 11 attack, in which she linked it to a peaceful protest that spun out of control.


    Christopher Stevens, the U.S. ambassador to Libya, and three other Americans died in the attack, which the administration has since called an act of terrorism.
    In a statement following Tuesday's meeting, Rice acknowledged "there was no protest or demonstration" in Benghazi and said she had relied on faulty briefing notes prepared by the intelligence community.

    "We explained that the talking points provided by the intelligence community, and the initial assessment upon which they were based, were incorrect in a key respect: there was no protest or demonstration in Benghazi," Rice said.

    "While we certainly wish that we had had perfect information just days after the terrorist attack, as is often the case, the intelligence assessment has evolved," she added.

    "We stressed that neither I nor anyone else in the Administration intended to mislead the American people at any stage in this process, and the Administration updated Congress and the American people as our assessments evolved."

    Rice said the Obama administration "remains committed to working closely with Congress as we thoroughly investigate the terrorist attack in Benghazi and bring to justice the terrorists responsible for the tragic deaths of our colleagues."

    Ayotte wasn't satisfied by Rice's explanation, saying she was “more troubled today having met with the acting director of the CIA and Ambassador Rice.”

    “When you're in a position where you're ambassador to the United Nations, you go well beyond unclassified talking points in your daily preparation and responsibilities for that job. And that's troubling to me as well, why she wouldn't have asked” more questions, she said.

    The trio of hawkish senators didn't definitively rule out voting for her if Rice is nominated, however.

    “Before anyone can make an intelligent decision about promoting someone involved in Benghazi,” Graham said, “we need to go look through a lot more.”

    White House press secretary Jay Carney on Tuesday defended Rice and accused the Republican trio of having an "obsession" with her.

    "There are no unanswered questions about Ambassador Rice's appearance on Sunday shows," Carney said. "Those questions have been answered."

    He said the criticism of Rice is "misplaced" and that "we need to focus on bringing to justice those who killed four Americans."

    President Obama, during a press conference this month, indicated he was prepared to fight for Rice's nomination, if he determines she's the best choice to lead the State Department.

    Rice is a close Obama ally who served as his senior foreign policy adviser in the 2008 campaign and is widely believed to be a favorite for the State Department job. Senate Foreign Relations Committee Chairman John Kerry (D-Mass.) is considered another leading contender.

    —Updated at 1:15 p.m.
    Amie Parnes contributed to this story.

    Rice fails to convince Republican senators on Benghazi attack - The Hill's Global Affairs

  2. #2
    Super Moderator Newmexican's Avatar
    Join Date
    May 2005
    Location
    Heart of Dixie
    Posts
    22,796
    A bit about Susan Rice and her work in the Clinton Administration.

    The Osama Files


    September 11 might have been prevented if the U.S. had accepted Sudan’s offers to share its intelligence files on Osama bin Laden and the growing al-Qaeda threat. Recently unearthed documents reveal that the Clinton administration repeatedly rejected the help of a country it unwisely perceived as an enemy.

    by David Rose
    January 2002

    In a squat, red-brick building next to Khartoum’s presidential palace, the agents who serve the Mukhabarat, Sudan’s intelligence division, keep their secrets in pale manila files.“Those guys know what they’re doing,” says a retired longtime C.I.A. Africa specialist. “They tend to be thorough. Their stuff is pretty reliable.”

    And sometimes very important. Sudan’s Mukhabarat spent the early to mid-1990s amassing copious intelligence on Osama bin Laden and his leading cohorts at the heart of the al-Qaeda terrorist network—when they were still little known, and their activities were relatively limited. Some of the files at Mukhabarat headquarters identify individuals who played central roles in the suicide bombings of the U.S. Embassies in Tanzania and Kenya in August 1998; others chart the backgrounds and movements of al-Qaeda operatives who are said to be linked directly to the atrocities of September 11. In the wake of those attacks, President Bush and the F.B.I. issued a list of the world’s 22 most wanted terrorists. Sudan has kept files on many of them for years.

    From the autumn of 1996 until just weeks before the 2001 attacks, the Sudanese government made numerous efforts to share this information with the United States—all of which were rebuffed. On several occasions, senior agents at the F.B.I. wished to accept these offers, but were apparently overruled by President Clinton’s secretary of state, Madeleine Albright, and her assistant secretary for Africa, Susan Rice, both of whom would not comment for this story after repeated requests for interviews. Vanity Fair has obtained letters and secret memorandums that document these approaches. They were made directly to the State Department and the F.B.I., and also via a series of well-connected U.S. citizens who tried to warn America that the Sudanese offers were serious and significant.

    By definition, September 11 was an intelligence failure. As the C.I.A. man puts it, “We didn’t know it was going to happen.” Some of the reasons for that failure were structural, systemic: the shortage of Arabic-speaking agents, the inability of C.I.A. officers to go underground in Afghanistan.

    This one was more specific. Had U.S. agencies examined the Mukhabarat files when they first had the chance in 1996, the prospects of preventing al-Qaeda’s subsequent attacks would have been much greater. Tim Carney, the last U.S. ambassador to Sudan, whose posting ended in 1997, says: “The fact is, they were opening the doors, and we weren’t taking them up on it. The U.S. failed to reciprocate Sudan’s willingness to engage us on serious questions of terrorism. We can speculate that this failure had serious implications—at the least for what happened at the U.S. Embassies in 1998. In any case, the U.S. lost access to a mine of material on bin Laden and his organization.”
    How could this have happened? The simple answer is that the Clinton administration had accused Sudan of sponsoring terrorism, and refused to believe that anything it did to prove its bona fides could be genuine. At the same time, perceptions in Washington were influenced by C.I.A. reports that were wildly inaccurate, some the result of deliberate disinformation. The problem, Carney says, was “inadequate vetting and analysis by the C.I.A. of its own product.” That, in turn, was being conditioned by the Clinton administration’s hostility to Sudan’s Islamic regime: “Despite dissent from the State Department’s own Bureau of Intelligence and Research, U.S. intelligence failed because it became politicized.”

    Osama bin Laden, his four wives, his children, and numerous “Afghan Arab” followers who had helped drive the Soviets from Afghanistan went to Sudan from Saudi Arabia early in 1991. They chose Sudan for two main reasons. First, the restless, radicalized veterans of the Afghan war were unwelcome in most Arab countries, but Sudan left its doors open. Second, bin Laden liked Sudan’s politics. The Islamic radicalism of the government’s then ideological leader, the philosopher Hassan al-Turabi, who had come to power in a coup d’état in 1989, was at its bracing zenith. The Sudanese, in turn, welcomed bin Laden as an investor. His family had built most of Saudi Arabia’s infrastructure, and they saw his wealth and experience as an engineer as valuable resources in developing Sudan.
    Al-Qaeda, with its secretive structure and oath of allegiance to bin Laden, had been founded two years earlier. In Sudan, however, much of bin Laden’s energy went into business: a contract, funded by the Saudis, to build the airport at Port Sudan; agricultural projects; and al-Hijra, a joint venture with the Sudan government to build a 185-mile road northward from Khartoum. Abu Ibrahim, the Iraqi engineer who became al-Hijra’s C.E.O., says bin Laden took a strong interest in the project’s technical details. In bin Laden’s large house in an affluent part of Khartoum, they spent hours together, discussing which diggers, graders, and other items the firm ought to buy. On his visits to the site, Ibrahim says, bin Laden showed “he knew how to drive every piece of machinery.” Ibrahim had known bin Laden during the Afghan war. “When we were in Afghanistan, everything was jihad, jihad, jihad,” he says. “Here in Sudan we saw his many other aspects—construction, family life. He was settling down.”

    However, bin Laden also found time to begin a fierce propaganda campaign against the Saudi government, furious that it had allowed the U.S. military to build bases on Saudi soil. By 1994 that campaign had led to the removal of his Saudi citizenship. He was also fostering contacts with other Muslim extremists—some of whom were very dangerous indeed.

    As we sat on gray-green leather sofas in his office, Yahia Hussien Ba-viker, the Mukhabarat’s deputy chief since 1998, disclosed a nugget from 1992. In that year, the Mukhabarat learned that bin Laden had played host for a lengthy visit by Ayman al-Zawahiri, the founder of Egyptian Islamic Jihad—a fundamentalist group behind many armed attacks on Egyptian government ministers and officials, including the 1981 assassination of President Anwar el-Sadat.

    The Mukhabarat had monitored Egyptian Islamic Jihad for years. “If anyone in the world understands the Egyptian side of this network, it’s Sudan,” the C.I.A. source says. Events have served to demonstrate the significance of that meeting in 1992: Egyptian Islamic Jihad has effectively merged with al-Qaeda. Al-Zawahiri, now No. 2 on the F.B.I.’s “most wanted” list, serves as bin Laden’s doctor and adviser in Afghanistan. Other Egyptians occupy core positions within the al-Qaeda network, many of them known to the Mukhabarat since the 1980s. “These files on the Egyptians could have been of great value to U.S. intelligence,” Baviker says. “If we’d had communication with the U.S., we could have been on the same wavelength. We could have exchanged notes.”

    All foreigners in Sudan were subject to some degree of surveillance. Disclosure of bin Laden’s link with Egyptian Islamic Jihad led the Mukhabarat to watch him and his Afghan Arab followers more closely. Lieutenant General Gutbi al-Mahdi, Mukhabarat director general from 1997 until 2000, says the service started keeping tabs on “the entire bin Laden clique.… We had a lot of information: who they are, who are their families, what is their education. We knew what they were doing in the country, what is their relationship with Osama bin Laden. And photographs of all them.”

    Not long into the 1990s, Sudan’s Islamic fervor was already being tempered by pragmatism. Desperate for investment, especially to develop its vast reserves of oil, the government submitted to the stringent economic medicine prescribed by the World Bank, slashing inflation and privatizing state-owned industries. (Osama bin Laden himself became the Sudan agent for the British firm Hunting Surveys, which plays a large role in oil prospecting and whose military division makes about a fifth of the West’s Trident nuclear missiles.) In 1994 it tried to assert its anti-terrorist credentials by assisting France in the capture of Illich Ramirez Sanchez, better known as “Carlos the Jackal,” the notorious Venezuelan-born terrorist who claims to have killed 83 people, now serving a life sentence in France.

    The U.S., however, remained convinced that Sudan was sponsoring terrorism. Toward the end of 1995, the then U.S. ambassador, Don Petterson, was instructed to deliver an unsigned, secret note to the spiritual leader, Hassan al-Turabi, and President Omar al-Bashir. It said the U.S. was “aware of Sudan’s involvement in terrorist plots against us,” and warned that if such a plot came to fruition there would be a harsh reaction. It could result in “the international isolation of Sudan, in the destruction of your economy, and in military measures that would make you pay a high price.”

    Yet whatever these supposed plots the C.I.A. thought it had uncovered were, they had nothing to do with bin Laden. Ambassador Petterson says, “My recollection is that when I made representations about terrorist organizations Osama bin Laden did not figure. We in Khartoum were not really concerned about him.”

    Afocus on the wrong enemy was not the only mistaken feature of U.S. intelligence on Sudan. In 1993 the U.S. Embassy sent home all nonessential staff, spouses, and children, because the C.I.A. claimed it had evidence that Americans were at risk of terrorist attack. One report even claimed that there was a plot to bomb a party for the children of Khartoum’s American embassy workers. None of these threats were real. Petterson says, “There’s no question there were mistaken reports.” President Clinton’s national-security adviser, Tony Lake, was uprooted with his family from his home and kept under Secret Service guard at Blair House, the presidential guest quarters across Pennsylvania Avenue from the White House. The reason was another bogus C.I.A. claim that Sudanese agents were planning to murder him in Washington. Finally, at the beginning of 1996, just after Petterson had come to the end of his tour, the embassy was emptied of Americans altogether, again because of unspecified “security threats.” His successor, Tim Carney, would somehow have to do his job based a thousand miles away, in Nairobi, Kenya. This was unjustified, Petterson says.

    The veteran C.I.A. Africa specialist says that this inaccurate intelligence was the product of disinformation, fed by an organized ring whose motives were a mixture of malice and greed. All these reports cost the C.I.A. money. One of its members, a Tunisian, Ali bin Mustafa Homed, was convicted of espionage in Sudan last summer and given a 14-year jail sentence. Yahia Baviker, the Mukhabarat deputy chief, confirmed that feeding disinformation to foreign intelligence agencies formed one of the charges against Homed.

    Sudan was aghast at these developments. However, the radical wing of the government, led by the philosopher Dr. al-Turabi, was losing ground to the pragmatist moderates, who wanted good relations with the West. (In 1998, al-Turabi was placed under arrest, where he remains.) So when, in February 1996, Carney began to convey America’s demand that Sudan expel bin Laden, mainly because of his campaign against the Saudis, his audience was surprisingly receptive. Gutbi al-Mahdi, the former Mukhabarat boss, who was then serving as the Sudanese president’s senior adviser, says Sudan did not object on principle. The arguments he and his colleagues used were more practical: “We said, ‘Here he is under control, and we know everything about him. Here in Sudan he is under our supervision.’” Once bin Laden was expelled, al-Mahdi adds, “he had absolutely no choice other than to become a full-time radical.” About 300 Afghan Arabs went with him. According to an Egyptian intelligence source, “Most of them now are terrorists.”

    Bin Laden was expelled in May 1996. Despite this evidence of Sudan’s willingness to cooperate, the U.S. appeared to have no interest in seeing what it could learn from Sudan. Mahdi Ibrahim Mohamed, now the information minister, went to Washington as Sudan’s ambassador in February 1996. A long-standing Americophile, he had been educated in Michigan and California: “I like the country, I like the people. I went as ambassador for three years, with a positive view that America was open, free, open for dialogue. What I found was a major surprise and disappointment.” Mohamed spent three years trying to get a meeting with the State Department’s assistant secretary for Africa, Susan Rice, only to find himself fobbed off on junior officials. He was no more successful in his efforts to see the National Security Council’s Tony Lake, or his successor, Sandy Berger. The N.S.C. staff continued to accuse Sudan of harboring terrorists. Mohamed begged the officials to make a specific allegation, but they refused. “I said, ‘Give me any information about any terrorists, any camps, as you believe it to be, and we will take it very seriously.’ The response was ‘Your government knows. You must know. We don’t like to expose our sources.’”

    Ambassador Mohamed conveyed an open offer: the C.I.A. and F.B.I. could send a joint investigative team, which could travel freely throughout the country. “I used to say, ‘Go anywhere, take a plane from Khartoum and say where you want to go once we’re in the air.’” It was not taken up. In February 1997, the offer was repeated in a letter from President al-Bashir to Clinton. Al-Bashir suggested “a mission tasked to investigate allegations that the government of Sudan trains or shelters terrorists,” with “freedom of movement and contact and unrestricted choice of suspected terrorist sites.” Clinton never replied.

    It began to dawn on the Sudanese that one way of convincing America that they were serious about fighting terrorists was to offer U.S. investigators access to the Mukhabarat files on bin Laden, al-Qaeda, and Egyptian Islamic Jihad. Frustrated in their efforts to invite America in through the front door, they resolved to try a back channel—the multimillionaire Pakistani-American businessman and fund manager Mansoor Ijaz. Then a big donor to the Democratic Party, Ijaz was on personal terms with Clinton, Berger, and Al Gore. He was also fearful of the likely result of U.S. refusal to engage with Islamic regimes, such as Sudan: “As an American Muslim, I had a terrifying vision of what could go wrong. I wanted to do whatever I could to stop that happening.”

    As an investor, Ijaz was interested in Sudan’s oil, but he also shared “a fundamental sense of injustice” at the way the country was being treated. From July 1996 until August 1997, he made six trips to Khartoum, meeting Dr. al-Turabi, President al-Bashir, the Mukhabarat chief, Gutbi al-Mahdi, and other officials. He succeeded in convincing them that it was worth making a further effort to persuade the U.S. of Sudan’s sincerity—partly by drawing America’s attention to the intelligence on al-Qaeda. His initiative produced its most dramatic result in a letter dated April 5, 1997, from President al-Bashir to Lee H. Hamilton, the ranking Democrat on the House Foreign Affairs Committee. It stated, “We extend an offer to the FBI’s Counter-terrorism units and any other official delegations which your government may deem appropriate, to come to the Sudan and work with our External Intelligence Department in order to assess the data in our possession and help us counter the forces your government, and ours, seek to contain.” (My italics.) According to Ijaz, Hamilton took the letter to both Madeleine Albright and Sandy Berger, neither of whom replied.

    Ijaz also wrote memorandums on his mission for Sandy Berger, and in a series of conversations he spelled out exactly what the Sudanese offer meant. He told Berger, “That phrase [in the letter to Hamilton], ‘to assess the data in our possession,’ was an explicit reference to the data on bin Laden. The reference to ‘the forces we seek to contain’ was an explicit reference to the attempt to stop al-Qaeda spreading.” Ijaz and his family had shared their Christmas dinner in the White House with the Clintons. However good his access, he could not budge U.S. policy on Sudan.
    The Sudanese did not give up. Beginning in the autumn of 1997, they made use of another private go-between, Janet McElligott, a lobbyist who had worked at the White House under George H. W. Bush. Like Ijaz before her, she assumed that rational statecraft would, in the end, prevail. In this she was mistaken. On February 5, 1998, her efforts helped produce perhaps the smokiest of all the smoking guns in this story: a letter direct from Gutbi al-Mahdi of the Mukhabarat to David Williams, chief of the F.B.I.’s Middle East and Africa desk. It read, “I would like to express my sincere desire to start contacts and cooperation between our service and the F.B.I. I would like to take this opportunity with pleasure to invite you to visit our country. Otherwise, we could meet somewhere else. Till then I remain, yours truly.”

    Eighteen days later, on February 23, 1998, Osama bin Laden issued his bloodcurdling fatwa from his hideout in Afghanistan, calling on all Muslims to kill Americans and Jews, adding that civilians were now to be regarded as targets. McElligott followed up the letter with a personal appeal: “I told them, ‘You do realize bin Laden lived there and they have files on his main people?’ There is simply no doubt the F.B.I. knew what was available. The guy I dealt with said, ‘I’d give anything to go in there, but they’—meaning the State Department—‘won’t let us.’”
    David Williams did not reply to al-Mahdi’s letter for another four months. “Unfortunately,” he wrote on June 24, “I am not currently in a position to accept your kind invitation.” He hoped “future circumstances” might allow it, but for now the offer had to be rejected. Six weeks after that, bin Laden’s al-Qaeda network succeeded in exploding two pickup trucks at the U.S. Embassies in Nairobi and Dar es Salaam. They were reduced to piles of bloody rubble in which 224 people lay dead or dying.

    There were still a few twists of this bitter farce to come. A few days after the bombings, as NBC first reported in 1999, Sudan arrested two suspects who had arrived in Khartoum from Kenya. They were carrying Pakistani passports and using the names Sayyid Nazir Abbass and Sayyid Iskandar Suliman. They had rented an apartment overlooking the U.S. Embassy in Khartoum and appeared to be reconnoitering it for a possible future attack. The material gathered between 1991 and 1996 led the Mukhabarat to believe that the two men were members of al-Qaeda; what is certain is that they had stayed in the Hilltop Hotel in Nairobi—the base used by other members of the embassy-bombings conspiracy. The Mukhabarat cabled the F.B.I. in Washington, offering to extradite them. Without consulting the F.B.I., the U.S. Departments of State and Defense replied by bombing the al-Shifa factory in Khartoum, claiming—on the basis of what is now acknowledged to have been yet more faulty intelligence—that it was owned by bin Laden and was making VX nerve gas. In fact, al-Shifa had no connection to bin Laden. It made vaccines and medicine, and had contracts with the U.N.

    U.S.-Sudan relations then reached their nadir. The Mukhabarat sent the suspects “Abbass” and “Suliman” to Pakistan, where they were promptly lost to view. Ambassador Mohamed was withdrawn from Washington. Just before his departure, Janet McElligott arranged a meeting at her home between him and a senior F.B.I. official. McElligott says the F.B.I. man expressed his deep regret for what had happened and said he hoped that in time the politicians would allow his agency to examine the Sudanese intelligence.

    A few months later, in yet another attempt to induce a thaw, the Mukhabarat chief, Gutbi al-Mahdi, invited McElligott to Khartoum. He gave her a handwritten note, which she delivered to the office of the then F.B.I. director, Louis Freeh. It related the circumstances of the two suspects’ arrest and the offer to send them to America, adding, “The bombardment of the pharmaceutical factory blew up the link we established with the FBI and the cooperation that developed on the situation.” However, their interrogation had revealed “some information,” and, as McElligott reminded the F.B.I., the Mukhabarat al-Qaeda files still awaited inspection. Through McElligott, the F.B.I.

    tentatively suggested a meeting with al-Mahdi in Europe. Before it could take place, the State Department vetoed it.
    In Sudan, the ongoing U.S. attitude produced bewilderment. “We felt it was an irrational attitude,” al-Mahdi says. “We were extending our hand to someone who badly needed help, for our mutual benefit, and it was being rejected.” He goes on to echo the claim made by Ambassador Carney: “If [the F.B.I.] had taken up my offer in February 1998, they could have prevented the bombings. They had very little information at that time: they were shooting in the dark. Had they engaged with the Sudan, they could have stopped a lot of things.”

    It is hard to conceive of a more serious allegation, and it appears to stand up to scrutiny. As late as the end of 1995, Osama bin Laden was not judged important enough by the C.I.A. or F.B.I. for anyone to mention him to Ambassador Petterson when he went to talk to the Sudanese about terrorism. It seems reasonable to infer that the U.S. knew little about his organization or lethal capability. Yet the Mukhabarat had all the main players taped. Besides bin Laden and al-Zawahiri, there was Muhammad Atef, said to be al-Qaeda’s military commander, the man who seems to have orchestrated the 1998 bombings and, reportedly, the September 11 attacks. (In November, Atef was reportedly killed in Afghanistan.) Every time Abu Ibrahim, bin Laden’s former C.E.O., visited his Khartoum home, Atef was there: Ibrahim also recalls seeing Atef “with Osama in Afghanistan, by his side when he delivers his messages on TV.”

    How useful might the files on them have been? Sitting by the pool at the Khartoum Hilton, I asked a senior officer from Egyptian intelligence, who has worked closely with the Mukhabarat, and who asked not to be named. He said, “They knew all about them: who they were, where they came from. They had copies of their passports, their tickets; they knew where they went. Of course that information could have helped enormously. It is the history of those people.”

    There are also some inescapable specifics. During the New York trial of the four men recently convicted of the 1998 bombings, the court heard a lot about a man called Fazul Abdullah Mohammed, who also appears on the most-wanted list. He set the embassy plot rolling by making two journeys to Nairobi in the spring of 1998—from Khartoum, where, the Mukhabarat believed, he was working for al-Qaeda. If F.B.I. officials had accepted the offer made by al-Mahdi that February, they would have known this too, and at some point during his subsequent murderous odyssey, when he rented a villa in Kenya, gathered the bombers at the Hilltop Hotel, or helped stuff a pickup truck with TNT, they might have stepped in and smashed the conspiracy. The Mukhabarat also kept files on another wanted embassy bomber, the Egyptian Saif al-Adel, who also appears on the list of most wanted. He is believed to be in Afghanistan.

    If the 1998 plot had been foiled, perhaps there would have been no September 11. In any event, Sudan had other intelligence that would have made al-Qaeda’s burgeoning growth less likely. Wadih al-Hage, bin Laden’s former private secretary, now serving life without parole after his conviction in New York for his role in the 1998 embassy bombings, was logged and photographed in Sudan. He is said to have moved among bin Laden cells across four continents. How much easier it might have been to cramp al-Qaeda’s style had his importance been grasped in 1996. Another subject of a Mukhabarat file is Mamdouh Mahmoud Salim, a Sudanese born to Iraqi parents, an Afghan-war veteran who worked for two bin Laden companies in Sudan until 1995. He provides a link with the New York suicide hijackers. From 1995 until 1998, he made frequent visits to Germany, where a Syrian trader, Mamoun Darkazanli, had signing powers over his bank account. Darkazanli has been reported to have procured electronic equipment for al-Qaeda. Both men attended the same Hamburg mosque as Mohamed Atta and Marwan al-Shehhi, who flew the two planes into the World Trade Center.

    ‘In the end,” says the former ambassador to the U.S. Mahdi Ibrahim Mohamed, “when there is enough suspicion, nothing anyone says can convince you.” This is what Ambassador Carney’s phrase “politicized intelligence” means: the message from Sudan did not fit conventional wisdom at the State Department and the C.I.A., and so it was disregarded, again and again.

    It was not until May 2000 that the Clinton administration responded to pressure from the U.S. intelligence community and agreed to send a joint F.B.I.-C.I.A. team to Sudan. Even then its mission was not to examine the Mukhabarat files but to ascertain whether Sudan was really sponsoring terror. In the summer of 2001 the team gave the country a clean bill of health. There were no “training camps” or sanctuaries for murderers after all. Gutbi al-Mahdi, the former Mukhabarat chief, says that a few weeks before September 11 the American team finally asked to examine the Sudanese material on al-Qaeda. Events suggest that by then it was too late.

    There are uncomfortable historical parallels. By the spring of 1941 the Soviet Union’s “Red Orchestra” spy ring had been warning Stalin for months that Nazi Germany was about to break its pact with the Soviet Union and invade. Convinced that Hitler remained his ally, he ignored them, so that when the Nazi troop trains began to roll, and the dive-bombers began their deadly blitzkrieg, they found themselves attacking an almost undefended country. Leopold Trepper, the spy ring’s leader, wrote an autobiography, published after 20 million Soviets had died in the Second World War: “He who closes his eyes sees nothing, even in the full light of day.… The generalissimo preferred to trust his political instinct rather than the secret reports piled up on his desk.”

    “He who closes his eyes sees nothing.” In the case of Sudan, 1996 through 2000, Madeleine Albright and her assistant secretary for Africa, Susan Rice, apparently preferred to trust their instincts that Sudan was America’s enemy, and so refused to countenance its assistance against the deepest threat to U.S. security since 1945. Ambassador Carney quoted Talleyrand, the 18th-century father of modern diplomacy. This saga was “pire qu’un crime, c’était une bêtise.” He provided his own translation. “It was worse than a crime. It was a ****up.”

    Yet whatever these supposed plots the C.I.A. thought it had uncovered were, they had nothing to do with bin Laden. Ambassador Petterson says, “My recollection is that when I made representations about terrorist organizations Osama bin Laden did not figure. We in Khartoum were not really concerned about him.”
    Afocus on the wrong enemy was not the only mistaken feature of U.S. intelligence on Sudan. In 1993 the U.S. Embassy sent home all nonessential staff, spouses, and children, because the C.I.A. claimed it had evidence that Americans were at risk of terrorist attack. One report even claimed that there was a plot to bomb a party for the children of Khartoum’s American embassy workers. None of these threats were real. Petterson says, “There’s no question there were mistaken reports.” President Clinton’s national-security adviser, Tony Lake, was uprooted with his family from his home and kept under Secret Service guard at Blair House, the presidential guest quarters across Pennsylvania Avenue from the White House. The reason was another bogus C.I.A. claim that Sudanese agents were planning to murder him in Washington. Finally, at the beginning of 1996, just after Petterson had come to the end of his tour, the embassy was emptied of Americans altogether, again because of unspecified “security threats.” His successor, Tim Carney, would somehow have to do his job based a thousand miles away, in Nairobi, Kenya. This was unjustified, Petterson says.

    The veteran C.I.A. Africa specialist says that this inaccurate intelligence was the product of disinformation, fed by an organized ring whose motives were a mixture of malice and greed. All these reports cost the C.I.A. money. One of its members, a Tunisian, Ali bin Mustafa Homed, was convicted of espionage in Sudan last summer and given a 14-year jail sentence. Yahia Baviker, the Mukhabarat deputy chief, confirmed that feeding disinformation to foreign intelligence agencies formed one of the charges against Homed.

    Sudan was aghast at these developments. However, the radical wing of the government, led by the philosopher Dr. al-Turabi, was losing ground to the pragmatist moderates, who wanted good relations with the West. (In 1998, al-Turabi was placed under arrest, where he remains.) So when, in February 1996, Carney began to convey America’s demand that Sudan expel bin Laden, mainly because of his campaign against the Saudis, his audience was surprisingly receptive. Gutbi al-Mahdi, the former Mukhabarat boss, who was then serving as the Sudanese president’s senior adviser, says Sudan did not object on principle. The arguments he and his colleagues used were more practical: “We said, ‘Here he is under control, and we know everything about him. Here in Sudan he is under our supervision.’” Once bin Laden was expelled, al-Mahdi adds, “he had absolutely no choice other than to become a full-time radical.” About 300 Afghan Arabs went with him. According to an Egyptian intelligence source, “Most of them now are terrorists.”

    Bin Laden was expelled in May 1996. Despite this evidence of Sudan’s willingness to cooperate, the U.S. appeared to have no interest in seeing what it could learn from Sudan. Mahdi Ibrahim Mohamed, now the information minister, went to Washington as Sudan’s ambassador in February 1996. A long-standing Americophile, he had been educated in Michigan and California: “I like the country, I like the people. I went as ambassador for three years, with a positive view that America was open, free, open for dialogue. What I found was a major surprise and disappointment.” Mohamed spent three years trying to get a meeting with the State Department’s assistant secretary for Africa, Susan Rice, only to find himself fobbed off on junior officials. He was no more successful in his efforts to see the National Security Council’s Tony Lake, or his successor, Sandy Berger. The N.S.C. staff continued to accuse Sudan of harboring terrorists. Mohamed begged the officials to make a specific allegation, but they refused. “I said, ‘Give me any information about any terrorists, any camps, as you believe it to be, and we will take it very seriously.’ The response was ‘Your government knows. You must know. We don’t like to expose our sources.’”

    Ambassador Mohamed conveyed an open offer: the C.I.A. and F.B.I. could send a joint investigative team, which could travel freely throughout the country. “I used to say, ‘Go anywhere, take a plane from Khartoum and say where you want to go once we’re in the air.’” It was not taken up. In February 1997, the offer was repeated in a letter from President al-Bashir to Clinton. Al-Bashir suggested “a mission tasked to investigate allegations that the government of Sudan trains or shelters terrorists,” with “freedom of movement and contact and unrestricted choice of suspected terrorist sites.” Clinton never replied.

    It began to dawn on the Sudanese that one way of convincing America that they were serious about fighting terrorists was to offer U.S. investigators access to the Mukhabarat files on bin Laden, al-Qaeda, and Egyptian Islamic Jihad. Frustrated in their efforts to invite America in through the front door, they resolved to try a back channel—the multimillionaire Pakistani-American businessman and fund manager Mansoor Ijaz. Then a big donor to the Democratic Party, Ijaz was on personal terms with Clinton, Berger, and Al Gore. He was also fearful of the likely result of U.S. refusal to engage with Islamic regimes, such as Sudan: “As an American Muslim, I had a terrifying vision of what could go wrong. I wanted to do whatever I could to stop that happening.”

    As an investor, Ijaz was interested in Sudan’s oil, but he also shared “a fundamental sense of injustice” at the way the country was being treated. From July 1996 until August 1997, he made six trips to Khartoum, meeting Dr. al-Turabi, President al-Bashir, the Mukhabarat chief, Gutbi al-Mahdi, and other officials. He succeeded in convincing them that it was worth making a further effort to persuade the U.S. of Sudan’s sincerity—partly by drawing America’s attention to the intelligence on al-Qaeda. His initiative produced its most dramatic result in a letter dated April 5, 1997, from President al-Bashir to Lee H. Hamilton, the ranking Democrat on the House Foreign Affairs Committee. It stated, “We extend an offer to the FBI’s Counter-terrorism units and any other official delegations which your government may deem appropriate, to come to the Sudan and work with our External Intelligence Department in order to assess the data in our possession and help us counter the forces your government, and ours, seek to contain.” (My italics.) According to Ijaz, Hamilton took the letter to both Madeleine Albright and Sandy Berger, neither of whom replied.

    Ijaz also wrote memorandums on his mission for Sandy Berger, and in a series of conversations he spelled out exactly what the Sudanese offer meant. He told Berger, “That phrase [in the letter to Hamilton], ‘to assess the data in our possession,’ was an explicit reference to the data on bin Laden. The reference to ‘the forces we seek to contain’ was an explicit reference to the attempt to stop al-Qaeda spreading.” Ijaz and his family had shared their Christmas dinner in the White House with the Clintons. However good his access, he could not budge U.S. policy on Sudan.
    The Sudanese did not give up. Beginning in the autumn of 1997, they made use of another private go-between, Janet McElligott, a lobbyist who had worked at the White House under George H. W. Bush. Like Ijaz before her, she assumed that rational statecraft would, in the end, prevail. In this she was mistaken. On February 5, 1998, her efforts helped produce perhaps the smokiest of all the smoking guns in this story: a letter direct from Gutbi al-Mahdi of the Mukhabarat to David Williams, chief of the F.B.I.’s Middle East and Africa desk. It read, “I would like to express my sincere desire to start contacts and cooperation between our service and the F.B.I. I would like to take this opportunity with pleasure to invite you to visit our country. Otherwise, we could meet somewhere else. Till then I remain, yours truly.”

    Eighteen days later, on February 23, 1998, Osama bin Laden issued his bloodcurdling fatwa from his hideout in Afghanistan, calling on all Muslims to kill Americans and Jews, adding that civilians were now to be regarded as targets. McElligott followed up the letter with a personal appeal: “I told them, ‘You do realize bin Laden lived there and they have files on his main people?’ There is simply no doubt the F.B.I. knew what was available. The guy I dealt with said, ‘I’d give anything to go in there, but they’—meaning the State Department—‘won’t let us.’”

    David Williams did not reply to al-Mahdi’s letter for another four months. “Unfortunately,” he wrote on June 24, “I am not currently in a position to accept your kind invitation.” He hoped “future circumstances” might allow it, but for now the offer had to be rejected. Six weeks after that, bin Laden’s al-Qaeda network succeeded in exploding two pickup trucks at the U.S. Embassies in Nairobi and Dar es Salaam. They were reduced to piles of bloody rubble in which 224 people lay dead or dying.

    There were still a few twists of this bitter farce to come. A few days after the bombings, as NBC first reported in 1999, Sudan arrested two suspects who had arrived in Khartoum from Kenya. They were carrying Pakistani passports and using the names Sayyid Nazir Abbass and Sayyid Iskandar Suliman. They had rented an apartment overlooking the U.S. Embassy in Khartoum and appeared to be reconnoitering it for a possible future attack. The material gathered between 1991 and 1996 led the Mukhabarat to believe that the two men were members of al-Qaeda; what is certain is that they had stayed in the Hilltop Hotel in Nairobi—the base used by other members of the embassy-bombings conspiracy. The Mukhabarat cabled the F.B.I. in Washington, offering to extradite them. Without consulting the F.B.I., the U.S. Departments of State and Defense replied by bombing the al-Shifa factory in Khartoum, claiming—on the basis of what is now acknowledged to have been yet more faulty intelligence—that it was owned by bin Laden and was making VX nerve gas. In fact, al-Shifa had no connection to bin Laden. It made vaccines and medicine, and had contracts with the U.N.

    U.S.-Sudan relations then reached their nadir. The Mukhabarat sent the suspects “Abbass” and “Suliman” to Pakistan, where they were promptly lost to view. Ambassador Mohamed was withdrawn from Washington. Just before his departure, Janet McElligott arranged a meeting at her home between him and a senior F.B.I. official. McElligott says the F.B.I. man expressed his deep regret for what had happened and said he hoped that in time the politicians would allow his agency to examine the Sudanese intelligence.

    A few months later, in yet another attempt to induce a thaw, the Mukhabarat chief, Gutbi al-Mahdi, invited McElligott to Khartoum. He gave her a handwritten note, which she delivered to the office of the then F.B.I. director, Louis Freeh. It related the circumstances of the two suspects’ arrest and the offer to send them to America, adding, “The bombardment of the pharmaceutical factory blew up the link we established with the FBI and the cooperation that developed on the situation.” However, their interrogation had revealed “some information,” and, as McElligott reminded the F.B.I., the Mukhabarat al-Qaeda files still awaited inspection. Through McElligott, the F.B.I.

    tentatively suggested a meeting with al-Mahdi in Europe. Before it could take place, the State Department vetoed it.

    In Sudan, the ongoing U.S. attitude produced bewilderment. “We felt it was an irrational attitude,” al-Mahdi says. “We were extending our hand to someone who badly needed help, for our mutual benefit, and it was being rejected.” He goes on to echo the claim made by Ambassador Carney: “If [the F.B.I.] had taken up my offer in February 1998, they could have prevented the bombings. They had very little information at that time: they were shooting in the dark. Had they engaged with the Sudan, they could have stopped a lot of things.”

    It is hard to conceive of a more serious allegation, and it appears to stand up to scrutiny. As late as the end of 1995, Osama bin Laden was not judged important enough by the C.I.A. or F.B.I. for anyone to mention him to Ambassador Petterson when he went to talk to the Sudanese about terrorism. It seems reasonable to infer that the U.S. knew little about his organization or lethal capability. Yet the Mukhabarat had all the main players taped. Besides bin Laden and al-Zawahiri, there was Muhammad Atef, said to be al-Qaeda’s military commander, the man who seems to have orchestrated the 1998 bombings and, reportedly, the September 11 attacks. (In November, Atef was reportedly killed in Afghanistan.) Every time Abu Ibrahim, bin Laden’s former C.E.O., visited his Khartoum home, Atef was there: Ibrahim also recalls seeing Atef “with Osama in Afghanistan, by his side when he delivers his messages on TV.”

    How useful might the files on them have been? Sitting by the pool at the Khartoum Hilton, I asked a senior officer from Egyptian intelligence, who has worked closely with the Mukhabarat, and who asked not to be named. He said, “They knew all about them: who they were, where they came from. They had copies of their passports, their tickets; they knew where they went. Of course that information could have helped enormously. It is the history of those people.”

    There are also some inescapable specifics. During the New York trial of the four men recently convicted of the 1998 bombings, the court heard a lot about a man called Fazul Abdullah Mohammed, who also appears on the most-wanted list. He set the embassy plot rolling by making two journeys to Nairobi in the spring of 1998—from Khartoum, where, the Mukhabarat believed, he was working for al-Qaeda. If F.B.I. officials had accepted the offer made by al-Mahdi that February, they would have known this too, and at some point during his subsequent murderous odyssey, when he rented a villa in Kenya, gathered the bombers at the Hilltop Hotel, or helped stuff a pickup truck with TNT, they might have stepped in and smashed the conspiracy. The Mukhabarat also kept files on another wanted embassy bomber, the Egyptian Saif al-Adel, who also appears on the list of most wanted. He is believed to be in Afghanistan.

    If the 1998 plot had been foiled, perhaps there would have been no September 11. In any event, Sudan had other intelligence that would have made al-Qaeda’s burgeoning growth less likely. Wadih al-Hage, bin Laden’s former private secretary, now serving life without parole after his conviction in New York for his role in the 1998 embassy bombings, was logged and photographed in Sudan. He is said to have moved among bin Laden cells across four continents. How much easier it might have been to cramp al-Qaeda’s style had his importance been grasped in 1996. Another subject of a Mukhabarat file is Mamdouh Mahmoud Salim, a Sudanese born to Iraqi parents, an Afghan-war veteran who worked for two bin Laden companies in Sudan until 1995. He provides a link with the New York suicide hijackers. From 1995 until 1998, he made frequent visits to Germany, where a Syrian trader, Mamoun Darkazanli, had signing powers over his bank account. Darkazanli has been reported to have procured electronic equipment for al-Qaeda. Both men attended the same Hamburg mosque as Mohamed Atta and Marwan al-Shehhi, who flew the two planes into the World Trade Center.

    ‘In the end,” says the former ambassador to the U.S. Mahdi Ibrahim Mohamed, “when there is enough suspicion, nothing anyone says can convince you.” This is what Ambassador Carney’s phrase “politicized intelligence” means: the message from Sudan did not fit conventional wisdom at the State Department and the C.I.A., and so it was disregarded, again and again.

    It was not until May 2000 that the Clinton administration responded to pressure from the U.S. intelligence community and agreed to send a joint F.B.I.-C.I.A. team to Sudan. Even then its mission was not to examine the Mukhabarat files but to ascertain whether Sudan was really sponsoring terror. In the summer of 2001 the team gave the country a clean bill of health. There were no “training camps” or sanctuaries for murderers after all. Gutbi al-Mahdi, the former Mukhabarat chief, says that a few weeks before September 11 the American team finally asked to examine the Sudanese material on al-Qaeda. Events suggest that by then it was too late.

    There are uncomfortable historical parallels. By the spring of 1941 the Soviet Union’s “Red Orchestra” spy ring had been warning Stalin for months that Nazi Germany was about to break its pact with the Soviet Union and invade. Convinced that Hitler remained his ally, he ignored them, so that when the Nazi troop trains began to roll, and the dive-bombers began their deadly blitzkrieg, they found themselves attacking an almost undefended country. Leopold Trepper, the spy ring’s leader, wrote an autobiography, published after 20 million Soviets had died in the Second World War: “He who closes his eyes sees nothing, even in the full light of day.… The generalissimo preferred to trust his political instinct rather than the secret reports piled up on his desk.”

    "He who closes his eyes sees nothing.” In the case of Sudan, 1996 through 2000, Madeleine Albright and her assistant secretary for Africa, Susan Rice, apparently preferred to trust their instincts that Sudan was America’s enemy, and so refused to countenance its assistance against the deepest threat to U.S. security since 1945. Ambassador Carney quoted Talleyrand, the 18th-century father of modern diplomacy. This saga was “pire qu’un crime, c’était une bêtise.” He provided his own translation. “It was worse than a crime. It was a ****up.”
    David Rose is a Vanity Fair contributing editor.










    There is another article at The Washington Post, but it appears the article is not avilable

    From Wilipedia
    Rice served in the Clinton administration in various capacities: at the National Security Council from 1993 to 1997; as Director for International Organizations and Peacekeeping from 1993 to 1995 and as Special Assistant to the President and Senior Director for African Affairs from 1995 to 1997.
    Rice acknowledged the many mistakes made at the time and felt that a debt needed repaying.[19] The inability or failure of the Clinton administration to do anything about the genocide would inform her later views on possible military interventions.[20] She would later say of the experience: "I swore to myself that if I ever faced such a crisis again, I would come down on the side of dramatic action, going down in flames if that was required."[21]
    Rice supported the multinational force that invaded Zaire from Rwanda in 1996 and overthrew dictator Mobutu Sese Seko, saying privately that "Anything's better than Mobutu." Others[who?] criticized the U.S. complicity in the violation of the Congo's borders as destabilizing and dangerous.[22]
    In a 2002 op-ed piece in the Washington Post, former Ambassador to Sudan Timothy M. Carney and news contributor Mansoor Ijaz implicated Rice and counter-terrorism czarRichard Clarke in missing an opportunity to neutralize Osama bin Laden while he was still in Sudan in 1996. They write that Sudan and Secretary of State Madeleine Albright were ready to cooperate on intelligence potentially leading to Bin Laden, but that Rice and Clarke persuaded National Security Advisor Sandy Berger to overrule Albright.[23] Similar allegations were made by Vanity Fair contributing editor David Rose[24] and Richard Miniter, author of Losing Bin Laden, in a November 2003 interview with World.[25]
    While the writings of Carney, Ijaz, Rose and Miniter each claim that Sudan offered to turn Bin Laden over to the US and that Rice was central in the decision not to accept the offer,The National Commission on Terrorist Attacks on the United States (the 9-11 Commission) concluded in part "Sudan's minister of defense, Fatih Erwa, has claimed that Sudan offered to hand Bin Laden over to the United States. The Commission has found no credible evidence that this was so. Ambassador Carney had instructions only to push the Sudanese to expel Bin Laden. Ambassador Carney had no legal basis to ask for more from the Sudanese since, at the time, there was no indictment outstanding."[26]
    Secretary of State Madeleine Albright has been a longtime mentor and family friend to Rice. Albright urged Clinton to appoint Rice as Assistant Secretary of State for African Affairsin 1997.[1] Rice was not the first choice of Congressional Black Caucus leaders, who considered Rice a member of "Washington's assimilationist black elite".[1] At a confirmationhearing chaired by Senator Jesse Helms, Rice, who attended the hearing along with her infant son, whom she was then nursing, made a great impression on Senators from both parties and "sailed through the confirmation process".[1]
    On July 7, 1998, while serving as Assistant Secretary of State for African Affairs, Rice was a member of an American delegation to visit detained Nigerian President-Elect BasorunM.K.O. Abiola. During this meeting, Abiola suffered a fatal heart attack.[27]
    Rice gave the middle finger to Richard Holbrooke in a meeting of senior State Department staff, according to the Washington
    Post.[28]

    Susan Rice - Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia

Tags for this Thread

Bookmarks

Posting Permissions

  • You may not post new threads
  • You may not post replies
  • You may not post attachments
  • You may not edit your posts
  •