|11 September 2001>News Stories>U.S. to Publish Terror Evidence on bin Laden
U.S. to Publish Terror Evidence on bin Laden
Jane Perlez, Tim Weiner . NYTimes . 24 September
Secretary of State Colin L. Powell appearing on "Meet the Press."
WASHINGTON, Sept. 23 — The Bush administration plans to make public evidence linking Osama bin Laden and Al Qaeda network to the terror attacks on the United States in an effort to persuade the world, and particularly Muslim nations, that a military response is justified.
The evidence will embrace new information gathered by law enforcement and intelligence agents on the Sept. 11 attacks, as well as material used in indictments against Mr. bin Laden in the bombing of American embassies in East Africa in 1998, Secretary of State Colin L. Powell said today. It may also cite leads developed in the investigation of the bombing of the destroyer Cole in Yemen last October.
The administration sees the evidence as crucial to the support of friendly Muslim countries — Saudi Arabia, Egypt, Jordan and Pakistan — whose governments fear that punishing military action by the United States against the terrorists will spur widespread popular unrest.
In the Saudi port city of Jidda, the foreign ministers of six Gulf states, including Saudi Arabia, pledged "total support and co-operation for international efforts to find the authors of the terrorist acts and bring them to justice." But the statement offered no specific military or other assistance. [Page B2.]
King Abdullah of Jordan — which failed to side with the United States in the gulf war — sounded less equivocal in his support of whatever Washington might do.
"We realize that the start is always going to be difficult, the first step is always going to be a burden," the king said on ABC's "This Week." "But I believe that the steps undertaken by the American armed forces will have the full support of the international community."
Two reports are expected within days, officials said: a public one from the State Department, and a secret one prepared by United States intelligence agencies and including details from trusted foreign sources. Officials say they are still arguing over how much information to release — and to which countries.
The list of nations trusted with all the secret information would be short, and some countries might receive fewer details than others, they said.
The evident intention is to produce evidence before any American military strike. "If you release it after the action, you're lost," one official said, since Muslim governments would have no chance to make the case for the American acts.
The evidence, American officials say, reaches from the southern tip of Manhattan to the foothills of the Hindu Kush mountains of Afghanistan. It traces a group that started out running material aid to the rebels fighting the Soviet invaders of Afghanistan in the 1980's and wound up declaring war on the United States.
The strongest is Mr. bin Laden's declaration of war on Feb. 23, 1998. He proclaimed from his Afghan redoubt: "To kill Americans and their allies, both civil and military, is an individual duty of every Muslim who is able."
The national security adviser, Condoleezza Rice, said today that the government had "very good evidence of links" between bin Laden operatives "and what happened on September 11th." She added: "We are drawing in investigative services, law enforcement, intelligence from a lot of countries. And so we need to be careful with how we use this information."
The public report will omit intercepts by the National Security Agency, including conversations among people on the fringes of Mr. bin Laden's network right after the Sept. 11 attacks, officials said.
The secret report will include that type of intelligence information, which will be shared only with some trusted governments.
Counterterrorism and intelligence officers are sifting through a flood of warnings and threats against the United States made this spring and summer, looking for leads back to Mr. bin Laden. Some of those reports were not quickly reviewed before Sept. 11, in partly because of a lack of trained analysts and trusted translators throughout the government, officials said.
"There are not enough people to examine all the information," said Representative Porter Goss of Florida, the ranking Republican on the House intelligence committee and a former C.I.A. officer. Too few analysts and translators must pore over "reams and reams and reams and reams of take, and say, `Does any of this stuff mean anything?' And especially if it's in a foreign language or in code, that's very hard to deal with, that's hard work."
Senior officials said they could not include sensitive intelligence information because it could compromise their sources and methods of investigation. But they were also aware, they said, of the concerns of Arab and other leaders. The Saudi foreign minister, Saud al-Faisal, has said that the American response should be based on justice, not vengeance.
The Egyptian leader, Hosni Mubarak, has repeatedly said that the United States must be sure that it had the evidence against the suspects. An American attack could otherwise backfire and nurture more Islamic extremists, he has warned. Mr. Mubarak did not appear to suggest that the evidence be sufficient to prove a court case but rather that it persuade the man in the street that Mr. bin Laden is to blame.
Previous administrations have made effective use of public presentations — most often at the United Nations Security Council — to convince the world that military action was necessary.
As the chief United States delegate to the United Nations, Madeleine K. Albright displayed photographs of the bombs and integrated circuits that American officials said were to be used in a plot by Iraq to assassinate former President George Bush when he was visiting Kuwait in 1993.
The presentation was intended to justify the Clinton administration's missile attack on an Iraqi intelligence site in Baghdad.
One of the most dramatic evidentiary presentations was made by the Kennedy administration's ambassador to the United Nations, Adlai E. Stevenson, who appeared in the Security Council chamber with photographs of Soviet missiles in Cuba during the Cuban missile crisis in 1962.
But in 1986, American intelligence agencies were dismayed that the Reagan administration publicly cited its electronic interception of messages between Libya and its diplomatic posts after the terrorist bombing of a West Berlin discotheque to win political support for a retaliatory bombing raid against the Libyan leader, Muammar el-Qaddafi.
Administration officials took care today to note that the White House was not preparing evidence on Mr. Bin Laden to satisfy the demand for it from the Taliban rulers of Afghanistan.
"This is not a government that has given to Western jurispudence, so these calls for proof are somewhat misplaced," the national security adviser, Condoleezza Rice, said on CNN's "Late Edition." Ms. Rice said the evidence would be laid out for "friends, allies and the American people and others."
In an extended interview on NBC's "Meet the Press," General Powell said that both he and the Pentagon were sensitive to the warnings of Mr. Mubarak that a new generation of militants could emerge from American military assaults.
The secretary stressed that the first objective would be "Al Qaeda, Osama bin Laden and his presence in Afghanistan." After that goal had been reached, the administration would consider options against other sources of terrorist activity.
By keeping the narrow scope, and not immediately focusing on Iraq, as Deputy Secretary of Defense Paul D. Wolfowitz has urged, the United States could keep international support, he said.
For now, Secretary Powell declined to link Iraq to the attacks. "There are some reports of linkages, but not to the extent that I would say today there is a clear link, but we're looking for links and we're watching very, very carefully," he said.
While General Powell argued for a narrow focus, Ms. Rice did not exclude toppling the Taliban government. "It's a very repressive and terrible regime," she said. "The Afghan people would be better off without it. We will see what means are at our disposal to do that."