MISSING BIN LADEN
A new book on the CIA reveals that the arrest of an al Qaeda foot soldier disrupted a 1998 U.S. bombing raid on al Qaeda leader Osama bin Laden in Afghanistan.
Former national security reporter John Diamond states in his forthcoming book that Pakistan arrested al Qaeda member Mohammed Sadeeq Odeh the day of the bombing.
Odeh was supposed to take part in a meeting of al Qaeda leaders in Afghanistan, including bin Laden, on Aug. 20, 1998. The meeting was canceled after Odeh’s arrest in Pakistan prompted concerns in al Qaeda that details of the meeting were compromised, Mr. Diamond writes in “The CIA and the Culture of Failure,” due out Sept. 22.
Odeh had helped assemble the bomb used in the attack on the U.S. embassy in Nairobi, Kenya, and was ordered by al Qaeda to depart Nairobi the night before the attack and go to Pakistan and from there to Afghanistan for the meeting.
However, he was detained in Karachi for carrying a false passport and was in airport detention when the bomb went off in Kenya on Aug. 7, raising suspicions that led authorities to find explosive residue on his luggage.
The arrest became known to bin Laden, who canceled the meeting and thus thwarted the Clinton administration’s cruise-missile strike on Afghanistan called Operation Infinite Reach.
“The result was that U.S. cruise missiles struck empty tents and crude terrorist training obstacle courses, to the embarrassment of the superpower attacker,” said Mr. Diamond, who is the first to reveal why the raid failed.
Mr. Diamond stated that “the problem was your classic noncommunication between agencies. In this case, the FBI, who took custody of Odeh about a week after his arrest, was not in the loop concerning Infinite Reach.”
“What I’ve focused on in this book is the interconnectedness of intelligence,” Mr. Diamond said in an e-mail. “We have had a tendency, particularly in the chaotic post-Cold War era, to lurch from one intelligence controversy to another, witnessing failure, or alleged failure; calling for investigation; reporting on the CIA´s lapses; and, at times, imposing consequences. These lessonslearned reviews have tended to unfold in isolation, missing the linkages that strongly influence what happens — and doesn’t happen — at CIA.”
Mr. Diamond said his book shows that although the CIA is a prone to “spectacular failure, the blame, or a share of the blame, sometimes belongs elsewhere — in the Oval Office or on Capitol Hill.”
A CIA spokesman had no immediate comment.