MISS­ING BIN LADEN

The Washington Times Weekly - - National Security -

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.

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