Bill Clinton becomes a worse president every day. Today in the NY Times is the revelation that the State Department's intelligence indicated Osama Bin Laden was a terrorist mastermind whose power and influence would grow once he went from the Sudan to Afghanistan. The State Dept. issued this warning one year before the rest of the US intelligence community changed its assessment of Bin Laden as just a financier to Bin Laden as terrorist nutter. [Side note: the State Dept.'s internal intelligence tends to be very good].
Here's the key excerpt:
State Department analysts warned the Clinton administration in July 1996 that Osama bin Laden's move to Afghanistan would give him an even more dangerous haven as he sought to expand radical Islam "well beyond the Middle East," but the government chose not to deter the move, newly declassified documents show.
In what would prove a prescient warning, the State Department intelligence analysts said in a top-secret assessment on Mr. bin Laden that summer that "his prolonged stay in Afghanistan - where hundreds of 'Arab mujahedeen' receive terrorist training and key extremist leaders often congregate - could prove more dangerous to U.S. interests in the long run than his three-year liaison with Khartoum," in Sudan.
The declassified documents, obtained by the conservative legal advocacy group Judicial Watch as part of a Freedom of Information Act request and provided to The New York Times, shed light on a murky and controversial chapter in Mr. bin Laden's history: his relocation from Sudan to Afghanistan as the Clinton administration was striving to understand the threat he posed and explore ways of confronting him.
Before 1996, Mr. bin Laden was regarded more as a financier of terrorism than a mastermind. But the State Department assessment, which came a year before he publicly urged Muslims to attack the United States, indicated that officials suspected he was taking a more active role, including in the bombings in June 1996 that killed 19 members American soldiers at the Khobar Towers in Dhahran, Saudi Arabia.
The author of the article, Eric Lichtblau, indicates there is doubt that Clinton turned down a Sudanese offer to turn Bin Laden over to the US. But such doubts are false: as I noted here more than 15 months ago, Mansoor Ijaz brokered the deal that would have had the Sudanese turn Bin Laden over to the US.