RealNews

Missed Chances in a Long Hunt for bin Laden

In 1996, the C.I.A. secretly created a special operational unit devoted to tracking a single man, a Saudi-born exile named Osama bin Laden, then living in Sudan and considered a major terrorist financier. By early 1997, the office, known as the bin Laden station, had concluded that he was also a terrorist organizer, based in Afghanistan, with a military committee planning operations against American interests worldwide. “Although this information was disseminated in many reports, the unit’s sense of alarm about bin Laden was not widely shared or understood within the intelligence and policy communities,” the commission investigating the attacks of Sept. 11, 2001, reported on Wednesday. “Employees in the unit told us they felt their zeal attracted ridicule from their peers.” What happened over the nearly five years from that moment until the devastating attacks on the World Trade Center and the Pentagon is the story of bureaucratic miscommunication, diplomatic dead ends, military hesitation, intelligence failures, political rivalries and policy miscalculations at the highest levels of two presidential administrations — a trail of fumbles presented in sweeping new detail in two days of commission hearings and four staff reports made public this week. Full Story

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