CIA Sources: Clinton Administration 'Didn't Want' Bin Laden Arrested

Carl Limbacher

Newsmax, November 1, 2001

A U.S. intelligence official, speaking on condition of anonymity, this week called the Clinton administration's decision to pass up a chance to arrest Osama bin Laden in 1996 a "disgrace," saying "somebody didn't want this to happen."
A second intelligence official, also speaking anonymously, corroborated the charge that there was a deliberate effort to let bin Laden escape from the Sudan to Afghanistan, saying "somebody let this slip up."

The intelligence officials, both of whom were involved in secret negotiations between Washington and Khartoum to take bin Laden into custody, offered the damning accounts to New York's Village Voice.

The Voice's first source said the chance to arrest bin Laden should have been a no-brainer, despite FBI claims that it lacked the evidence to convict him in an American court. "We kidnap minor drug czars and bring them back in burlap bags," he told the paper.

The State Department may have blocked the wily terrorist's arrest to placate a part of the Saudi Arabian government that supported him, he speculated.

The second official lamented that the U.S. lost a treasure trove of intelligence on the elusive al Qaeda chief when it let him slip away. "It was not a matter of arresting bin Laden but of access to information," he told the Voice.

"We could have dismantled his operations and put a cage on top..... That's the story, and that's what could have prevented September 11. I knew it would come back to haunt us."

Sudan's former defense minister, major general Elfatih Erwa, agreed, telling the paper that he tried to warn the Clinton administration that letting bin Laden escape from the Sudan to Afghanistan was a major blunder.

"We knew that if he went to Afghanistan no one could control him (but) the U.S. didn't care," Erwa said. "They forgot about human intelligence after the Cold War. The feeling of supremacy led them astray. Many think that. Now they're harvesting the thorns."