Source: 1998 Clinton order authorized action against bin Laden
WASHINGTON (AP)- President Clinton signed a secret directive in 1998 authorizing U.S. efforts to capture or disrupt Osama bin Laden and his terrorism network, and several unsuccessful attempts were made, a person familiar with the effort said Sunday.
Non-Americans in Afghanistan, promised a bounty if they succeeded, had an ”active, constant and unsuccessful effort to capture bin Laden or take him out,” the person said, speaking on condition of anonymity. ”There were several attempts.”
The CIA and other U.S. agencies monitored the efforts, the source said, stressing that no Americans were involved directly in the activity.
CBS News reported Sunday night that in one such attempt, non-Americans hired by the CIA launched rocket-propelled grenades at a bin Laden convoy but hit the wrong vehicle.
A second source, a government official also speaking on condition of anonymity, would say only that the U.S. government was informed of a failed attempt on bin Laden last year.
The CIA had no comment on the report.
President Ford signed an order prohibiting foreign assassinations 25 years ago, but that could be countermanded by any subsequent presidential order.
A number of members of Congress have said recently the presidential ban on assassinations should be lifted.
Bin Laden, a wealthy Saudi Arabian exile living in hiding in Afghanistan, has been identified by President Bush as the prime suspect in Tuesday’s terrorist attacks on the World Trade Center in New York City and the Pentagon and the crash of an airliner in Pennsylvania.
U.S. officials have long accused bin Laden of running a global terrorist network, a charge he and the ruling Taliban government have denied.
It was reported last week that during Clinton’s final days in office, senior officials weighed a military strike against bin Laden after receiving intelligence on his whereabouts. The plan was rejected over concerns the information was stale and could result in a miss or civilian casualties.
The information spurred high-level discussion inside the White House in December 2000.
”There were a couple of points, including in December, where there was intelligence indicative of bin Laden’s whereabouts,” former National Security Adviser Sandy Berger told The Associated Press. ”But I can categorically tell you that at no point was it ripe enough to act.”
Some in Congress have expressed anger that the United States has not been able to get to bin Laden after years of intelligence linking him to global acts of terrorism against Americans.
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