Air Strikes Against Terrorist Activities in Afghanistan and Sudan (August 1998), with Follow-on Reporting and Comment


Materials presented chronologically.

Risen, James. "U.S. Attacks Based on Strong Evidence Against Bin Laden Group." New York Times, 21 Aug. 1998. [http://www.nytimes.com]

The U.S. strikes in Afghanistan and the Sudan on 20 August 1998 "came after U.S. intelligence and law enforcement agencies had gathered what officials described as the strongest evidence ever obtained in a major terrorist case. The U.S. intelligence community has been convinced for years that Osama bin Laden has been involved in a long series of attacks against American interests. But the officials said they had more comprehensive and conclusive evidence than ever before linking bin Laden to the bombings at the American Embassies in Africa earlier this month."

Vick, Karl. "U.S., Sudan Trade Claims on Factory." Washington Post, 25 Aug. 1998, 1.

Graham, Bradley, and Vernon Loeb. "Sudan Target Cited Months in Advance." Washington Post, 1 Sep. 1998, 13.

See also, Thomas E. Ricks, "U.S. Officials Say Evidence Abounds to Support Military Strike in Sudan," Wall Street Journal, 1 Sep. 1998, 20.

Risen, James. "Bin Laden Was Target of U.S. Raid Plans Since Spring." New York Times, 5 Sep. 1998. [http://www.nytimes.com]

U.S. intelligence officials "drew up secret plans last spring for a covert raid to capture Osama bin Laden in Afghanistan." The plan, developed by the CIA and American special forces months before the August bombings of two American Embassies, "called for American forces to extricate the Saudi millionaire from his hideout in Afghanistan and bring him to justice in the United States." DCI George Tenet and other senior officials shelved the mission "because of the high risks involved. Those included the potential for many casualties among Americans and innocent Afghans."

Washington Post. "[Editorial]: Intelligence Lapse?" 6 Sep. 1998, C6.

The editorial writer worries about the lack of hard information to support/justify the U.S. attack on the Sudanese pharmaceutical factory.

Weiner, Tim, and James Risen. "Decision to Strike Factory in Sudan Based Partly on Surmise." New York Times, 21 Sep. 1998, 1.

"[W]ithin days of the attack, some of the administration's explanations for destroying the factory in Sudan proved inaccurate. Many people inside and outside the U.S. government began to ask whether questionable intelligence had prompted the United States to blow up the wrong building. Senior officials now say their case for attacking the factory relied on inference as well as evidence that it produced chemical weapons for bin Laden's use."

Loeb, Vernon. "A Dirty Business." Washington Post, 25 Jul. 1999, F1. [http://www. washingtonpost.com]

Salah Idris, the owner of the El Shifa Pharmaceutical plant in Khartoum, Sudan, is continuing to fight against the conclusions that led the United States to attack the plant in August 1998.

Loeb, Vernon. "U.S. Lacked Certainty on Target in Sudan." Washington Post, 21 Aug. 1999, A1. [http://www.washingtonpost.com]

"One month before the United States bombed the El Shifa pharmaceutical plant in Sudan, CIA analysts said more testing would be needed before they could firmly conclude that the plant was producing a key component of deadly VX nerve gas."

Berkowitz, Bruce D. "Facing the Consequences: As El Shifa Shows, It Takes More than Intelligence to Make Smart Decisions." Washington Post, 5 Sep. 1999, B1. "In the Intelligence Game, Keep a Poker Face." Washington Post National Weekly Edition, 13 Sep. 1999, 21.

With regard to "the flap over the intelligence used to justify the bombing of the El Shifa Pharmaceutical Industries Co. in Khartoum, Sudan,... the problem seems to have been not just faulty intelligence but in the judgment of officials using it.... [A]s we have since discovered,... the link between bin Laden and El Shifa was not as close as officials first suggested....

"Officials have often used intelligence to account for their actions after the fact.... The problem is that, after the strike on El Shifa, U.S. officials tried to use intelligence as though it were evidence in a court case, and intelligence is usually poorly suited for that task.... Officials need to use intelligence, make their best judgments -- and then accept the public consequences.... Intelligence will always have gray cases where officials must exercise judgment. El Shifa may or may not have been an intelligence failure. But the record certainly suggests a failure by policy makers."

Raum, Tom. "CIA: 1998 Sudan Bombing Not Mistake." Associated Press, 19 Oct. 1999.

DCI George Tenet told a Georgetown University audience on 18 October 1999 that "[e]vidence that a U.S.-destroyed Sudanese pharmaceutical plant was manufacturing chemical-weapons components remains 'compelling,' despite growing international skepticism over the 1998 bombing.... 'We were not wrong,'" Tenet said. See also, Vernon Loeb, "Drug Plant Attack on Target, Says CIA Chief," Washington Post, 21 Oct. 1999, A27.

Risen, James. "To Bomb Sudan Plant, or Not: A Year Later, Debates Rankle." New York Times, 27 Oct. 1999, 1.

Since the U.S. President ordered the attack on a pharmaceutical plant in Sudan, his aides have maintained that he "acted on evidence that left no doubt that the factory was involved with chemical weapons and linked to Osama bin Laden.... But an examination of the decision, based on interviews by The New York Times with key participants, shows that it was far more difficult than the Administration has acknowledged and that the voices of dissent were numerous."

  Croddy, Eric. "Dealing with Al Shifa: Intelligence and Counterproliferation." International Journal of Intelligence and Counterintelligence 15, no. 1 (Spring 2002): 52-60

The missile attack on the Al Shifa pharmaceutical facility in Khartoum, Sudan, "highlights the difficulties and challenges when it comes to intelligence gathering and analysis when seeking to detect chemical or biological weapons production.... [T]he contrary, misinformed, and confused nature of the Clinton administration's attempts to justify its actions only created more doubt in both American and international public opinion."

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