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Wednesday, 26 September, 2001, 03:27 GMT 04:27 UK
US split on Bin Laden evidence
US President George W Bush, right, and Secretary of State Colin Powell
Mixed signals are coming from the Bush administration
By State Department correspondent Jon Leyne

US Deputy Defence Secretary Paul Wolfowitz will brief America's Nato allies on Wednesday about the US response to the terrorist attacks on Washington and New York.

But mixed signals are still emerging from the administration of George W Bush about how much information the United States are prepared to reveal linking the attacks with the prime suspect Osama Bin Laden.

Osama Bin Laden
Bin Laden himself is the best prosecution witness
The evidence suggests a tough debate within the Bush administration.

The argument is between those who want to use every means possible to build and strengthen an international coalition against terror - and those who are more reluctant to compromise the sources of intelligence.

Inevitably it has led to questions about the strength of the evidence.

Mixed signals

It was on Sunday, in the NBC television news show Meet The Press that Secretary of State Colin Powell put it quite clearly:

"I think in the near future, we'll be able to put out a paper, a document, that will describe quite clearly the evidence that we have linking [Bin Laden] to this attack," he told his interviewer.

Less than 24 hours later, President Bush failed to endorse the idea.

Senator Orrin Hatch
Senator Hatch said Bin Laden's men were electronically intercepted
Colin Powell then quickly backtracked.

"As we are able to provide information that is not sensitive or classified, I think we will try to do that in every way," he said - a much more cautious approach.

What is not clear is how much information - classified or otherwise - points directly to Bin Laden or the network he heads, al Qaeda.

One unnamed official involved in the investigation told the New York Times they had collected electronic intercepts of communications that linked the plot to al Qaeda.

He said the information would probably not be made public.


Shortly after the attacks a member of the Senate intelligence committee, Orrin Hatch, said that electronic intercepts detected "representatives affiliated with Bin Laden over the airwaves, reporting that they had hit two targets."

It has also been widely reported in the United States that the CIA has a videotape of one of the hijackers meeting in Malaysia with other Bin Laden associates.

The rest of the evidence that has emerged is either circumstantial or owes much to unsubstantiated allegations from "intelligence sources."

Yet, as Colin Powell and his colleagues repeatedly point out, the US has already published detailed evidence alleging Osama Bin Laden's involvement with the bombings in 1998 of US embassies in Nairobi and Dar es Salaam.

The US indictment of him runs to scores of pages.

Some of the evidence has already been tested in an American court - the New York trial earlier this year in which several Bin Laden associates were convicted for their part in the embassy bomb plot.

Bin Laden as witness

But perhaps the best prosecution witness is Osama Bin Laden himself.

His campaign against the United States is well documented - in his own television interviews and in several declarations of jihad, or holy war, he has made.

A triumphal video he released a couple of months ago left little doubt that he was willing to accept the blame for the attack on the USS Cole in Yemen.

So the argument about releasing evidence has become a political one - only loosely connected to the strength of the case against the prime suspect.

ABC's Brian Ross
"Its not going to be easy to provide the one 'smoking gun' piece of evidence against Bin Laden"


Political uncertainty






See also:

14 Sep 01 | Americas
13 Sep 01 | Americas
15 Sep 01 | Americas
15 Sep 01 | South Asia
13 Sep 01 | Business
15 Sep 01 | Americas
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