posted on May, 9 2005 @ 08:29 AM
Clarke: CIA Had Low-Level Spies Inside Al Qaeda
Wed Nov 17,11:25 PM ET Top Stories - Reuters
By Tabassum Zakaria
WASHINGTON (Reuters) - The CIA (news - web sites) had some low-level spies inside al Qaeda in the three years before the Sept. 11 attacks, but none
who could provide advance information about the group's movements, according to testimony released on Wednesday from a closed-door intelligence
briefing in 2002.
The CIA did not have spies inside the network run by Osama bin Laden (news - web sites) until 1999, but "none of them very high-level," Richard
Clarke, a former White House counterterrorism official, told the joint congressional committee investigating Sept. 11.
In a rare move, the Senate Intelligence Committee released a 103-page declassified transcript of the June 11, 2002, closed-door briefing on its Web
site late on Wednesday. Most of the information had been made public during subsequent open hearings and in the final report of the joint inquiry.
The CIA "never had anyone in position to tell us what was going to happen in advance, or even where bin Laden was going to be in advance," Clarke
On the three occasions when they thought they knew bin Laden's location, the CIA opposed taking military action, saying its sources were not good
enough, he said.
"I think it is very difficult to place human sources high up in al Qaeda. I think it is possible to develop low-level sources. I think it is possible
to develop technical means of collection that may provide us with information," Clarke said.
Several times in the 1990s the Pentagon (news - web sites) was asked "snatch" terrorism suspects overseas, but the main message to the White House
from uniformed military leadership was that they did not want to do this, Clarke said.
He said a leading al Qaeda operative had been pinpointed in Khartoum. "We knew what hotel he was in. We knew what room he was in the hotel."
The CIA did not have snatch capability and the military leadership told the White House that it would never work, while telling subordinates who had
planned an operation that the White House had stopped it, Clarke said.
Asked how much information was obtained from hundreds of terrorism suspects held by other countries in the late 1990s, Clarke replied: "That depends
on the country. If they were held in a West European democracy, we didn't get very much information."
He said the National Security Agency does not gather intelligence in Britain, Canada, Australia and New Zealand.