Clarke feared bin Laden might ‘boogie’ to Iraq

By WND Staff

Richard Clarke

Former counterterrorism czar Richard Clarke insisted to media during the spring 9-11 commission hearings that Saddam Hussein had no connection to al-Qaida, but the panel’s final report says that in February 1999 he feared Osama bin Laden might flee to Baghdad.

The report, on page 134 [Requires PDF viewer], says Clarke was nervous about a U-2 surveillance mission over Afghan tribal areas proposed by the CIA, because “he continued to fear” that bin Laden might “leave for someplace less accessible.”

Clarke wrote to Deputy National Security Advisor Donald Kerrick, according to the 9-11 report, that “one reliable source reported [bin Laden’s] having met with Iraqi officials, who ‘may have offered him asylum.'”

Other intelligence sources, the 9-11 report continues, said that some Taliban leaders, though not Mullah Omar, had urged bin Laden to go to Iraq.

If bin Laden actually moved to Iraq, wrote Clarke, his network would be at Saddam Hussein’s service, and it would be “virtually impossible” to find him.

It would be better, Clarke declared, to get bin Laden in Afghanistan.

The 9-11 report says former National Security Adviser Sandy Berger, now the subject of a federal probe for allegedly pilfering top-secret documents, suggested sending one U-2 flight, “but Clarke opposed even this.”

It would require Pakistani approval, Clarke wrote, and Pakistan’s intelligence service is “in bed with” bin Laden and would warn him that the United States was getting ready for a bombing campaign.

“Armed with that knowledge, old wily Usama will likely boogie to Baghdad,” Clarke wrote.

The 9-11 report says: “Though told also by Bruce Riedel of the [National Security Council] staff that Saddam wanted bin Laden in Baghdad, Berger conditionally authorized a single U-2 flight.”

The CIA was able to find other ways to get its information, so the U-2 flight never occurred, the report says.

WorldNetDaily reported yesterday that Berger blocked four separate plans of action against the al-Qaida terrorist network from 1998 to 2000, according to the 9-11 commission report.

As WND reported, in a March interview with Lesley Stahl on “60 Minutes,” Clarke denied Saddam had any connection to al-Qaida.

Stahl pressed Clarke further, asking, “Was Iraq supporting al-Qaida?”

Clarke replied: “There is absolutely no evidence that Iraq was supporting al-Qaida ever.”

In 1999, however, he defended President Clinton’s attack on a Sudanese pharmaceutical plant by revealing the U.S. was “sure” it manufactured chemical warfare materials produced by Iraqi experts in cooperation with bin Laden.

Clarke told the Washington Post in a Jan. 23, 1999, story U.S. intelligence officials had obtained a soil sample from the El Shifa pharmaceutical plant in Khartoum, which was hit with Tomahawk cruise missiles in retaliation for bin Laden’s role in the Aug. 7, 1998, embassy bombings in Africa.

The sample contained a precursor of VX nerve gas, which Clarke said when mixed with bleach and water, would have become fully active VX nerve gas.

Clarke told the Post the U.S. did not know how much of the substance was produced at El Shifa or what happened to it.

“But he said that intelligence exists linking bin Laden to El Shifa’s current and past operators, the Iraqi nerve gas experts and the National Islamic Front in Sudan,” the paper reported.

Related story:

In ’99, Clarke saw Iraq-al-Qaida link