Tuesday, March 16, 2004


Bush completely ignored Bin Laden threat in early part of administration. Stopped flying predator drones.

Though Predator drones spotted Osama bin Laden as many as three times in late 2000, the U.S. administration did not fly the unmanned planes over Afghanistan during its first eight months and was still refining a plan to use one armed with missiles to kill the al-Qaida leader when Sept. 11 unfolded, current and former U.S. officials say.


After the Sept. 11 attacks, the CIA put the armed drones into the sky within days, and they soon played an important role in one of the early successes of the war on terror.

In November 2001, an armed drone helped confirm a high-level al-Qaida meeting in Kabul, Afghanistan, and joined in an attack that killed bin Laden military chief Mohammed Atef, according to officials familiar with the attack.

Nearly a dozen current and former senior U.S. officials described to AP the extensive discussions in 2000 and 2001 inside the Clinton and Bush administrations about using an armed Predator to kill bin Laden. Most spoke only on condition of anonymity, citing the classified nature of the information.

These officials said that within days of President George W. Bush taking office in January 2001, his top terrorism expert on the National Security Council, Richard Clarke, urged National Security Adviser Condoleezza Rice to resume the drone flights to track down bin Laden, citing the successes of late 2000.