- The Washington Times - Tuesday, September 25, 2001

The United States said yesterday it has "an abundance of evidence" that links the attacks on the World Trade Center and the Pentagon to Osama bin Laden, but it is not about to publish an official document and will only release unclassified information as it becomes available.
The Bush administration will try to make such information public because "this is what you do in a free country," a State Department official said, not because it needs to justify any military action against Afghanistan for harboring bin Laden and his terrorist network, al Qaeda.
Secretary of State Colin L. Powell said that "more information is coming in" about bin Laden's activities as U.S. law enforcement and intelligence agents investigate the Sept. 11 attacks and work with allies around the world.
"And as we are able to provide information that is not sensitive or classified, we will try to do that in every way," he said at a Rose Garden appearance with President Bush, who announced that he had ordered bin Laden's assets in the United States frozen.
In two television interviews Sunday, Mr. Powell said the administration would "put out a paper, a document that will describe quite clearly the evidence that we have linking" bin Laden to the attacks "in the near future."
But State Department spokesman Richard Boucher said yesterday that "people should not conclude that we are on the verge of some imminent release of a so-called white paper."
"I can't give you a real timeline at this point," he told reporters at the State Department. "There is no particular fixed date or target for doing that in a big show."
Several administration officials, including Mr. Powell, last week dismissed calls on Washington to provide proof of bin Laden's involvement in the Sept. 11 strikes. They argued that the United States didn't need to justify to anyone let alone to Afghanistan's ruling Taliban a potential decision to use force.
The Taliban "is not a government that has given to Western jurisprudence, so these calls for proof are somewhat misplaced," National Security Advisor Condoleezza Rice said in a CNN interview on Sunday.
Mr. Powell told a news briefing a week ago that bin Laden's indictment in the 1998 bombing of two U.S. embassies in East Africa should be sufficient for the Taliban to deliver the Saudi exile.
Mr. Bush also referred yesterday to bin Laden's role in the terrorist acts in Kenya and Tanzania. "For those of you looking for a legal peg, we've already indicted Osama bin Laden. He's under indictment for terrorist activity," he said.
Washington's decision to release some of the evidence was motivated by the American people's "right to know," a State Department official said.
He said the purpose was not to help those Arab governments supporting the U.S.-led anti-terror coalition to explain their action to their own people.
U.S. officials have said the evidence they have gathered spans two decades and dates back to days when a certain group provided material aid to rebels who were fighting the Soviet invaders of Afghanistan. That same group, led by bin Laden, later declared war on the United States.
Although the U.S. government knows much about bin Laden's activities over the past few years, a large part of the evidence linking the hijackers who carried out the Sept. 11 attacks to him is expected to be circumstantial.
"At most, they would have participated in training at one of bin Laden's camps in Afghanistan," London's Independent newspaper wrote last week. "There may have been some Internet communication, but the chances are that the only direct contact with bin Laden was secret, unrecorded and via go-betweens who did not take part in the hijackings."
The Washington Times reported on Saturday that the day before the strikes U.S. intelligence agencies had detected discussions between bin Laden's lieutenants of an impending "big attack."
Quoting a senior administration official, the report said the detection was not discovered until days after the Sept. 11 attacks. The time lapse is typical of intelligence analyses, in which computers sift through loads of each day's collection to find valuable material.
In addition to intelligence information, officials have said that much of their evidence against bin Laden is based on testimony by his former associates during the embassy bombing trial in New York last winter.
In March, a jury in Federal District Court in Manhattan convicted four of bin Laden's followers: Wadih El-Hage, bin Laden's former personal secretary; Mohammed Saddiq Odeh, a sworn member of his group; as well as two others who helped carry out the attacks three years ago Mohamed Rashed Daoud al-'Owhali and Khalfan Khamis Mohamed.

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