- The Washington Times - Friday, September 8, 2006

Warning ignored

The State Department warned the Clinton administration of the dangers from Osama bin Laden after the terrorist left Sudan in May 1996, according to two declassified “top secret” State Department documents.

The group Judicial Watch obtained the documents through a Freedom of Information Act request and released them to the press yesterday.

“This is not a case of hindsight being 20/20,” said Judicial Watch President Tom Fitton. “These documents prove the Clinton administration knew the danger Osama bin Laden posed to the United States back in 1996 and yet failed to take any meaningful action to stop him.”

The documents, authored by the State Department’s Bureau of Intelligence and Research, discuss bin Laden’s travels, prolonged stay in Afghanistan, financial networks, anti-Western threats in press interviews, ties to the Khobar Towers bombing and “emboldened” threats against U.S. interests.

The documents said bin Laden’s many passports and his private plane allow him considerable freedom to travel “with little fear of being intercepted or tracked.” Bin Laden reportedly even traveled to London, where he gave a press interview, before his departure from Sudan.

One report warned that bin Laden’s prolonged stay in Afghanistan “could prove more dangerous to U.S. interests in the long run than his three-year liaison with Khartoum.” One analysis document, dated July 18, 1996, asks the question: “Terrorism/Usama bin Ladin: Who’s Chasing Whom.”

Mayoral hopeful

Rep. Jesse L. Jackson Jr. announced Wednesday that he is exploring a run for mayor of Chicago and said it is “more likely than not” that he will enter the February contest.

Although he complimented Mayor Richard M. Daley, a fellow Democrat, for doing an “extraordinary” job in some ways, Mr. Jackson said: “What I’m hearing from the people is that it’s time for a change.”

The 41-year-old son of civil rights leadertheRev. Jesse Jackson said he would make up his mind after the November congressional election. He is up for re-election to the seat he has held for 11 years.

Mr. Daley is seen by some as politically vulnerable because of federal investigations into illegal political patronage and payoffs at City Hall. The mayor, who was first elected in 1989, has not been accused of any wrongdoing.

“The taxpayers are … footing the bill for waste, fraud and abuse,” Mr. Jackson said outside his home on the South Side.

Continuing probe?

The FBI recently conducted interviews to find out whether former U.S. Rep.Tom DeLay’s wife received pay from a lobbying firm without doing any work, the Houston Chronicle reported yesterday, citing “a source close to the investigation.”

The interviews could signal that the former House majority leader remains under investigation related to the dealings of former lobbyist Jack Abramoff, who is awaiting sentencing after pleading guilty to fraud and bribery charges.

Federal agents questioned former employees at the Alexander Strategy Group about what duties Christine DeLay performed for the three years during which she was paid a monthly fee for a total of about $115,000, according to an official who was not identified.

Former DeLay aides Tony C. Rudy and Edwin A. Buckham ran the lobbying firm and employed Mrs. DeLay while her husband was a lawmaker. The firm, which closed this year, shared several clients with Abramoff, including Indian tribes seeking help with their gambling interests.

Mr. Rudy has pleaded guilty to attempting to bribe members of Congress. Mr. Buckham remains under investigation.

Richard Cullen, Mr. DeLay’s attorney for the Washington investigation, declined to comment Wednesday. He said in previous interviews that Mrs. DeLay performed real, identifiable labor. Congress members’ spouses are allowed to work for political groups and election campaigns.

‘Fessing up

Richard L. Armitage has officially confirmed the worst-kept secret in Washington: He was the original source for press accounts that Joseph C. Wilson IV’s wife worked at the CIA.

The former deputy secretary of state said he did not intend to reveal Valerie Plame’s identity, the Associated Press reports, and apologized for his conversations with syndicated columnist Robert Novak and Washington Post reporterBob Woodward. Special prosecutor Patrick J. Fitzgerald has spent three years investigating the case, after Mr. Wilson accused the Bush administration of retaliating for his New York Times column about a CIA-backed trip to Niger.

“I made a terrible mistake, not maliciously, but I made a terrible mistake,” Mr. Armitage told the Associated Press in a telephone interview from his home last night.

He described a June 2003 conversation with Mr. Woodward as an afterthought at the end of a lengthy interview, in which Mr. Woodward reportedly asked, “Hey, what’s the deal with Wilson?” Mr. Armitage said he responded: “I think his wife works out there.”

Mr. Armitage also described his conversation with Mr. Novak: “He said to me, ‘Why did the CIA send Ambassador Wilson to Niger?’ I said, as I remember, ‘I don’t know, but his wife works out there.’”

Falsified polls

The owner of DataUSA Inc., a company that conducted political polls for the campaigns of President Bush, Sen. Joe Lieberman and other candidates, pleaded guilty to fraud for making up survey and poll results.

Tracy Costin pleaded guilty Wednesday to one count of conspiracy to commit wire fraud, the Associated Press reports. Costin, 46, faces a maximum of five years in prison and a fine of up to $250,000 when sentenced Nov. 30.

As part of her plea agreement, Costin agreed to repay $82,732 to unidentified clients for 11 jobs from June 2002 to May 2004. DataUSA is now known as ViewPoint USA.

According to a federal indictment in Bridgeport, Conn., Costin told employees to alter poll data and managers at the company told employees to “talk to cats and dogs” when instructing them to fabricate the surveys.

An FBI affidavit from 2004 quotes a supervisor of the company estimating that 50 percent of the data sent to Mr. Bush’s campaign was falsified. FBI Special Agent Jeff Rovelli, who wrote the affidavit, said yesterday that investigators were not able to verify that claim because that data was not located.

Greg Pierce can be reached at 202/636-3285 or gpierce@washingtontimes.com.

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