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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.

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