The CIA has a

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The CIA has a videotape that shows Osama Bin Laden walking on a trail toward Pakistan at the end of the battle of Tora Bora in December 2001, when he eluded capture by U.S. forces, according to the WP. Since then his trail has gone “stone cold”:

The clandestine U.S. commandos whose job is to capture or kill Osama bin Laden have not received a credible lead in more than two years. Nothing from the vast U.S. intelligence world — no tips from informants, no snippets from electronic intercepts, no points on any satellite image — has led them anywhere near the al-Qaeda leader, according to U.S. and Pakistani officials.

. . .

On the videotape obtained by the CIA, bin Laden is seen confidently instructing his party how to dig holes in the ground to lie in undetected at night. A bomb dropped by a U.S. aircraft can be seen exploding in the distance. “We were there last night,” bin Laden says without much concern in his voice. He was in or headed toward Pakistan, counterterrorism officials think.

That was December 2001. Only two months later, Bush decided to pull out most of the special operations troops and their CIA counterparts in the paramilitary division that were leading the hunt for bin Laden in Afghanistan to prepare for war in Iraq, said Flynt L. Leverett, then an expert on the Middle East at the National Security Council.

“I was appalled when I learned about it,” said Leverett, who has become an outspoken critic of the administration’s counterterrorism policy. “I don’t know of anyone who thought it was a good idea. It’s very likely that bin Laden would be dead or in American custody if we hadn’t done that.”

Several officers confirmed that the number of special operations troops was reduced in March 2001.

In another indication of how seriously the Bush Administration takes the pursuit of bin Laden, his FBI Most Wanted Poster makes no mention of the 9/11 attack.

ABOUT THE AUTHOR

David Kurtz is Managing Editor and Washington Bureau Chief of Talking Points Memo where he oversees the news operations of TPM and its sister sites.
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