Mark could not be more right in his post today about the Clinton counterterrorism record and the way it was glossed over by the 9/11 Commission. A perfect example is the final report’s description of Khalid Sheikh Mohammed’s travels from the Philippines to Qatar to, finally, Afghanistan in 1995-96, right after his plot with Ramzi Yousef to blow U.S. airliners out of the sky (“Bojenka”) was thwarted. (It’s at pp 147-48 of the report.)
The Commission very matter of factly says KSM was “well aware that U.S. authorities were chasing him” while he was in Qatar, so he “left Qatar for good and fled to Afghanistan[.]” End of story.
Well … not exactly. The WPost provided the gory details in this March 2003 profile of KSM. The pertinent part is below:
After Yousef’s capture in Islamabad, Mohammed fled to Qatar in 1996. The FBI soon learned of his presence there, and the Clinton administration sought to arrange an operation to arrest Mohammed and fly him to prison in the United States. When the CIA reported that it did not have the necessary officers or agents in Qatar, a Pentagon plan involving U.S. Special Forces was put before a meeting of the National Security Council’s Deputies Committee, a panel of officials just below Cabinet rank, according to former officials involved in the discussions.
At the time, however, Bahrain and Qatar had been feuding over disputed islands in the Persian Gulf.
Because the Pentagon plan involved sending a small attack force by helicopter from Bahrain into Qatar, administration officials feared the Qataris might mistake the U.S operation for a Bahraini attack. Officials decided that the risk of triggering a war between the two countries — and of scuttling an important defense basing agreement being negotiated with Qatar — was too great, the former officials said.
As a result, the administration asked Qatar’s foreign minister to have Mohammed turned over to the United States. According to former officials of the U.S. and Qatari governments, the foreign minister informed Interior Minister Abdullah bin Khalida Thani, a member of the Qatari royal family and an Islamic fundamentalist who allowed Mohammed and a group of Arabs traveling with him to stay at his large farm outside Doha.
Thani, sources said, tipped off Mohammed and his group and helped them flee. The FBI and U.S. diplomats protested, but they lost their chance to get Mohammed.