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Updated: 14 Jan 2003

Background Briefing

Thursday, August 20, 1998
Subject: Subject: Terrorist Camp Strikes
Presenter: Attributable To: Senior Intelligence Officials

Briefer: In the interest of time I won't repeat, most of my formal remarks really mirrored what Hugh had to say about Bin Ladin's previous affiliation with terrorism, the Khowst complex. Let me just say a few things. I thought what would be helpful to do is give you further elaboration on the pharmaceutical facility in Sudan and any other details that may be of interest and then we'll take some questions.

But I do want to say at the outset that from an intelligence perspective we have convincing information from a variety of reliable intelligence sources and methods that Usama Bin Ladin, with the help of his terrorist allies, is responsible for the devastating bombings on 7 August of our two U.S. embassies.

I would also say to you that rarely do numerous sources converge so uniformly and persuasively as they have in this instance. After following many terrorist events, rarely have we come to some conclusions as fast as we did; rarely has been the quality of what we collected as high as it has been.

Based on the information, as a result, we have high confidence that these bombings were planned, financed, and carried out by the organization that Bin Ladin leads. We have not ruled out, however, that others share responsibility. We're looking into every possibility. I have no other leads in that regard at this time.

Let me tell you a little bit about the pharmaceutical facility and the affiliation. First, we know that Bin Ladin has made financial contributions to the Sudanese military industrial complex. That's a distinct entity of which we believe the Shifa pharmaceutical facility is part.

We know with high confidence that Shifa produces a precursor that is unique to the production of VX.

We know that Bin Ladin has been seeking to acquire chemical weapons for use in terrorist acts.

We know that Bin Ladin has had an intimate relationship with the Sudanese government which is a state sponsor of terrorism.

We know that Bin Ladin has worked with Sudan to test poisonous gasses and to finance simpler methods of manufacturing and dispensing gas, methods which would be less time consuming and expensive than prior Sudanese efforts.

Even though he left Sudan in 1996, we know that Bin Ladin's businesses acquire restricted, high priced items for the Sudanese military including arms, communications, and dual use components for chemical and biological weapons.

With regard to the question you raised to the Secretary, why did we do this today? Obviously we felt the information was compelling. We wanted to act quickly. We had compelling evidence, indeed we have ongoing evidence that Bin Ladin's infrastructure is continuing to plan terrorist acts targeted against American facilities and American citizens around the world.

Finally, with regard to today, we had credible information that led us to conclude that there would be more terrorists in these camps today than otherwise expected.

We targeted these facilities not to go after an individual, we went after his infrastructure. We don't know where Bin Ladin is. I have no information in that regard.

We're more than happy to take any questions you may have.

Q: Besides the Sudan, is he affiliated with any other nations...

A: He's an interesting character in the sense that he's a transnational actor in and of himself. He has an enormous amount of wealth. We estimate that he has at his disposal somewhere between $200 and $250 million. This is not someone who needs a state sponsor to, doesn't need their help to launch his terrorist activities.

He has been someone, as you know, in these training camps... Hugh referred to the fact that there are numerous groups there -- the Egyptian Islamic Jihad is there, the Gamat is there, other Suni terrorists of various nationalities have trained there. This is the largest Suni terrorist training facility in the world.

Q: Will the U.S. go after his money?

A: I don't want to talk about that.

Q: Can you say again the groups that were in Afghanistan?

A: The Egyptian Islamic Jihad, the al-Gama'at al-Islamiyya, there are numerous other groups affiliated with this camp -- Kashmiri militants might be there as well.

Q: Do you think these imminent attacks could have or would have included a WMD attack?

A: We have no way of knowing. We know that he has had an interest in acquiring chemical weapons. We know that he himself has talked about thousands of deaths. I have no specific evidence or information that leads me to conclude that one is imminent. I do know that he's actively seeking to acquire these weapons for his use.

Q: Ostensibly, what is this pharmaceutical facility supposed to make?

A: Ostensibly I guess it's supposed to make pharmaceuticals. We have no evidence, have seen no commercial products that are sold out of this facility. The facility also has a secured perimeter and it's patrolled by the Sudanese military. It's an unusual pharmaceutical facility.

Q: How many years has it been in operation?

A: I don't know the answer to that question.

Q: (inaudible)

A: Over a decade.

Q:...nuclear weapons other than chemical?

A: No evidence with regard to nuclear weapons.

Q: Do you have any sense of who supplied the explosives for Nairobi and Dar es Salaam?

A: I don't at this point, and that's a subject of our inquiry and it's a subject of the FBI investigation as well.

Q: Do you have any sense who is the actual major supplier of his weapons and other infrastructure? Is it Sudan or are there other countries?

A: Remember I told you that his financial network and net worth make him the largest supplier to himself in terms of his ability to buy things. He has a very intricate financial infrastructure. He has networks on every continent almost. He has an infrastructure that's very, very replete with capability, people, money. This is not someone who is wanting of resources or capability to acquire things. He diversifies his ability to do that.

Q: Is there any evidence that he has acquired or...

A: It's very clear to us that he is seeking to acquire.

Q: What's the basis of his wealth?

A: Obviously there's money that I think came from his family. I think he inherited a great deal of money. His family is rich...

Q: Are you talking oil money or...

A: A rich Saudi construction family. I don't know...

Q: Is he connected to Khobar Towers?

A: I don't have anything about Khobar.

Q: Can you tell us a little bit about the facilities in Afghanistan, what was there and what you know about that?

A: Essentially these are like a terrorist university for worldwide terrorist organizations; a loose or tight network depending upon who is there, who is training at the time. The other senior official mentioned several different groups. There are others.

At these facilities they conduct standard paramilitary type training, training in use of explosives, they improvise explosive devices, firing ranges, optical courses, we see evidence of armored personnel carriers, tanks, cruiser weapons. This is by any stretch of the imagination like military camps designed for paramilitary training associated totally with worldwide terrorism.

Q: Has there been observation at the camp of training that would specifically mirror or match the attacks seen in East Africa recently, in recent months?

A: I'm not going to talk about that.

Q: You said armored personnel carriers. What other large weapons went over there? Missile?

A: The largest, essentially.

Q: Thanks.

Q: (inaudible)

A: We don't have any evidence of fixed SAM sites there.

Q: This started after the Soviets left, or was it started during the occupation and did they fight the Soviets?

A: Some of these facilities were there during the fight against the Russians. But even in the last couple of months we've seen continued building and even expansion of these facilities indicating not a decline in activity. In fact increases in like building and construction activity.

Q: You said the raid began at 1:30. Can you tell us how long it lasted?

A: That's an operational detail that we're not going to comment on.

Q: Can you explain why you thought more people would be in the camps today?

A: Credible information came to us that led us to that conclusion.

Q: How many people do you think would be in the camps?

A: I don't know.

Q: (inaudible)

A: I think in evaluating the risks here, we've been very clear about the fact that the prospect of retaliation against Americans is very, very high. I can't speak to the threat in the United States, you'd have to talk to the FBI. I think people should understand that this is not a one shot deal here, and I think that we are engaged in a different, a real war against terrorism. People should not be under any illusion that there is a high probability of retaliation somewhere in this world by this network or others who may seek to retaliate.

Q: Is this why you asked people to leave Pakistan...

A: I'm sorry?

Q: Is this why you recommended people leave Pakistan?

A: I think it has something to do with it, yeah. (Laughter)

Q: Was the executive order that bans assassination, prohibits the United States from going after Bin Ladin as a target in himself...

A: It's a legal question somebody will have to answer.

Q: Who are the trainers at the camp? Are the Afghan nationals or are these people training themselves?

Secondly, under which government's control, if at all, does it come? (inaudible) relationship with (inaudible).

A: What was the first question? Let's start again.

Q: Who were the trainers?

A: A variety of trainers. There can be Afghans, there can be Saudi Mujahadin, almost all the ones we've mentioned could be in there as trainers and as a trainees.

Q: Basically the question of what government controls within the site and what his relationship is with (inaudible)?

A: I'm not an expert on who controls this piece of Afghanistan, but it's fair to say that he believes that the Taliban provides him a certain amount of comfort here.

Q: Have these (inaudible) now shifted away from Libya to Afghanistan? In terms of terrorism.

A: From Libya to Afghanistan?

Q: In the past there were many pockets...

A: I think with regard to somebody like Bin Ladin there is no epicenter. This is a very visible epicenter because of the amount of training and activity that goes on here, but we're talking about an individual with cells and a worldwide network. There is no one epicenter. It's very hard work to track him and his operatives around the world. It's a different...

Q: Does he then have bases comparable to this, or terrorist camps in Libya that you know about?

A: None that I know about.

Q: Is it understood, regardless of details, that the training for the East Africa attacks occurred at this camp?

A: I'm not going to talk about that.

Q: Could you explain since the bad guys know what hit them, why can't you tell us how you did it, what weapons you used? Or is it because you want to use it again and they don't know what hit them?

A: I have nothing to tell me that the bad guys know what hit them. And we want to not disclose operational details, we want to keep our whole range or options open in the future without compromising capability to this particular set of challenges.

Q: Was this camp one of the most sophisticated of its type in the world?

A: It is the preeminent Suni training facility in the world.

Q: How long have you known about it?

A: This camp? This camp has been known for many years.

Q: Why didn't the U.S. strike sooner? Before now? They wanted to wait until...

A: I can't answer that question.

Q: What's responsible for the (inaudible) intelligence that you mentioned? The unusual convergence of all the sources, what's responsible for that?

A: Everything worked. All avenues worked and they worked very well. You understand my reluctance to talk about how it was acquired.

Q: How do you think Bin Ladin has intended to deliver chemical or biological weapons? Does he have...

A: I don't have an answer for that for you.

Q: Can you talk about the Suni camp, Suni meaning orthodox in the Islamic world, and as we know the orthodox part of Islam is the largest, and yet there are others, too -- Sufi and Shiites and what have you. Are you implying then that this kind of orthodoxy is opposed to the United States or just a microcosm of it?

A: I'm not implying that at all.

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