WASHINGTON — U.S. intelligence agencies are collaborating on a report to detail evidence linking Osama bin Laden to last week’s terror attacks, a U.S. official said. So far, the Bush administration has offered little public information that directly points to his involvement.
It is unclear whether the report will be made public. White House officials said Friday they eventually will outline to the American people the case against bin Laden to justify military or other U.S. action.
To date, an intercepted telephone call, one hijacker’s apparent name and bin Laden’s own declarations and history constitute the only public evidence linking the exiled Saudi multimillionaire to the attacks.
U.S. officials say more evidence exists, but they won’t say what it is because of the continuing FBI investigation. One official said Friday such material will be included in the intelligence report in preparation.
Intelligence officials fear that going public with the evidence might compromise their sources of information. Members of Congress privy to secret briefings seem equally convinced of bin Laden’s involvement.
Officials also say they are investigating all possibilities, including that other terrorist organizations or countries had a hand in the attacks.
Bin Laden is hiding in Afghanistan. The Taliban militia, the ruling power in the southwest Asian country, has refused to turn him over to the United States and demanded the U.S. government make its case.
The most direct evidence of bin Laden’s association was provided by Sen. Orrin Hatch, R-Utah, last week.
Shortly after the Sept. 11 attacks on the World Trade Center and the Pentagon, U.S. intelligence intercepted a phone call between two known associates of bin Laden, in which they said they had struck two targets in the United States, Hatch said.
Authorities also have connected the name of one of the 19 suspected hijackers to bin Laden.
In August, Khalid al-Midhar was placed on a watch list after U.S. intelligence agencies received information that a man with that name had been seen meeting with associates of bin Laden in Malaysia, officials have said.
It’s not known if the same man perished on the American Airlines jet that crashed into the Pentagon. The hijacker known as al-Midhar may have been using a false name, officials have said.
The rest of the revealed evidence that seemingly ties bin Laden to the attack is circumstantial.
Bin Laden himself reportedly rejoiced after the successful attacks, but denied involvement.
He has the wealth and organization to pull it off, U.S. officials said. His groups are known for meticulous planning of attacks.
He’s also believed to have conducted simultaneous attacks at multiple locations before, when the U.S. embassies in Kenya and Tanzania were bombed in 1998. He has been linked to the first World Trade Center bombing in 1993 and last year’s attack on the USS Cole.
Bin Laden has declared war on the United States, threatened to conduct major attacks on U.S. soil and said all Americans are targets. His prime grievance appears to be that U.S. troops are in his native Saudi Arabia, which he consider desecration of sacred soil.
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