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White House Wavers on Publiciizng bin Laden Case

Monday, 24 September 2001 12:00 AM

On Sunday, Powell told "Meet the Press" on NBC that "in the near future we'll be able to put out a paper, a document, that will describe quite clearly the evidence that we have linking him (bin Laden) to this attack."

But President George W. Bush, appearing at a Rose Garden briefing with Powell Monday, sidestepped the question of when the United States would offer up evidence linking bin Laden to terrorist attacks on Washington and New York on Sept. 11, when two hijacked airliners leveled the World Trade Center towers while a third struck the Pentagon. A fourth, thought to be bound for a target in Washington, crashed outside Pittsburgh.

Asked by reporters about the current U.S. case against bin Laden, Bush pointed to evidence already on record in a federal indictment of bin Laden for his alleged involvement in 1998 bombing attack on U.S. embassies in Kenya and Tanzania.

"There is a lot of classified information that leads to one person, as well as one global terrorist organization," Bush said, referring to bin Laden and his al Qaida network. "But for those of you looking for a legal peg, we've already indicted Osama bin Laden."

Ushered to the podium by Bush, Powell also pointed to bin Laden's standing U.S. indictment, saying the administration would present further evidence against the millionaire fugitive as it becomes declassified.

"Most of it is classified, and as we look through it, we can find areas that are unclassified and it will allow us to share this information with the public, we will do so," Powell said. "But most of it is classified."

Powell added, "as we are able to provide information that is not sensitive or classified, I think we will try to do that in every way."

Powell offered no timeline, however.

White House spokesman Ari Fleischer said Powell's pledge to provide evidence "soon" did not indicate a willingness to open classified information earlier than the normal time period for declassification of sensitive materials, a process that sometimes takes years.

"It's a classified document that is not unclassified," Fleischer said of the U.S. evidence against bin Laden for his alleged role in the attacks.

"Over time, different issues will be looked at with an eye toward whatever can possibly be publicly shared," Fleischer said. "But as we speak today, and as the secretary said, as we are able and as it unclassifies."

National security adviser Condoleezza Rice stressed that the administration "is going to do nothing that jeopardizes the investigation that is ongoing" by disclosing information that could undermine U.S. intelligence methods.

"We have very good evidence of links between known Osama bin Laden, al Qaida operatives and what happened on Sept. 11," Rice said in an interview Sunday with Fox News. "Of course we're going to be laying out a case and making a case. We're going to be making a case to allies and friends, many of whom, by the way, are already involved in developing that case."

As in Powell's comments Monday, Rice refused to offer a potential timetable for making information public.

Copyright 2001 by United Press International. All rights reserved.

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On Sunday, Powell told Meet the Press on NBC that in the near future we'll be able to put out a paper, a document, that will describe quite clearly the evidence that we have linking him (bin Laden) to this attack. But President George W. Bush, appearing at a Rose...
Monday, 24 September 2001 12:00 AM
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