No evidence blaming bin Laden


No evidence blaming bin Laden



By Robert Lusetich Los Angeles Correspondent



September 24, 2001



http://www.theaustralian.news.com.au/common/story_page/0,5744,2919071%255E2703,00.html



THE evidence linking Osama bin Laden to his alleged crimes is, like the

man, at once everywhere and nowhere.





Beyond George W. Bush's conviction  supported outside the US most

prominently by British Prime Minister Tony Blair, who said "it's fairly

clear where the evidence is tending"  hard facts have been hard to come

by.



Investigators have been pursuing two separate lines: tracing the 

hijackers

back to bin Laden and his al-Qa'ida organisation, and trying to show 

the

money to fund the operation came from that source.



About a dozen people have been detained as "material witnesses", but no

one has been charged in connection with the September 11 attacks. Many

others held by US authorities face nothing more serious than 

immigration

charges.



Firm leads may come from Zacarias Moussaoui, a French citizen whose 

mother

said he was "brainwashed" by fundamentalist Muslims in London in the

1990s. He was arrested in Minnesota on immigration violations before 

the

attacks. He went to a flight-training school, as did some of the

hijackers, asking to learn, not about landings and take-offs, but how 

to

steer.



Moussaoui was in a detention centre during the attacks. When they were

reported on television, he stood up and cheered before going back to 

his

cell. His name appears on a French list of known terrorist associates 

and

he is not co-operating with investigators, who believe he was "a 

player".



No one yet has been able to directly trace the hijackers to bin Laden.

Certainly, some have indirect links to him  the strongest being Khalid

al-Midhar, who was on American Airlines Flight 77, which crashed into 

the

Pentagon.



Al-Midhar attended a meeting in Malaysia last year of al-Qa'ida's inner

sanctum. He reportedly made travel arrangements through a Yemeni

organisation with strong links as a "logistical centre" for al-Qa'ida. 

He

was photographed by a foreign intelligence service in Kuala Lumpur with

Tawfiq Bin Atash, a man who allegedly served as bin Laden's "personal

intermediary" with the terrorists who carried out the suicide bombing 

in

Yemen last year of USS Cole, in which 17 US sailors were killed.



Other evidence comes from communications intercepted in the US and 

Germany

after the attacks. German officials say there was a cry of "We did it, 

we

did it".



On the money front, investigators have found virtually no link to bin

Laden, whose personal wealth they think is hugely overestimated. 

However,

they are giving credence to reports that companies that would have been

financially devastated because of the attacks were being short-sold in 

the

days before September 11, indicating prior knowledge.



US intelligence insiders are open to the possibility that the hijackers

concocted the plan alone.



"He is not a leader in a practical sense," a CIA source told London's 

The

Guardian of bin Laden. "He didn't pick up the blue phone and discuss 

the

attack on Flight 93, then pick up the green one and go into targeting 

the

White House. It is quite possible he may not have known about the 

attacks

before they happened."





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