Writing in 2003, a former U.S. diplomat accused current UN Ambassador Susan Rice of helping thwart intelligence gathering that might have uncovered and prevented the 1998 Al Qaeda bombings of U.S. embassies in Kenya and Tanzania.
The attacks killed hundreds of people, including 12 Americans, and helped al Qaeda gain confidence in its ability to target the United States.
Rice is said to be on the short list to be named Secretary of State by President Obama
Meanwhile, also in 2003, a veteran investigative journalist suggested Rice also opposed an offer by Sudan in the mid-1990s to hand over Osama Bin Laden, who was staying in the country at the time. Whether there was ever a credible offer to give Bin Laden to the United States is in dispute, however. Former Clinton administration officials have said there would at the time have been insufficient grounds to hold Bin laden.
Rice, according to the allegations, opposed dealing with Sudan because of concerns about Sudan’s persecution of Christians and its own involvement in supporting terrorism – concerns those who allege Rice dropped the ball say should have been set aside in the interest of gaining invaluable intelligence and possibly getting Bin Laden.
Rice at the time of the embassy attacks and in the years leading up to them was a senior adviser to President Clinton on African issues and then Assistant Secretary of State for African Affairs under Secretary of State Madeleine Albright.
According to a 2003 piece in the Washington Post by the diplomat – Tim Carney, who was the U.S. ambassador to the Sudan from 1995 to Nov. 30, 1997 – Sudan had offered in the spring on 1997 to begin cooperating with the United States on terrorism and share its extensive intelligence trove. The country had until the previous year hosted Bin Laden, before expelling him.
From the piece:
A further change took place in Sudanese thinking in April 1997. The government dropped its demand that Washington lift sanctions in exchange for terrorism cooperation. Sudan’s president, in a letter that Ijaz delivered to U.S. authorities, offered FBI and CIA counter- terrorism units unfettered and unconditional access to Khartoum’s intelligence.
Sudan’s policy shift sparked a debate at the State Department, where foreign service officers believed the United States should reengage Khartoum. By the end of summer 1997, they persuaded incoming Secretary of State Madeleine Albright to let at least some diplomatic staff return to Sudan to press for a resolution of the civil war and pursue offers to cooperate on terrorism. A formal announcement was made in late September.
Two individuals, however, disagreed. NSC terrorism specialist Richard Clarke and NSC Africa specialist Susan Rice, who was about to become assistant secretary of State for African affairs, persuaded Berger, then national security adviser, to overrule Albright. The new policy was reversed after two days.
Overturning a months-long interagency process undermined U.S. counterterrorism efforts. In a final attempt to find a way of cooperating with U.S. authorities, Sudan’s intelligence chief repeated the unconditional offer to share terrorism data with the FBI in a February 1998 letter addressed directly to Middle East and North Africa special agent-in-charge David Williams.But the White House and Susan Rice objected. On June 24, 1998, Williams wrote to Mahdi, saying he was “not in a position to accept your kind offer.” The U.S. Embassies in Kenya and Tanzania were bombed six weeks later.
And in a 2003 interview with World Magazine, investigative journalist Richard Miniter, who authored the book “Losing Bin Laden,” indicated Carney had also supported accepting offers from the Sudan to turn over Bin Laden himself, and that Rice played a role in rejecting these.
But while that government hosted Mr. bin Laden from April 1991 to May of 1996 and, for its own selfish reasons, wanted to rid themselves of Mr. bin Laden, I don’t see why the Clinton administration couldn’t have accepted this offer. U.S. Assistant Secretary of State Susan Rice did cite the suffering of Christians as one reason that she doubted the integrity of the Sudanese offers. But her analysis largely overlooked the view of U.S. Ambassador to Sudan Tim Carney, who argued for calling Khartoum’s bluff. Accept their offer of Mr. bin Laden and see if the National Islamic Front actually hands him over. If they do, we would have taken a major terrorist off the streets. If they do not, the civilized world will see that, once again, Sudan’s critics are proven right.
A spokesman for Rice did not respond to a request for comment