WASHINGTON (AP) - Budgetary woes in the CIA unit that tracked Osama bin Laden prior to the deadly 2001 strikes led analysts to believe that catching the al-Qaida leader was unlikely, according to government records published Tuesday.
Many of the newly released documents are cited in the 9/11 Commission report, published in 2004. The documents, dated between 1992 and 2004 are heavily blacked out and offer little new information about what the U.S. knew about the al-Qaida plot before 2001.
The National Security Archive obtained the documents through a Freedom of Information Act request and published them on its website Tuesday. The archive is a private group seeking transparency in government.
The CIA had no immediate comment.
The newly released documents detail CIA complaints that a budgetary cash crunch prior to the 9/11 attacks was cutting into the agency's counterterrorism units' efforts to track Osama bin Laden.
"Need forward movement on supplemental soonest," said a heavily blacked out document titled "Islamic Extremist Update" dated April 5, 2000. The supplemental budget was still under review by the national security council and White House Office of Management and Budget. The document said that because of budgetary constraints, the bin Laden unit would move from an "offensive to defensive posture." This meant that officials feared they would have to shelve some of their more elaborate proposals to track al-Qaida and would instead have to rely on existing resources.
The document hints at complaints made by previous directors of the bin Laden unit and detailed publicly after the attacks that the Clinton - and later Bush - administration did not fully appreciate the severity of the threat, so failed to fund fully their operations.
Al-Qaida's attacks on against the U.S. include the bombing at the World Trade Center in 1993, the 1998 bombings of U.S. embassies in East Africa, and the 2000 attack on the USS Cole. Ramzi Yousef, the perpetrator of the World Trade Center bombing is the nephew of Khalid Sheikh Mohammed, the mastermind of the Sept. 11 attacks that brought down the buildings.
One of the previously unreleased documents involves 9/11 hijacker Mohammed Atta, an Egyptian who piloted American Airlines Flight 11 into the World Trade Center's north tower. According to a Dec. 8, 2001, CIA report that was sent to the White House Situation Room, the spy agency had already made determination that Atta had not traveled to Prague in the Czech Republic in May 2000 to rendezvous with a senior official of the Iraqi Intelligence Service. That he would have met with the IIS was significant for intelligence officials seeking connections between al-Qaida and Iraq.