Yeah, About that Evil Drone
Strike Program Developed & Implemented Under
The Bush Administration
Anybody else catch this on 60 Minutes this past Sunday night?
Lara Logan, CBS: That mission actually began five years before 9/11. That's when the CIA set up what became Hank Crumpton's special unit tasked with finding Osama bin Laden.
Hank Crumpton, Former Deputy Director of the CIA'S Counter-Terrorism Center: From '98, '99 all the way up to 2001, the warnings were there, the in--
Lara Logan: So through the Clinton administration, to the Bush administration?
Hank Crumpton: Yes, yes. We had extensive human networks in Afghanistan, Afghan sources that had been reporting on al Qaeda, on the presence of bin Laden.
But Crumpton says the Clinton White House didn't trust the CIA's Afghan sources alone and they wanted U.S. eyes on the target.
Hank Crumpton: So we were driven to look at various technical options. And we looked at a range of things. Long-range optics, they were too heavy, too cumbersome to get over the mountains. We looked at balloons. The prevailing winds would take those balloons to China. That would be a bad thing. We scrapped that. And then we stumbled across the UAVs, particularly the Predator. And sure enough, wasn't long before we had the Predator in theater over Afghanistan, the Predator unarmed at the time. And our human sources took us to a village-- far-- not far from Kandahar.
Lara Logan: And what did you see there?
Hank Crumpton: We saw a security detail, a convoy and we saw bin Laden exit the vehicle.
Lara Logan: Clearly?
Hank Crumpton: Clearly. And we had-- the optics were spot on. It was beaming back to us, CIA headquarters. We immediately alerted the White House. And the Clinton administration's response was, "Well, it will take several hours for the TLAMs, the cruise missiles launched from submarines, to reach that objective. So you need to tell us where bin Laden will be five or six hours from now." The frustration was enormous.
Lara Logan: So at that moment you wanted to kill him?
Hank Crumpton: Yes.
Lara Logan: But you couldn't get permission?
Hank Crumpton: Correct.
He couldn't get permission to do anything, including allowing the CIA's Afghan agents on the ground to attack bin Laden's compound. That missed opportunity in the late summer of 1999, led Crumpton and his CIA team to figure out how to arm the Predator drone with hellfire missiles.
"Er...what?! What are you telling me here?
Hold on...I need to second to process this...."
Lara Logan: So the Predator drone strikes that take place in the tribal areas of Pakistan today are a direct result of what happened when you had Osama bin Laden in your sights in Afghanistan and no way to kill him yourselves?
Hank Crumpton: It was a response to the lack of response on the part of the administration or DOD. So the handful of CIA officers that we had, in great frustration, we began the discussion of, "Okay. We find him again we will have to engage ourselves. And we'll have to do it right then, right there."So the CIA launched it's own initiative to arm drones with missiles before Bush even entered office. And Clinton's refusal to take any risks in getting Bin Laden was the impetus.
In fact, not only did Predator strikes with Hellfire missiles start as a direct result of the Clinton administration's refusal to move against Bin Laden, someone in the comments at NewsBusters points out something ELSE Bush is always blamed for starting up when that wasn't the case:
I've been Googling trying to find examples of the Bush admin trying to blame Clinton for the drone & rendition policies. Not having much luck. After Clarke released his book there was a tacit, fast acknowledgement about rendition starting under Clinton and then the media train just passed it right by and memory-holed it.
With all the grief Bush got for over 6 years over these policies, and the fallout from the Left Obama has dealt with for continuing the selfsame policies, the fact they actually began on Clinton's watch is relevant.