- August: German intelligence begins shadowing Mounir El Motassadeq, a suspected member of the Hamburg al-Qaeda cell. A number of other al-Qaeda members, including Mohammed Atta, meet with Motassadeq. He will later be charged by Germany with crimes relating to the 9/11 attacks. Also during that month, the CIA warns that they have evidence that a terrorist group intends to fly bomb-laden airplanes into US targets. The FBI investigates, but dismisses the warnings. (CCR)
- August 5: The Iraqi Revolutionary Command Council and Ba'ath Party Command stop cooperating with UNSCOM and IAEA until the oil embargo is lifted and the Commission moves out of Iraq. Until then, Iraq is willing to permit ongoing inspections only on its own terms. The UN finds Iraq's actions "totally unacceptable." More accusations fly from both sides; the UNSC passes more resolutions. (UN/Iraqwatch/Electric Venom)
- August 7: al-Qaeda mounts an attack on two American embassies in Africa. 213 people die in the Kenya bombing; 85 die in the Tanzanian bombing. (CCR)
- August 9: The Taliban, with assistance from Pakistani intelligence, conquers the Afghani stronghold of Mazar-i-Sharif. This gives the Taliban control of 90% of the country, including the entire route of the planned pipeline. CentGas, the oil consortium, declares itself ready to start construction of the pipeline, but construction cannot begin until the Taliban is recognized as the legitimate government of Afghanistan by the UN. (CCR)
- August 17: Clinton testifies before the Starr grand jury, where he learns that Starr has obtained the now-infamous blue dress from Lewinsky that contains identifiable semen stains from Clinton. That evening, he admits on national television to having had an inappropriate relationship with Lewinsky. In her memoir, Hillary Clinton will write, "As his wife, I wanted to wring Bill's neck. But he was not only my husband, he was also my President, and I thought that, in spite of everything, Bill led America and the world in a way that I continued to support." (Clinton Impeachment Timeline, H.R. Clinton, James Carville)
US missile attacks on terrorist groups in Sudan, Tanzania and Afghanistan
- August 20: The US launches missile attacks on terrorist sites in Sudan, Afghanistan and Tanzania. 30 people die in the attacks, but no major al-Qaeda figures are among those killed. Suspected terrorist financiers Khalid bin Mahfouz and Mohammed Hussein al-Amoudi were the main investors in the Sudanese factory. While some investigations claim that the Sudanese plant was probably producing nothing but human and veterinary drugs, the plant is bombed after US intelligence learns that, among other things, VX nerve agent precursor (EMPTA) was in the ground outside the factory, the factory was owned by Osama bin Laden's Military Industrial Corporation, and the manager of the factory lived in bin Laden's villa in Khartoum. The National Democratic Alliance, a Sudanese opposition in Cairo led by Mubarak Al-Mahdi, also insists that the plant was producing ingredients for chemical weapons. The attack on the Sudanese plant is carried out with surgical precision, destroying the entire facility using multiple missile strikes with one death and 10 wounded. The US later unfreezes the bank accounts of the factory owner, but admits no wrongdoing. It is later learned that of the six camps targeted in Afghanistan, only four were hit, and of those only one had connections to bin Laden. Two of the camps belong to the ISI, and five ISI officers and some twenty trainees are killed. Clinton says on TV that the missiles were aimed at a "gathering of key terrorist leaders," which turns out to have taken place a month earlier, in Pakistan. In 2004, the 9/11 commission reviews the evidence surrounding the decision to bomb the Sudanese plant, and declares the attack valid and necessary.
- Republicans deride the counterattacks, characterize Clinton's warnings of terrorist threats as "fantasy," and says that the missile attacks are attempts to distract the country from the investigation of his affair with Monica Lewinsky. Richard Clarke writes in his 2004 book Against All Odds that Clinton was determined to make the attack even though he knew he would be excoriated for the timing. According to Clarke, Clinton said: "Do you all recommend that we strike on the 20th? Fine. Do not give me political advice about the timing. That's my problem. Let me worry about that." (See the next item below for a more pungent version of this quote.) The New York Times reports that many of the camps that were attacked were actually built years before with US and Saudi funding, as part of the anti-Soviet efforts in Afghanistan. Some intelligence observers speculate that the missile attacks went awry because Clinton was deliberately given bad information to discourage future attacks on al-Qaeda. The failure of the attacks gives bin Laden a great boost in stature in the Muslim world, including the support of Saudi Crown Prince Abdullah. Partially as a result of the attacks, Unocal will withdraw from participation in the CentGas pipeline project. (CCR, From the Wilderness, Slate, Truthout, Wikipedia)
Clinton authorizes assassination of bin Laden
- Mid-August: Clinton authorizes the assassination of Osama bin Laden. In 2001, Clinton will say, "I authorized the arrest, and, if necessary, the killing of Osama Bin Laden, and we actually made contact with a group in Afghanistan to do it -- and they were unsuccessful." (CCR, BBC/Killtown)
- August 20: Shortly after Clinton authorized the assassination of Osama bin Laden, the CIA reported that they had "specific, predictive, actionable" intelligence that bin Laden would attend a particular meeting on this date. Since the date coincides so closely with Clinton's deposition about the Lewinsky affair, national security chief Richard Clarke warns Clinton that he will likely be accused of "wagging the dog," attempting to distract the public from his political travails. As Clarke describes it, Clinton was enraged. "Don't you f*cking tell me about my political problems, or my personal problems," Clinton snapped at Clarke. "You tell me about national security. Is it the right thing to do?" Clarke thought it was. "Then f*cking do it," Clinton ordered. The attacks, which cost $79 million and involved some sixty satellite-guided Tomahawk cruise missiles, obliterate two targets -- a terrorist training camp outside Khost, in Afghanistan, and a pharmaceutical plant thought to be manufacturing chemical weapons in Khartoum, Sudan -- and were notorious failures. "The best post-facto intelligence we had was that bin Laden had left the training camp within an hour of the attack,"
- Clarke will later say. In response to the question of what went wrong, Clarke will say, "I have reason to believe that a retired head of the ISI was able to pass information along to al-Qaeda that an attack was coming." Clarke will also blame the US military for compromising the mission: "The Pentagon did what we asked them not to. We asked them not to use surface ships. We asked them to use subs, so they wouldn't signal the attack. But not only did they use surface ships -- they brought additional ones in, because every captain wants to be able to say he fired the cruise missile." In Clarke's assessment, the use of surface ships tipped off the Pakistanis to the operation. After the botched mission, Clinton authorizes further actions against bin Laden as well as his top aides. The CIA hires out several kidnapping and assassination attempts to local Afghans, who essentially do nothing. "The CIA was unable to carry out the mission," according to Clarke. "They hired local Afghans to do it for them again." (During the mid-90s, Clinton authorized the CIA to apprehend bin Laden; the agency chose to hire local Afghans to carry out the missions instead of mount the operations themselves, and nothing was accomplished.) "The point is, they were risk-averse," he said. Clinton and FBI Director George Tenet were both "eager to kill bin Laden. ...But the capability of the CIA's Directorate of Operations was far less than advertised. The Directorate of Operations would like people to think it's a great James Bond operation, but for years it essentially assigned officers undercover as diplomats to attend cocktail parties. They collected information. But they were not a commando unit that could go into Afghanistan and kill bin Laden." A senior intelligence official contradicts Clarke's assessment, stating that the political will to mount such a serious effort did not exist until after 9/11. (New Yorker)
- August 23: Columnist Charley Reese tells an audience, "To put it plainly, Bill Clinton is a sociopath, a liar, a sexual predator, a man with recklessly bad judgment -- and a scofflaw!" Reese, whose columns include such gems as "Are You a Confederate but Don't Know It?," offers no solid proof of his charges. (Mark Crispin Miller)
"Our liberal establishment is using the media of television to promote racial intimacy and miscegenation.... All of the news teams on the major networks have black and white newscasters of opposite sexes." -- Council of Conservative Citizens, Fall