- Both President George W. Bush and Vice President Dick
Cheney lied during the 2004 Presidential campaign when he claimed U.S.
forces did not miss a chance to capture Osama bin Laden at Tora Bora in
- A U.S. government document shows a terror suspect held
at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba, was a commander for bin Laden during the Soviet
occupation of Afghanistan in the 1980s and helped the al-Qaida leader escape
his mountain hide-out at Tora Bora in 2001.
- The document, provided to The Associated Press in response
to a Freedom of Information request, says the unidentified detainee "assisted
in the escape of Osama bin Laden from Tora Bora." It is the first
definitive statement from the Pentagon that bin Laden was at Tora Bora
and evaded U.S. pursuers.
- The detainee is not identified by name or nationality.
He is described as being "associated with" al-Qaida and having
called for a jihad, or holy war, against the United States.
- In an indication that he might be a higher-level operative,
the document says he "had bodyguards" and collaborated with regional
al-Qaida leadership. "The detainee was one of Osama bin Laden's commanders
during the Soviet jihad," it says, referring to the holy war against
- The events at Tora Bora were a point of contention during
last year's presidential race, and Bush as well as Vice President Dick
Cheney asserted that commanders did not know whether bin Laden was there
when U.S. and allied Afghan forces attacked the area in December 2001.
- Cheney said last Oct. 26 that Gen. Tommy Franks, the
commander of U.S. forces in Afghanistan, had "stated repeatedly it
was not at all certain that bin Laden was in Tora Bora. He might have been
there or in Pakistan or even Kashmir," the Indian-controlled Himalayan
- Franks, now retired, wrote in an opinion column in The
New York Times last Oct. 19, "We don't know to this day whether Mr.
bin Laden was at Tora Bora in December 2001." He added that intelligence
assessments of his location varied, but bin Laden was "never within
- On several occasions in the days following publication
of that column, Bush cited it on the campaign trail as evidence that bin
Laden could have been in any of several countries in December 2001. "That's
what Tommy Franks, who knew what he's talking about, said," Bush said
on Oct. 27.
- Sen. John Kerry, the Democratic presidential nominee,
lambasted Bush during the campaign for having missed a chance to capture
or kill bin Laden at Tora Bora, a mountainous area along the Pakistan border
that became al-Qaida's last stand in Afghanistan. U.S. warplanes bombarded
the area in December 2001, and Franks had Afghan soldiers lead the ground
assault, backed by several thousand U.S. ground troops, including Special
Forces, in a cave-to-cave search.
- The newly revealed statement is contained in a document
the Pentagon calls a "summary of evidence" against one of 558
prisoners at Guantanamo Bay. It was provided to the AP this week.
- The evidence was summarized last December 14 for a Guantanamo
Bay hearing to determine whether the prisoner was correctly held as an
- The assertion about his efforts and bin Laden's escape
is made as a statement of fact; it does not indicate how the information
- Navy Lt. Cmdr. Daryl Borgquist, a spokesman for the Combatant
Status Review Board for which the document was prepared, said Tuesday he
could not elaborate on the Tora Bora statement, or its sources, because
the statement was derived from classified information.
- Bin Laden, whose al-Qaida terrorist organization was
behind the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks in the United States, had
operated from Afghanistan until the U.S. invasion in October 2001.
- He remains at large. For many months, officials have
said they believe bin Laden probably is hiding in the Afghan-Pakistan border
region, although last week Gen. Richard Myers, chairman of the Joint Chiefs
of Staff, declined to endorse that view, saying bin Laden's whereabouts
- In mid-December 2001, a spokesman for the Joint Chiefs
of Staff, Rear Adm. John Stufflebeem, told reporters there had been "indicators"
of bin Laden's presence at Tora Bora in early December.
- "And now indicators are not there," Stufflebeem
said. "So maybe he still is there, maybe he was killed, or maybe he's
- Among documents stating the U.S. government's evidence
against other detainees at Guantanamo Bay is a September 2004 assertion
that an unidentified detainee, described as a member of al-Qaida, had traveled
from the United States to Afghanistan in November 2001 - two months after
the terrorist attacks that killed nearly 3,000 people in New York, Washington
- The document does not elaborate on the detainee's U.S.
connection, but says he arrived in Afghanistan via Bahrain and Iran. He
was "present at Tora Bora," crossed the Afghan border into Pakistan
in December 2001, and surrendered to Pakistani authorities, the document
- The detainee also was arrested by Saudi authorities for
questioning in the 1996 terrorist bombing of Khobar Towers in Saudi Arabia
that killed 19 members of the U.S. Air Force, the document says.