- WASHINGTON, June 24 (Reuters) -
- Three days before NATO bombed the Chinese
embassy in Belgrade, an intelligence officer told CIA colleagues and a
military officer in Europe that the alliance had picked the wrong target
but his concerns never reached senior levels, U.S. officials said on Thursday.
- They said the mid-level intelligence
analyst noticed imagery of the building proposed for a NATO strike did
not appear to show the intended target, the Yugoslav Federal Directorate
of Supply and Procurement (FDSP).
- The Washington Post first reported the
analyst's warning, saying on Thursday it had been cited in a classified
CIA inspector general report.
- The analyst did not know that the Chinese
embassy was at the target location, officials said.
- ``He was not saying 'you are about to
bomb the Chinese embassy', all he said was 'I've looked at this and I have
some questions about whether you're aiming at the right target','' Pentagon
spokesman Ken Bacon said.
- U.S. aircraft participating in NATO's
11-week bombing of Yugoslavia attacked the Chinese embassy on May 7, killing
three people and wounding about 20. NATO called it a tragic error.
- Despite repeated U.S. apologies, the
bombing severely damaged fragile U.S.-Sino relations. U.S. Undersecretary
of State Thomas Pickering went to China last week to explain what happened,
but China dismissed his explanation as unconvincing.
- The United States has blamed a string
of errors, including the use of outdated maps and databases that did not
show the embassy had moved to a new location.
- ``On May 4, this mid-level officer called
a mid-level officer in Europe and conveyed his concerns, and at the same
time he attempted to arrange a meeting within the CIA to clarify his
concerns,'' Bacon said. He failed to arrange the meeting at the CIA, he
- The analyst was not involved in selecting
the target but took an interest because he had some knowledge of the FDSP,
U.S. officials said.
- One of the officials, who spoke on condition
of anonymity, said the analyst could not notify the right people of his
fears ``in a timely enough fashion.''
- He contacted a military officer at the
combined air operations command in Italy, the headquarters for NATO air
strikes, but with no sense of urgency because he did not know the strike
was going to occur soon, officials said.
- The Pentagon is reviewing what happened
as part of a broader review of targeting decisions, Bacon said.
- ``It is my understanding that he did
not say 'this is the target that should not be hit', he said 'it is not
the target you want to hit','' Bacon said.
- The intelligence officer left for previously
scheduled training, returned on May 7 ``and finds out that the thing's
on the target list for that evening,'' the unnamed official said.
- ``He tried again to reach folks, he couldn't
reach them. He did talk to some people, and there's confusion about exactly
what he said or what people heard,'' the official said.
- ``At that point they told him that the
bombers were already in the air,'' the official said. ``It was a missed
opportunity to prevent it from happening.''
- ``It would be incorrect to paint this
guy either as a hero or a goat,'' the official said. ``It was just another
thing that didn't go right.''
- White House spokesman Joe Lockhart said
the CIA would conduct a further review of accountability.
- ``The president is committed to getting
to the bottom of this tragic mistake ... explaining it to the Chinese
government and people and making sure that this doesn't happen again,''
- Senate Intelligence Committee Chairman
Richard Shelby, an Alabama Republican, said the affair should be investigated
and ``if there is culpability, ultimately there ought to be accountability.''
- He said pins should have been put on
maps to show every embassy in Belgrade ``because we were doing pinpoint
bombing trying not to hit anybody's embassy, friend or otherwise. It's
just a sloppy job.''