CIA Analyst Knew NATO
Had Wrong Target In Belgrade

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The United States has blamed a string of errors, including the use of outdated maps and databases that did not show the embassy had moved to a new location.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 said.
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,'' Lockhart said.
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.''