Bin Ladin met with the CIA while undergoing dialysis treatment at a Dubai hospital, in July 2001.
Here's the essence of this part of the story.
Dubai... was the backdrop of a secret meeting between Osama bin Ladin and the local CIA agent in July. A partner of the administration of the American Hospital in Dubai claims that public enemy number one stayed at this hospital between the 4th and 14th of July...
The Saudi billionnaire was admitted to the well-respected urology department run by Teerry Callaway, gallstone and infertility specialist. Dr Callaway declined to respond to our questions despite several phone calls...
During the hospital stay, the local CIA agent, known to many in Dubai, was seen taking the main elevator of the hospital to go to bin Ladin's hospital room...
A few days later, the CIA man bragged to a few friends about having visited bin Ladin. Authorised sources say that on July 15th, the day after bin Ladin returned to Quetta, the CIA agent was called back to headquarters.
There isn't a clear indication as to whether this story is true or not, but we do have some issues with it.
First: the account is unsourced. Who is this partner? We don't know. It's a report of what the freelance writer Alexandra Richard says she's been told by this unnamed person. Is her account accurate? Is the unnamed persons account accurate? There's no way to tell.
Second: it was unconfirmed. One or two other newspapers ran it, but they just reproduced what Le Figaro had already said. There was no independent confirmation, at least initially. And actually, an online translation uses the headline "CIA Agent Allegedly Met bin Ladin" ( http://www.tenc.net/misc/lefigaro.htm ), which if true sounds a little different.
Author Richard Labeviere later wrote a book, where he said "a Gulf prince who presented himself as an adviser to the Emir of Bahrain" confirmed the meeting, which had been arranged by Prince Turki al-Faisal of Saudi Arabia. This was the plan.
"By organizing this meeting...Turki thought he could start direct negotiations between the Saudi millionaire (bin Ladin) and the CIA on one fundamental point: that bin Ladin and his supporters end their hostilities against American interests."
In exchange, the CIA and the Saudi (intelligence) services undertook to allow bin Ladin to return to his native country, even though he was stripped of his Saudi nationality in July 1994. The Dubai meeting was a failure, Labeviere said.
Confirmation? Maybe, but again we don't know the source, so there’s no way to determine its accuracy, a problem when there's considerable motive for undermining the US. And even if accurate, this doesn't support any relation between the meeting and September 11th.
Third: the hospital denied it.
Bernard Koval, the director of the hospital, also denied the terrorist had been a patient there, saying "Osama bin Ladin has never been here. He's never been a patient and he's never been treated here. We have no idea of his medical condition. This is too small a hospital for someone to be snuck through the backdoor."
It could be argued that "they would say that, wouldn't they", and we'd tend to agree. But then why would this "partner of the hospital administration" choose to speak out?
On a similar question of motive, is it really plausible that the CIA's main man in Abu Dhabi would "brag" about meeting bin Ladin? And that those friends would report this to the press? And that the only person in the world to pick up on this was a freelance writer in a French newspaper?
In addition, some people try to say there's significance in Callaway (bin Ladins supposed doctor) refusing to comment rather than issuing a straight denial, but in our view that's exactly what you'd expect. He's an employee caught in a press storm, you'd expect the hospital management to tell him not to comment, they would deal with any future queries.
Fourth, despite it being such a common allegation, there’s actually no real evidence that bin Ladin has been on dialysis at all, and plenty of people (including bin Ladin himself) who suggest it’s unlikely, as Richard Miniter explained in the Washington Times.
Fifth: it’s been claimed that the French Secret Service are linked to this story:
Le Figaro said Bin Laden was being treated at the American Hospital in Dubai for a kidney infection. The hospital denied that such a meeting had taken place, but Le Figaro said its report was based on a number of sources, including French secret service agents and a hospital administrator.
United Press International
October 31, 2001, Wednesday
And there are those who argue we should be wary, as a result. Consider this story.
The Italian businessman at the centre of a furious row between France and Italy over whose intelligence service was to blame for bogus documents suggesting Saddam Hussein was seeking to buy material for nuclear bombs has admitted that he was in the pay of France.
The man, identified by an Italian news agency as Rocco Martino, was the subject of a Telegraph article earlier this month in which he was referred to by his intelligence codename, "Giacomo".
His admission to investigating magistrates in Rome on Friday apparently confirms suggestions that - by commissioning "Giacomo" to procure and circulate documents - France was responsible for some of the information later used by Britain and the United States to promote the case for war with Iraq.
Italian diplomats have claimed that, by disseminating bogus documents stating that Iraq was trying to buy low-grade "yellowcake" uranium from Niger, France was trying to "set up" Britain and America in the hope that when the mistake was revealed it would undermine the case for war, which it wanted to prevent.
An American Thinker article follows the same approach:
The French naturally deny any responsibility, but the forged document was dropped on the public at exactly the time that Dominique de Villepin, then Foreign Minister, was in New York trying to make Colin Powell believe that France was prepared to help overthrow Saddam. The French forgery was a stink bomb, designed to be exposed in public as soon as Colin Powell publicly accepted it.
We must emphasise we have absolutely no idea if this is true, and France really was trying to undermine the US and British Governments. Other stories suggest Italy was involved instead ( http://www.cooperativeresearch.org/entity.jsp?id=1521846767-1472 and http://www.prospect.org/web/page.ww?section=root&name=ViewWeb&articleId=10506), giving them an incentive to blame someone else. Martino also denied the French setup idea, although appears to accept it's at least possibility:
(Chiocci) The suspicion is that you may have played France's game, opposed as it was to intervention in Iraq and planning to cook up a "poisoned meat ball" to give the lie to the United States and to the United Kingdom, which were hunting around for any kind of excuse to justify the invasion of Iraq: Nigergate.
(Martino) I do not know what you are talking about. These are lunatic ravings, among other reasons because the documents in question originated back in 2000, a year before the attack on the Twin Towers in New York and three years before Bush's decision to proceed with the war against Saddam.
(Chiocci) Someone may have remembered those documents, picked them up out of the waste basket, and released them back into circulation at the right moment.
(Martino) Anything is possible. And in any case, I am the victim, the tool used by someone for games much bigger than me.
Still, the suggestion that France wanted to undermine the American and British case for war seems plausible, and the idea received some support at the time from Anthony Sampson in the Guardian.
Two months before September 11 Osama bin Laden flew to Dubai for 10 days for treatment at the American hospital, where he was visited by the local CIA agent, according to the French newspaper Le Figaro.
The disclosures are known to come from French intelligence which is keen to reveal the ambiguous role of the CIA, and to restrain Washington from extending the war to Iraq and elsewhere.
And although Samson doesn’t rule out the possibility of the story being true, he makes it clear that inter-agency game playing might also be behind the account:
Whether the allegations about the Dubai meeting are confirmed or not, the wider leaks from the French secret service throw a worrying light on the rivalries and lack of coordination between intelligence agencies, both within the US and between western allies.
A familiar complaint of French intelligence is that collaboration with the Americans has been essentially one-way, with them happy to receive information while giving little in return.
And the International Herald Tribune were similarly sceptical:
Copyright 2001 International Herald Tribune
The International Herald Tribune
November 1, 2001 Thursday
SECTION: NEWS; Pg. 3
LENGTH: 537 words
HEADLINE: Dubai Clinic Denies Report Bin Laden Met With CIA
BYLINE: Joseph Fitchett
SOURCE: International Herald Tribune
A wave of skepticism and outright denials greeted a French newspaper report Wednesday that Osama bin Laden had been hospitalized in a Dubai clinic for kidney care for 10 days in July and met there with a U.S. intelligence operative -- just weeks before the Sept. 11 attacks on the World Trade Center and the Pentagon.
The report, published as the main story in Le Figaro, a leading conservative newspaper in Paris, suggested that the CIA had maintained direct contacts with Mr. bin Laden ever since the agency first extended covert assistance to him in the 1980s, when he was a Saudi volunteer for the war against the Soviets in Afghanistan.
At the time of the alleged meeting, Mr. bin Laden was being sought in a worldwide manhunt in connection with U.S. embassy bombings in East Africa in 1998. The United States was offering a $7 million reward for information leading to his capture.
The newspaper offered no independent confirmation for its story, which was based on a leak from someone "associated with the management team" of the American hospital in Dubai, where Mr. bin Laden allegedly underwent treatment.
"Osama bin Laden has never been here," Bernard Koval, the head of the hospital, said in Dubai.
The story -- of hospitalization and a visit from the local CIA chief -- is "utterly implausible," according to an Arab diplomat in Paris. Never, he said, would Mr. bin Laden have run the risks of prolonged medical treatment in Dubai, a free-wheeling Gulf city-state with an underworld of smugglers and mercenaries easily recruitable to assassinate the man listed as U.S. public enemy No. 1.
"If he had needed treatment, he would have chosen a place where he could count on draconian security like Baghdad or Damascus," the Arab official said.
According to the Figaro story, the head of the CIA post in Dubai "was seen" going into Mr. bin Laden's room. But the 100-bed clinic's boss, Mr. Koval, told reporters in Dubai that "this is too small a hospital for someone to be snuck through the backdoor" -- a phrase apparently applying both to Mr. bin Laden and the local CIA station chief.
Mr. Kovel said that no trace of the terrorist's presence had emerged from discussions with all members of the clinic's staff, including Dr. Terry Callaway, Canadian-born specialist who allegedly treated Mr. bin Laden.
"He's never been a patient here, he's never been treated here," Mr. Kovel said.
Officials in Dubai have not reacted to the report, and the U.S. Embassy in Paris said that it had a policy of never commenting on intelligence matters.
"Disinformation may have been planted on the paper to suggest a continuing covert linkage between the CIA and bin Laden," according to a French intelligence source.
Such collusion -- based on Mr. bin Laden's role in the CIA-backed campaign against the Soviets in the 1980s -- has been a leitmotif of reservations voiced by some people in France about the U.S.-led military offensive in Afghanistan. French leftists often depict Mr. bin Laden as a fundamentalist fanatic manipulated by the CIA with the aim of creating conditions in which the United States can exploit terrorist violence to expand the U.S. military presence in Central Asia.