Bin Laden met the CIA

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Most claims about bin Laden's "CIA links" date back to 1980's Afghanistan, however there is one that's considerably more recent. And that's the story that he met with a CIA agent while undergoing dialysis treatment at a Dubai hospital, in July 2001.

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", 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.

Confirmation? Maybe, but again we don't know the source, so there’s no way to determine its accuracy. But even if entirely true, this doesn't support any relation between the meeting and September 11th.

Third: the hospital denied it.

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:

And there are those who argue we should be wary, as a result. Consider this story.

An American Thinker article follows the same approach:

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 (see here and here), giving them an incentive to blame someone else. Martino also called the idea "lunatic ravings":

Later reports said it was believed that "Adam Maiga Zakariaou, the [Niger consul, and Laura Montini, the ambassador’s assistant, known as La Signora, forged the papers for money].

Still, the suggestion that France wanted to undermine the American and British case for war received some support from Anthony Sampson in the Guardian.

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:

And the International Herald Tribune were similarly sceptical: