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Does Omar Bin Laden’s Tell-All Reveal the Contents of Sandy Berger’s Pants?

Osama's son is releasing a memoir telling of a failed Clinton attempt on his father's life.

by
Annie Jacobsen

Bio

September 18, 2009 - 12:02 am

Over the summer, after learning that a U.S. drone missile strike in Pakistan may have killed Osama bin Laden’s son Sa’ad, I asked: “Was Sa’ad Bin Laden Managing Al-Qaeda from Iran?” The column began:

When Osama bin Laden was banished from Sudan in 1996, he left the country in a rented Soviet jet — an aged and antique Tupolev flown by a Russian pilot he did not trust. With him were a few bodyguards, his military commander Saif al-Adel, and two sons named Sa’ad and Omar, both young men in their late teens.

The article continues on with the story focusing on son Sa’ad. But now it is Omar, the other of the two sons escaping Sudan with the world’s most wanted terrorist, who is making news.

In case you are unfamiliar with Omar bin Laden, he’s the 26-year-old bin Laden with the Milli Vanilli dreadlocks, the leather biker jackets, and the British wife who is 25 years his senior. (The two met on a horse-riding holiday in Egypt and fell madly in love). Last year, the two of them did the talk show circuit, telling Omar’s terrorist father to “find another way.”

Now, Omar has written a book with his mother, the Syrian-born first wife and cousin of Osama bin Laden (her name is Najwa bin Laden). Their book is called Growing Up bin Laden: Osama’s Wife and Son Take Us Inside Their Secret World and is certain to ruffle the feathers of the former Clinton administration. It also may explain what Sandy Berger was trying to steal from the National Archives in October 2003 by stuffing classified documents down his pants.

Recall, if you will, security guards spotting former President Clinton’s national security advisor huddled in a corner, shoving documents in his clothes. Berger managed to take the sensitive items with him that first time, but when Berger returned National Archives officials were prepared. They’d set up their own sting operation by coding papers to later determine if any more had disappeared. When it was discovered more of Berger’s documents had gone missing, the archivists filed a complaint with the Department of Justice.

Nine months later, in July 2004, the DOJ made public the fact that it was investigating Berger for unauthorized removal of classified documents from the National Archives and that the investigation was a criminal one. It further came to light that a few months prior, the FBI had searched Berger’s home and office after he admitted that he’d also stolen handwritten notes.

The point of the theft, it was speculated, was to keep the 9/11 Commission from seeing certain Clinton administration errors that had contributed unnecessarily to the terrorist attacks.

Sandy Berger’s lawyers told the Washington Post that what he had “inadvertently” stolen from the National Archives were merely copies of memos on the millennium bomb plot. “I deeply regret the sloppiness involved, but I had no intention of withholding documents from the commission, and to the contrary, to my knowledge, every document requested by the commission from the Clinton administration was produced,” Berger said in a statement. In 2004, Berger quit his position as an “informal advisor” to the Kerry campaign. In 2007, he copped a plea deal with the DOJ, agreed to give up practicing law, and publicly apologized. One wonders if Sandy Berger maybe thought the case was closed?

In this new book by Osama’s son Omar, it seems the public may learn more clues about what exactly Berger was trying to steal. In its pages, Omar (and his mother) reveal that the Clinton administration failed in a major assassination attempt of Osama bin Laden, just days after the 1998 East Africa embassy bombings. This is something that has often been speculated but never confirmed. Former insiders like Richard Clarke say Omar bin Laden’s account of the assassination failure appears to be credible. And if this is the case, it might explain a little more about what documents Sandy Berger really had stashed away.

Other tell-all details in the book include Omar’s description of his father killing the family’s pet dogs in chemical weapons tests, as well as his advance knowledge of terrorist attacks — including the bombings in East Africa which killed 224 people. Omar bin Laden has said that he doesn’t consider his father to be a terrorist. When his father was fighting the Soviets, Washington considered him a hero, Omar told CNN.

Explanations of Sandy Berger’s heavy lifting aside, one question remains: will readers find Omar and his mom — who left Afghanistan on September 9, 2001 — empathetic or just plain pathetic memoirists? And if the bin Ladens’ book is a financial success, will Omar share royalties with his second wife and their young child — people he avoids mentioning but, as was reported in the Times of London, do in fact exist?

Annie Jacobsen writes the "Backstory" blog (http://latimesblogs.latimes.com/back-story/) for the Los Angeles Times Magazine.
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