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Clarke saw video taken during the trial flight, he described the imagery to
Berger as "truly astonishing," and he argued immediately for more flights seek-
ing to find Bin Ladin and target him for cruise missile or air attack. Even if Bin
Ladin were not found, Clarke said, Predator missions might identify additional
worthwhile targets, such as other al Qaeda leaders or stocks of chemical or bio-
logical weapons.
Clarke was not alone in his enthusiasm. He had backing from Cofer Black
and Charles Allen at the CIA.Ten out of 15 trial missions of the Predator over
Afghanistan were rated successful. On the first flight, a Predator saw a security
detail around a tall man in a white robe at Bin Ladin's Tarnak Farms compound
outside Kandahar. After a second sighting of the "man in white" at the com-
pound on September 28, intelligence community analysts determined that he
was probably Bin Ladin.
During at least one trial mission, the Taliban spotted the Predator and scram-
bled MiG fighters to try, without success, to intercept it. Berger worried that a
Predator might be shot down, and warned Clarke that a shootdown would be a
"bonanza" for Bin Ladin and the Taliban.
Still, Clarke was optimistic about Predator--as well as progress with dis-
ruptions of al Qaeda cells elsewhere. Berger was more cautious, praising the
NSC staff 's performance but observing that this was no time for compla-
cency. "Unfortunately," he wrote, "the light at the end of the tunnel is
another tunnel."
Early in chapter 5 we introduced, along with Khalid Sheikh Mohammed, two
other men who became operational coordinators for al Qaeda: Khallad and
Nashiri. As we explained, both were involved during 1998 and 1999 in prepar-
ing to attack a ship off the coast of Yemen with a boatload of explosives.They
had originally targeted a commercial vessel, specifically an oil tanker, but Bin
Ladin urged them to look for a U.S. warship instead. In January 2000, their team
had attempted to attack a warship in the port of Aden, but the attempt failed
when the suicide boat sank. More than nine months later, on October 12, 2000,
al Qaeda operatives in a small boat laden with explosives attacked a U.S. Navy
destroyer, the USS Cole.The blast ripped a hole in the side of the Cole, killing
17 members of the ship's crew and wounding at least 40.
The plot, we now know, was a full-fledged al Qaeda operation, supervised
directly by Bin Ladin. He chose the target and location of the attack, selected
the suicide operatives, and provided the money needed to purchase explosives
and equipment. Nashiri was the field commander and managed the operation
in Yemen. Khallad helped in Yemen until he was arrested in a case of mistaken
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