Here’s an interesting little quote:
General Wayne Downing, Bush’s former national director for combating terrorism, says: â€œThey would go out and see Osama, spend some time with him, talk with him, you know, live out in the tents, eat the simple food, engage in falconing, some other pursuits, ride horses. One noted visitor is Sheik Mohammed ibn Rashid al Maktum, United Arab Emirates Defense Minister and Crown Prince for the emirate of Dubai.â€ [MSNBC, 9/5/03]
Problem is, it’s no longer archived on MSNBC anywhere that I can find. The only source I’ve got for it is this site, and I just don’t have enough context to judge its trustworthiness. Further problem is, MSNBC transcripts aren’t archived on Lexis, at least not the version to which I have access.
So–any journalists, anybody at MSNBC, or anybody else with super research skills who can verify this quote?
…Update: August and Atrios have both come up with transcripts from Hardball which suggest the above quote was doctored slightly — the quote’s very similar but it’s a discussion of Prince Turki al Faisal of Saudi Arabia, and there’s no reference to Dubai. This is exactly why I don’t take anything I read on websites I’ve never seen at face value.
This is still pretty significant, at any rate. (Here’s a secondary source.)
Second update: The problem here is that the site in question smushed two different quotes from two different stories together. Sharp-eyed reader James F. forwards a story from the Nov. 18, 2001 edition of the Los Angeles Times about Osama bin Laden’s activities in Afghanistan, headlined RESPONSE TO TERROR; SUNDAY REPORT; Long Before Sept. 11, Bin Laden Aircraft Flew Under the Radar. (Did you know that Osama once owned a surplus U.S. Air Force jet? I didn’t.)
Anyway, here’s the relevant section:
For years, Persian Gulf state elites hunted rare birds of prey, houbara bustards, in the bleak hills surrounding Kandahar. In the late 1990s, according to former U.S. and Afghan officials, a number of prominent Persian Gulf state officials and businessmen flew into Kandahar on state and private jets for secret hunting expeditions.
For days at a time, the hunters would roam the hills, releasing falcons trained to catch the bustards. Some satisfied hunters heaped donations on their Taliban hosts, officials said–and on Al Qaeda leaders who occasionally joined them.
Among the reported visitors were high-ranking UAE and Saudi government ministers. According to U.S. and former Afghan civil air officials, the hunters included Prince Turki al Faisal, son of the late Saudi King Faisal. He headed that nation’s intelligence service until late August, maintaining close ties with Bin Laden and the Taliban. Another visitor, officials said, was Sheik Mohammed ibn Rashid al Maktum, the Dubai crown prince and Emirates defense minister.
Persian Gulf state officials cast doubt on the reports. “People go hunting in Pakistan. They don’t go to Afghanistan,” said Adel al-Jubeir, foreign policy advisor to Saudi Crown Prince Abdullah. Similarly, the UAE’s Alsadoosi said he did “not recall” any Afghan hunting trips made by Sheik Mohammed.