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NATO bombing: Wrong target warning never passed along

embassy bombing
Three Chinese journalists were killed in the embassy bombing


China tomorrow


Chinese Embassy in Belgrade bombed by mistake

June 24, 1999
Web posted at: 12:27 p.m. EDT (1627 GMT)

In this story:

Analyst had doubts, but didn't know it was an embassy

Mistake investigated


WASHINGTON (CNN) -- A mid-level U.S. intelligence official raised concerns that NATO had targeted the wrong building before last month's mistaken bombing of the Chinese Embassy in Belgrade, CNN confirmed on Thursday.

Three Chinese journalists were killed and 20 other civilians were injured in the May 7 attack, as U.S. B-2 bombers hit a building believed to be the headquarters of a Yugoslav military unit.

China has insisted for weeks that the bombing of its embassy in Yugoslavia was deliberate. The Clinton administration has blamed the blunder on the use of outdated maps.

Analyst had doubts, but didn't know it was an embassy

The mid-level analyst, who was temporarily assigned to the CIA, had some familiarity with the Belgrade building -- the Yugoslav Federal Directorate for Supply and Procurement -- and questioned whether intelligence officials developing target lists had the correct address.

U.S. officials told CNN that the analyst "had no hint or notion that it was the Chinese Embassy. He just thought the headquarters building was some distance from the building selected."

On at least two occasions, CNN was told, the analyst raised his concerns that the building wasn't a military facility.

"On May 4, this mid-level officer called a mid-level officer in Europe and conveyed his concerns, and at the same time he attempted to arrange a meeting within the CIA to clarify his concerns," Pentagon spokesman Bacon told reporters Thursday.

"But he was not successful in arranging that meeting, a meeting with people in the CIA who are familiar with the targeting. And he didn't have a great sense of urgency about this because he had no idea of when the building was to be targeted," he said. "And in fact he left the CIA for several days to participate in some pre-arranged training."

Mistake investigated

Pickering gave a closed-door briefing to congressional leaders Wednesday  

Word of the mid-level official's concerns was contained in a classified report by the CIA inspector general presented to CIA director George Tenet and to members of congressional intelligence oversight committees.

The report contains no recommendation for discipline against any official but does propose that a review be conducted of the actions of intelligence officers involved in developing what turned out to be an erroneous target.

In terms of finding blame, intelligence officials are focusing on the CIA officers to whom this mid-level official reported his concerns. The question is why these officials did not report to higher levels the doubts raised about the target selection.

U.S. officials would not say what agency the mid-level analyst had come from in shifting to CIA for temporary assignment. But officials said his job at CIA did not involve him directly in the target-planning process.

He raised his concerns internally as word circulated about this potential assignment.

Undersecretary of State Thomas Pickering visited Beijing last week, repeating U.S. claims the bombing was accidental and presenting a detailed report on it to skeptical Chinese officials.

Pickering on Wednesday briefed some members of Congress on his trip.

Correspondent Bob Franken contributed to this report.

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U.S. State Department
  • Thomas Pickering
U.S. Department of Defense
U.S. Embassy in China
Chinese Embassy in Washington D.C.
China Today
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