CIA Letter Raises Further
Doubts About Barrett Story on Sale of 50 Caliber Sniper Rifles to Bin
Agency That Ran
Secret Afghan Aid Program Flatly Denies Role in Transfer of 25 Barrett
Sniper Rifles to bin Laden Organization
Earlier VPC Report Based On Interviews With Former CIA Officials That
Ran Aid Program
Violence Policy Center (VPC) today released
a letter from the U.S. Central Intelligence Agency that flatly denies
any CIA role in the transfer of 25 Barrett 50 caliber sniper rifles to
terrorist Osama bin Laden. The letter to Congressman Henry Waxman (D-CA)
raises further doubts about Barrett's explanation that the transfer was
part of an official U.S. aid program. The letter confirms a February 2002
VPC report, based on interviews with former top CIA officials, that found
no credible evidence that the transfer was part of the official U.S. aid
The transfer of 25
Barrett anti-armor sniper rifles was revealed in the 2001 criminal trial
of bin Laden operatives convicted of bombing two U.S. embassies in Africa.
Government witness Essam al Ridi, a naturalized Egyptian, testified that
he bought the 25 anti-armor sniper rifles and shipped them to bin Laden's
group. After the VPC reported this transfer, which occurred in 1988 or
1989, the Barrett Firearms Manufacturing Co. claimed that the rifles sent
to bin Laden were part of the secret American program of aid to Afghan
rebels fighting occupying Soviet forces. It accused the VPC of hiding
However, the CIA,
which ran the secret Afghan aid program, told Congressman Waxman that
after "an extensive review of our records," it had found "no information
that indicates the Central Intelligence Agency aided or was otherwise
involved in a transfer of weapons by Essam al Ridi to Afghanistan between
1985 and 1990." The letter confirms what the three top CIA officials who
ran the Afghan rebel aid program told the VPC earlier this year�the 25
rifles transferred to Osama bin Laden were not part of the U.S. aid program.
"All of the objective,
credible evidence now supports the VPC's position," said VPC Senior Policy
Analyst Tom Diaz. "We still don't know exactly how or from whom Essam
al Ridi got the 25 Barrett rifles he shipped to bin Laden. But it is clear
that he was not acting on behalf of the U.S. government, as Barrett claims.
Instead, he was simply taking advantage of lax federal laws that allow
the easy purchase of weapons of war like these by terrorists, other extremists,
and common criminals."
Adds Diaz, "The burden
is clearly on Barrett to put up or shut up and release any documents it
may have supporting its version of the transfer of these anti-armor sniper
rifles to bin Laden's agent."
The Violence Policy Center is a
national non-profit educational foundation that conducts research on violence
in America and works to develop violence-reduction policies and proposals.
The Center examines the role of firearms in America, conducts research
on firearms violence, and explores new ways to decrease firearm-related
death and injury.