CIA fires official over Chinese Embassy bombing

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The Independent US

A Central Intelligence Agency employee blamed for incorrectly targeting the Chinese Embassy in Belgrade for American bombing during NATO's air war against Yugoslavia last year has been fired, according to an agency official.

"We did sever ties with one agency employee," an intelligence official said Saturday night, speaking on condition of anonymity.

Six others, including one senior official and four managers, received administrative punishments that ranged from oral warnings to letters of reprimand. One official, who expressed concern about the target early on, was singled out by CIA Director George Tenet for praise, the official said.

CIA spokesman Bill Harlow issued a statement late Saturday confirming personnel action had been taken, but refused to make public details "for reasons of security and privacy."

Blame for the "tragic accident," was widespread, Harlow said. "Numerous CIA officers at all levels of responsibility failed to ensure that the intended bombing target ... had been properly identified and precisely located before CIA passed a target nomination package to the U.S. military for action."

"While we can never undo the mistakes that led to the bombing, we are satisfied that the CIA has stood up . . . and taken appropriate responsibility for our mistakes," Harlow said.

The CIA actions were initially reported Saturday night by The New York Times on its Web site.

U.S.-Chinese ties have been rocky since the inadvertent bombing last May, which occurred during NATO's 78-day air war. Three Chinese were killed in the bombing and 20 others were wounded. The U.S. has said the intended bombing target was the Yugoslav Federal Directorate of Supply and Procurement headquarters.

After the bombing, Beijing suspended military contacts and talks on human rights, arms control, security issues and Chinese entry to the World Trade Organization. Chinese government-run media said the bombing was intentional, and it inflamed the violent protests from stone-throwing mobs at the American Embassy in China.

Chinese officials had pushed that those responsible for the bombing be identified and punished.

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