By Tabassum Zakaria
WASHINGTON (Reuters) - The only target the CIA picked for NATO's 11-week bombing campaign on Yugoslavia was the one that led to the U.S. attack on the Chinese embassy in Belgrade, CIA Director George Tenet said Thursday.
``It was the only target we nominated,'' Tenet said during acongressional hearing to explain the chain of events that led to the May 7 bombing of the Chinese embassy that U.S. officials have said was a huge mistake.
Tenet told the House Intelligence Committee that acombination of factors led to the bombing of the embassy instead of the intended target, the Yugoslav Federal Directorate for Supply and Procurement, which was located about 300 yards(meters) away.
One factor was the method used to find the precise location of the target -- an intelligence officer using land navigation techniques that should not be used for aerial targeting because they provide only an ``approximate location,'' Tenet said. That location in subsequent meetings was then taken as a ``mantle offact'' rather than questioned, he said.
``This episode is unusual,'' Tenet said, because the CIA does not normally put together by itself specific targets that include coordinates for bombing operations. The CIA usually provides more analytical judgements or specific information on targets selected by others, he said.
``The attack was a mistake,'' Tenet said. ``Let me emphasize, our investigation has determined that no one -- I repeat no one -- knowingly targeted the Chinese embassy,'' he said.
The bombing of the Chinese embassy, which killed three people and wounded more than 20, sparked days of protests in China and repeated U.S. apologies.
Undersecretary of State Thomas Pickering went to Beijing last month to apologize and explain the series of errors that occurred, but Chinese officials said they were unconvinced.
``It seems clear that this process began with a critical intelligence failure,'' House Intelligence Committee Chairman Porter Goss, a Florida Republican, said. ``However, theDepartment of Defense also shares responsibility, since the target package that came from CIA was reviewed by elements of the DOD and approved,'' he said.
Deputy Defense Secretary John Hamre at the same hearing said in the approval process the precise location of the proposed target is not usually questioned, but it is assumed that the right location has been determined.
Of the 900 targets that were struck during the NATO air war, this was the only one misidentified during the target development process, he said.
Both Hamre and Tenet said databases that did not show the new location of the Chinese Embassy in Belgrade were more to blame than the maps used to determine the target.
``I find it embarrassing we didn't have in our databases the precise location of the Chinese embassy,'' Hamre said.
Tenet also faulted the review process.
``There were three meetings at CIA that reviewed the target nomination,'' Tenet said. ``The method of identification was not briefed, questioned, or reviewed. Therefore, the initial misidentification took on the mantle of fact,'' he said.
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