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Threads of U.S. Action Against Bin Laden Revealed

WASHINGTON (Reuters) - As the United States conducts an all-out hunt for those responsible for the kamikaze attacks on New York and Washington, threads of its efforts to target militant Islamic millionaire Osama bin Laden have came to light.

The CIA has had presidential approval since 1998 to conduct covert operations targeting bin Laden, who Washington believes masterminded the bombings of two U.S. embassies in East Africa that year, government sources said.

The president must authorize covert operations, and the highly secret directive is detailed in what activities the intelligence agency is permitted to engage in against a particular target.

The directive, issued by former President Bill Clinton and retained by President Bush, underwent some changes over the years but allows for dealing with bin Laden "harshly," one government source said.

The directive determined that bin Laden, who is the prime suspect behind last week's attacks by hijacked airliners on the World Trade Center and the Pentagon, was a threat to U.S. interests, sources said.

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