How Spooks Botched Belgrade Bombing

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No wonder Beijing won’t accept Washington’s apology. CIA director George Tenet testified before the House Intelligence Committee Thursday that the agency had selected only one target throughout the Kosovo campaign –- and that turned out to be the Chinese embassy in Belgrade. They used outdated maps, he said, and then simply plotted the intended target’s approximate location by comparing the numbering sequence on a parallel street. Only after the disaster did the spooks scratch through their files and find an accurate map — one that had been distributed as promotional material by a Belgrade bank.

"The explanation sounded goofy," says TIME Pentagon correspondent Mark Thompson. "The CIA picks one target out of hundreds and they get it wrong? That’s an unacceptable performance, and the lawmakers clearly felt the same way." Never mind the Beijing foreign office officials, who are expected to believe that the world’s last superpower’s best map of Belgrade was on a bank’s p.r. flyer. The CIA quickly retreated from any role in targeting after the strike, an official told the New York Times, deciding that "it should go back to its usual business of spying." Good thing for Tenet that Washington will likely never accede to Beijing’s demand for heads on a plate over the bombing.