July 31st, 2014
06:56 PM ET
5 months ago

Bill Clinton: ‘I nearly got’ Osama bin Laden

Washington (CNN) - Bill Clinton, just hours before planes crashed into the World Trade Center on September 11, 2001, reportedly told an audience in Australia that he almost killed Osama bin Laden during his presidency.

Speaking to a group of businessmen in Australia on September 10, 2001, according to audio aired by SkyNews Australia on Wednesday, Clinton said that he "nearly got" the al Qaeda leader but didn't go through with a missile attack because of the collateral damage that would have come from it.

"He [Osama bin Laden] is a very smart guy, I’ve spent a lot of time thinking about him – and I nearly got him once," Clinton said. "I nearly got him. And I could have killed him, but I would have to destroy a little town called Kandahar in Afghanistan and kill 300 innocent women and children, and then I would have been no better than him. And so I didn’t do it.”

The tape, which was provided to SkyNews by Michael Kroger, a former head of the Liberal Party of Australia, aired on the networks show "Paul Murray Live."

According to Kroger, who appears on the show, the Clinton remarks came from a meeting the former president had with 30 businessmen and women at Crown Casino Complex in Melbourne.

"The event was taped with his knowledge," Kroger says on the show. "The tape has never been played. … Bill Clinton was answering a question from a member of the audience about terrorism, international terrorism and he made some extraordinary remarks which had hitherto remained in my vault."

A number of books and the 9/11 Commission Report have acknowledged that the Clinton administration considered a December 1998 strike on bin Laden but scrapped the plan over possible collateral damage.

Bin Laden would infamously go on to be the mastermind behind the September 11 attacks that killed 2,977 people. After going into hiding for years, bin Laden was killed on May 2, 2011 by U.S. Special Forces during an early morning raid in Abbottabad, Pakistan.


Filed under: Australia • Bill Clinton • Osama bin Laden
soundoff (561 Responses)
  1. Hal Atosis

    300 deaths? That is less 10% of the 9/11 deaths and what % of innocents if there was no Iraq and Afghanistan invasions required?

    What, he was going to do carpet bomb the village?

    Blame Clinton not Bush.

    July 31, 2014 09:31 pm at 9:31 pm |
  2. TLORop

    As I recall congress would only allow him to launch 12 cruise missiles to attack al qaeda training camps.

    July 31, 2014 09:31 pm at 9:31 pm |
  3. OKE

    This is why it is so difficult to make the right call. In the end, we suffered ten times the collateral damage they would have. Not easy being in that position. Not easy at all.

    July 31, 2014 09:32 pm at 9:32 pm |
  4. Icama FromaUranus

    Thanks Bill. Glad you put some dirtpatch town harboring a mass murdering terrorist ahead of those that died in New York, Virginia, and Pennsylvania. You're the man.

    July 31, 2014 09:32 pm at 9:32 pm |
  5. Rob

    I almost killed bin laden too. I was going to be a Navy Seal, and then I didn't. My bad.

    July 31, 2014 09:36 pm at 9:36 pm |
  6. Oneal

    We don't really know he is dead. There are many conspiracies to this, we obviously believe what our national television tells us, but their are a couple things i would like to know about Laden's "death"

    July 31, 2014 09:38 pm at 9:38 pm |
  7. Chad

    Can anyone criticize this? Clinton did the right thing - he knew OBL was a bad guy, and knew he was a danger, but killing him would have meant slaughtering some 300 other people as "collateral damage." No person of any conscience could have authorized such an action at that time. Hindsight, of course, is 20/20, but even had Clinton gone through with this, the planning for the 9/11 attacks didn't take place overnight - that attack had been planned for months, or perhaps years. It may still have gone through with or without OBL at the helm, as the possible strike to kill him was less than three years before the 9/11 attacks. Indeed, killing him at that early stage may well have emboldened his followers even more.

    July 31, 2014 09:43 pm at 9:43 pm |
  8. Anonymous

    Basically he could have prevented 2,977 USA lives had he had the same balls as when he went after the ladies. Don't get me wrong I love Bill Clinton, but this is NOT something to be proud of. Israel is right even though it's terribly sad and I humane to see children being killed daily. The terrorists that shield themselves are to blame because if this can prevent thousands of Israeli lives they need to protect their citizens. That is the job of the President of a country. It was shortsighted what Bill Clinton did he could have saved many many more lives had he taken the shot.

    July 31, 2014 09:46 pm at 9:46 pm |
  9. RA

    IMO it wouldn't have changed anything anyways – bin laden wasn't the "mastermind of 9/11", that was KSM...bin laden was simply the spiritual leader and moral support...his money would go to the plot whether or not he died beforehand. It was the bush regime's fault for ignoring intel that warned of an impending attack using planes on american soil, months before 9/11

    July 31, 2014 09:46 pm at 9:46 pm |
  10. lenme1

    He would have killed 300 innocent people (and some of those may not have been innocent) as opposed to almost 3,000 Americans that Bin Laden killed. In hindsight, he must realize he made a huge mistake.

    July 31, 2014 09:51 pm at 9:51 pm |
  11. Tony Phillips

    You could have but I guess you and Hillary were to "DEAD BROKE" to be able to afford a gun and bullets, right?

    July 31, 2014 09:51 pm at 9:51 pm |
  12. lenme1

    He would have killed 300 innocent people. Bin Laden killed almost 3,000 innocent people in a single attack. Surely, in hindsight, Clinton must realize he made a huge mistake.

    July 31, 2014 09:53 pm at 9:53 pm |
  13. Chris

    So, isnt it time for the libs to start blaming Bill Clinton. If Bush stated this he would be burnt in effigy.

    9/11 would have been avoided of Billy Boy didnt sissy out.

    July 31, 2014 09:58 pm at 9:58 pm |
  14. Brian Smith

    Why sure, because Seal Team 6 didn't exist way back then... right... Almost doesn't count for anything does it?

    July 31, 2014 10:00 pm at 10:00 pm |
  15. Gary Phillips

    This is only news to the lame stream media.

    July 31, 2014 10:04 pm at 10:04 pm |
  16. Syd

    Woulda, coulda, shoulda.

    July 31, 2014 10:04 pm at 10:04 pm |
  17. Brian Smith

    Hey, I could have killed bin Laden myself – it just would have required nuking the entire planet Earth, so I didn't... Vote for me, 2016.

    July 31, 2014 10:05 pm at 10:05 pm |
  18. McBob79

    Looks like he's doing everything he can to build his legacy beyond Monica Lewinsky, perjury, impeachment. Well, the economy was pretty good, but don't ask don't tell.

    July 31, 2014 10:06 pm at 10:06 pm |
  19. overlord7

    Hindsight is always 20/20, but at the time Clinton made the right decision. "I nearly got him. And I could have killed him, but I would have to destroy a little town called Kandahar in Afghanistan and kill 300 innocent women and children, and then I would have been no better than him. And so I didn’t do it.” I agree.

    July 31, 2014 10:08 pm at 10:08 pm |
  20. Ernest Adams

    No news here move on...

    July 31, 2014 10:08 pm at 10:08 pm |
  21. overlord7

    Hindsight is 20/20, but at the time Clinton made the right decision.
    "I nearly got him. And I could have killed him, but I would have to destroy a little town called Kandahar in Afghanistan and kill 300 innocent women and children, and then I would have been no better than him. And so I didn’t do it.” I agree

    July 31, 2014 10:08 pm at 10:08 pm |
  22. anthony78

    Remember when Bill Clinton went after Bin Laden (even attacking with Tomahawk missiles)?

    Remember when Republican Congress said he was going after Bin Laden to distract from the whole Monica Lewinsky?
    Even though Bin Laden had just bombed a hole into the USS COLE...

    Remember the Intel pack Clinton left for Bush stating Bin Laden was set on attacking a major US city with passenger planes?

    Remember when Bush attacked Iraq instead, while letting Bin Laden go when we had him in cross hairs (with NO collateral damage) in the hills of Tora Bora.... yup.

    But hey, cue the Republican comments about Hillary and Benghazi, "Obumbles" being the biggest failure, the mess he's made, and how he's destroying our nation even though we have the best GDP AND unemployment numbers since 08.
    In 3,2,1...

    July 31, 2014 10:08 pm at 10:08 pm |
  23. gino king

    Ever seen the video taken during the Iran Contra hearing where Al Gore actually laughed at Oliver North for saying that he believes Osama bin Laden was the person he most feared? It happened folks.

    July 31, 2014 10:09 pm at 10:09 pm |
  24. Phil

    " I could have killed him, but I would have to destroy a little town called Kandahar in Afghanistan and kill 300 innocent women and children, and then I would have been no better than him. "

    Yet Bush killed a million innocent Iraqis to get one man who he knew had no WMD's. Bush was no better than Osama.

    July 31, 2014 10:11 pm at 10:11 pm |
  25. joncook14

    That's the difference between Clinton and Obama. Obama would have blown the snot out of I'm regardless of collateral damage. Clinton held back out if respect, but it ended up costing thousands of American lives. Talk about a hindsight conundrum. Lol

    July 31, 2014 10:13 pm at 10:13 pm |
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